News

Little India riot. Man jailed 
for 15 weeks

Report by ELIZABETH LAW

lawsm@sph.com.sg

An Indian national was yesterday sentenced to 15 weeks in jail in connection with the riot in Little India on Dec 8.

Chinnappa Vijayaragunatha Poopathi, 32, was the first man to plead guilty in court in connection with the riot.

Last Friday, he admitted to defying police orders to disperse that night.

The former construction worker and a friend had gone to a canteen at the junction of Kerbau Road and Chander Road around 11pm, after having a few beers they had bought at a provision shop.

Despite a warning for all persons in the vicinity to disperse, they still went to the canteen, where they joined an assembly of about 10 people.

Court documents said Chinnappa "shouted at the canteen employees, demanding that they reopen the shops and sell alcohol to them, further heightening tensions".

ARRESTED

He refused to leave until more police officers arrived. He was later arrested at Kerbau Road.

During sentencing, Deputy Chief District Judge S. Jennifer Marie said Singapore's peace and progress is built upon law and public order which cannot be taken for granted.

"The courts must remain constantly vigilant in ensuring that all offences that jeopardise such a foundation, be firmly and resolutely dealt with," she said.

While a heavier sentence should be considered to "reflect the courts' abhorrence of the blatant disregard of the lawful commands of law enforcement officers", she said a sentence should also take into account one's involvement in the riot and be fair.

She noted that Chinnappa was not in the immediate vicinity of where the riot started, did not commit any acts of violence, did not damage any property and did not prevent emergency workers from carrying out their duty.

In sentencing Chinnappa to 15 weeks in jail, she said: "The courts must send a strong signal in sentencing. Unruly and defiant conduct will simply not be tolerated and punishment for such conduct will be certain and unrelenting."

His sentence will be backdated to Dec 8, the date he was arrested.