News

THE PASSENGER

He was standing behind Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu before the latter was asked to leave the bus.

After the bus moved off, he saw Mr Sakthivel running after it moments before he was run over by the vehicle.

Welder Ganesan Thanaraj (right), a 34-year-old Indian national, told the committee of inquiry yesterday that he was queuing for the Jalan Papan-bound (Jurong) bus after meeting a friend on Dec 8 last year.

While standing in line, he noticed a South Asian man, whom he later found out was Mr Sakthivel, making unpleasant remarks towards other foreign workers queuing up for the bus that was to take them back to the dormitory.

He was unhappy at being told to queue up and went on talking to others in the line before cutting queue.

After they boarded the bus, Mr Sakthivel was standing right in front of him, Mr Ganesan said.

STOPPED TIRADE

He said that he had stopped his tirade.

Responding to a question by Senior State Counsel David Khoo, Mr Ganesan said he did not notice Mr Sakthivel taking off his bermuda shorts.

But bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon had noticed Mr Sakthivel cutting queue earlier and boarded the bus to ask him to get off.

When the bus started moving, Mr Ganesan looked out of the window and saw Mr Sakthivel walking beside it before he started running.

"I saw him running, but he had not crossed the road. When (there was a bump), I thought the bus must have run over this person," he said in Tamil to a court interpreter.

After bus driver Lee Kim Huat opened the doors to go down and check, Mr Ganesan also got down and walked to the next Jalan Papan-bound bus.

He said: "I did not want to stay at the accident scene because I had to be at work at 8am."

THE WOMAN

Auxiliary police officers Nathan Chandra Sekaran and Raymond Murugiasu testified that they had seen timekeeper Wong Geck Woon hurling abuse at the foreign workers while on the job.

The two officers are on duty in Little India every weekend and public holidays.

Mr Nathan said she would shout at the workers to get in line to board the bus as there was no proper queue system.

He added that he had heard her use words like "stupid" and "idiot", as well as vulgarities.

When he offered to repeat the expletives she had used, COI chairman G.P. Selvam immediately said: "No, no, no."

Mr Raymond later said that he had seen Madam Wong push some of the foreign workers to get them off the road and on to the pavement, and that she had used vulgarities on them.

"She would also push them from the road to the pavement and at one time, I saw one male Indian fall after she pushed him," he said, adding that at times, when the foreign workers were unhappy, they would shout back at her.

THE POLICE

They kept calling back to report the situation and waited for instructions.

After that, they waited for troops from the Special Operations Command (SOC) to arrive while the crowd around them went wild.

This was what auxiliary police officers Nathan Chandra Sekaran and Raymond Murugiasu said of the police officers on the ground after the riot started.

Mr Nathan, who took the stand first, told the Committee of Inquiry that he felt the police had reacted too slowly.

Those who arrived at the scene first were just calling back to report the situation and waiting for further instructions, he said. In his two-hour testimony, he repeated this at least three times.

He believes the riot would not have got out of control if police officers had arrested some of the troublemakers early on, adding that they "did not expect" the rioters to set fire to police vehicles.

The rioters dispersed quickly the moment they spotted the first red SOC vehicle coming down Hampshire Road, Mr Nathan said.

Mr Raymond told the Inquiry that if more police officers had arrived earlier, this could have helped to disperse the crowd faster and prevented the situation from escalating.

Last Friday, Deputy Police Commissioner T. Raja Kumar told the Inquiry that police officers on the ground had waited for the SOC troops to arrive because they were neither trained nor equipped to handle a riot of this scale.

He said their first priority was to save lives and prevent the riot from spilling to other areas.