Singapore riots: Court examines Indian death that triggered riots

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 20, 2014 00:31 hrs

Singapore: The state-appointed panel probing the 2013 riot in Singapore began today with an expert saying a "combination of factors" could have caused the death of an Indian national, sparking the country's worst street violence in 40 years.

Reconstructing the December 8 incident, forensic scientist Michael Tay said a "combination of factors" could have led construction worker, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, to fall into the path of the bus which ran over him.

Among the reasons suggested by Tay during the Committee of Inquiry (COI) session were wet roads from light rains that day, The Straits Times reported.

Sakthivel, 33, was also taking large steps as he chased after the bus. His high blood alcohol content of 217 mg of ethanol per 100 ml of blood meaning it would be "harder to maintain balance".

His left hand was also holding an umbrella, preventing him from swinging his hand in a natural movement and thus affecting the stability. This, as his right palm was on the bus, meant that he would have to match his movement and speed equally to that of the bus.

Tay said, "If he was just running without physical contact with the bus, he would have been more stable. Instead, he had to follow the curved path (as the bus was "off-tracking" while it made a left turn onto Race Course Road from Tekka Lane - the site of the accident). This complicated his movement."

The fatal accident involving Sakthivel in Little India on December 8 erupted into Singapore's worst public order disturbance in over four decades, with 49 Home Team officers injured and 23 vehicles damaged.

According to video footage shown in court today, the first day of the COI hearing into the riot, Sakthivel had boarded the BT & Tan private bus bound for his dormitory in Jalan Papan when it was almost full.

Sakthivel was asked to get off, first by an unidentified foreign worker and then by bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, after he dropped his bermuda shorts on the bus.

Sakthivel consented, and alighted without being "pushed or manhandled", said Senior State Counsel David Khoo.

COI chairman G Pannir Selvam, a former Supreme Court judge, has questioned why the driver, Lee Kim Huat had failed to notice Sakthivel, given the four cameras mounted on the bus.

Meanwhile, the CoI Chairman Selvam has said media should not interfere in proceedings by interviewing witnesses before they come to the tribunal.

He told the court that many media have asked members of the four-man COI to meet and seek their views on their eventual decision. Some members of the media have also asked for video footage evidence.

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