Saturday, 14 December, Singapore: News of Sunday's Singapore Little India Riot, unsurprisingly, took the nation by surprise. Some local citizens were clearly traumatised, wondering if their jewel of a "velly safe, velly orderly" island home had become a thing of the past. A few kiasu ones quickly went to NTUC and emptied its shelves of kaya jam and soda piah. Toliet rolls too, temporarily spiking its value by a few plies.
A PAP stalwart was heard saying "Die lah, LKY not yet dead and we are making him turn in his grave! Jialat. Aren't we supposed to be in a Golden Age?"
All Golden Ages eventually lose their lustre and fall into the Dark Ages, countered someone in all-blue attire, a former MP.
A person in all-white attire heard that and looked aghast. "Wah lau eh, how can you be so 'orh sim' (blackhearted)!" he said, waving a Lightning sign in protest. He then screamed "Choy! Choy! Choy! Touch wood!" and began smacking the guy in all-blue repeatedly as if to fend off an annoying cockroach. The guy in all-blue tried to protect himself with his Hammer sign but to no avail. In the end, he could only run and hide and was not seen or heard of for quite a while. Some said he ran away to Australia with a mysterious woman that was not his wife.
Similar sentiments were just as widespread all over the country. "What is this country coming to?" was the most oft-heard lament in the heartlands, followed by people knuckling themselves in mock distress on the head, what 4-D punters do when they forget to buy a 1st Prize 4-D winning number.
"Yesterday bus strike, today Little India strike, tomorrow what liao? PME strike?" was what some punters decried before it dawned on them that any future strike was itself a punting opportunity. Many went to the Totalisator Board to enquire and make suggestion.
Some uncles at the kopitiams were more academic. Mr Gian 'Live Well' Fai See wanted to know where all the jobs for skilled Singaporeans have gone to.
"Government say must study and upgrade, so I go get MBA. Now that piece of paper like sai juak, not worth shit!" Mr Gian was visibly angry and spat to emphasize his point. A little of that landed on this reporter, who then took a wary step backwards.
Mr Gian continued his tirade: "Employers only want cheap.They say no need pay $100 for seasoned screwdriver when a $2 new one from Philippines can do. What the $%@&! Don't they know old screwdriver screw better?"
Reflecting on the situation, some citizens contemplated moving to Johor, Malaysia, where new, safe private estates were being marketed to inflation-averse "silver hair" retirees. But black-haired residents had also been spotted at these resort-style retirement homes too, giving proof that a 'dye also never mind' under-table arrangement did, in fact, exist.
According to Google satellite pictures, these silver hair/black hair estates featured high security walls and jeeps that patrolled with machine guns. Or wooden guns painted to look like real. Malaysia after all, could ill afford another embarrassing insurgency after what happened at Gerik, Perak in July 2000 where a host of guns were easily looted from an army camp. Or the more recent stand-off with Sulu terrorists that lasted weeks. Where was the border defence, everybody asked, including one seldom seen albino Orang Asli gentlman.
Ms Ho 'Filial' Sim Kia, a self-styled private banker (aka bookie), concurred. "The government, after all, is advising us to send our aged parents there. I hear they are paying us children a $20k Filial Piety Grant to offset any hardship. Wait, is this in Singapore dollars or ringgit?"
Ms Ho's brother, Pie Kia, felt putting his parents in Johor made sense. "The durians there are cheaper and better." Pei Kia had recently taken to photographing food during his meals. His BMI index was once mistaken as blood pressure reading, so high it was.
"Or we could stay on the Singapore side still...in Marsiling," whispered Ms Ho, in a rather conspiratorial tone. "It would still be within the 5km limit and eligible for grant. After all, no one wants to take the chance of being killed by a motorcycle snatch thief in downtown JB! Like my brother always believed, better die with full belly than purse full of unspent ringgit! I mean exchange rate so good why waste???"
Elsewhere, reactions of Singaporeans to the Riot ranged from "bochap" to "aiyah, the government will handle lah!"
And handle the Government did, with the Prime Minister of the country ordering a Board of Inquiry to be formed immediately to investigate the incident.
"But sir," said Home Matters Minister Blanga 'Barking Dog' R Jaga. "We have already ascertained that the riot was due to drunken workers, not dissatisfied workers."
The Prime Minister shot Minister Jaga, also his Dy PM, a stern look. It was to tell him that he was not playing ball. "The BOI will find out many things. Many things!"
Minister Jaga in turn wondered if his Dy PM post was all for show. How come the PM never give him chance one? Is it true then that an Indian will never be PM of this country of supposed equal race and opportunity? A country with the crescent moon and five stars on its flag? Minister Jaga was beginning to see the crescent moon as a smirk. Gotcha! it seemed to sneer.
Minister Jaga hoped not. His father worked himself to the bone as a PWD worker so he could become a lawyer. And become a lawyer he did, even if it was all about handling divorcee and Ah Long cases. How he longed to tackle the more interesting cases like Apple vs Samsung, for instance.
Minister Jaga sipped on his Irish coffee and slipped another sugar cube into his boss' tea. Heheh, no harm sweetening his tongue some more, he sniggered.
A journalist present at the press conference raised his hand and asked the difficult question no one else dared to ask. "What 'many' things, sir?"
The Prime Minister straightened his non-existent tie and pointed a thumb at the daring but clueless reporter. (Pointing with a thumb is dumb but regarded as a sign of good upbringing in this island country.)
"Well, for one thing, we can confirm that it is the drink. Second, if it is the drink's fault, we must find out if it is because of lousy quality. If it is Tiger, we must feedback to our good friends at the APB brewery. We cannot have a Singapore brand suffer, right or not? Whatever we do, we must put in 100% effort. If we want to get people drunk, we better do a good job. No, a GREAT JOB. Get them so drunk they cannot lift a finger to riot. Where are my scientists? Call BIOPOLIS. I tell you again, this is the Singapore Way, Singapore Way. We find targeted solutions."
Later, a government official elaborated on what the PM meant (off the record, of course). He said with a BOI, the next time something like this happened, it would be easier to get funds.
"This in Law is known as a 'precedent', meaning the same-same has happened before. If it happens again, say, at Golden Mile Complex, then we can allocate funds to replace the burnt out vehicles, street clean up and hospital bills of those injured. It makes accounting easier. If not, IRAS will jump on our backs," he said. IRAS jump on a government agency's back? Kah-kee-nang pak kah-kee-nang? Seemed quite implausible.
The government official saw the strange look on this reporter's face and strived to reassure him. "I know it is all Ah Gong's money. But black and white better lah. No one wants to be accused of taking The People's money. No, no, not at all. Singapore is corruption-free as you know. COR-LUP-SUNT-FLEE, I say."
"Plus, BOI members also got expenses to reimburse. So, you see, proper thing to do. PROPER THING TO DO," added the unnamed official, winking his eye as he said so.
According to government plans, finding a solution to the riots would be an inter-agency effort. Minister Without Portfolio Mr Chor 'I Not Free Want' Sim Mit has been tasked to head the task force. Its working name will be 'Singapore Little India Riot BOI' or SLIRBOI, later leaked to the public as The Ten Little Indians. ('SLIRBOI' sounded gay, someone worried.) The BOI will draw 10 members from the various relevant government agencies.
Minister of State for Interesting Affairs Mr See 'Everywhere Man' Kah Juak is one of them. But when asked why he was selected, he could only say, "Interesting!"
Another BOI would-be member, Minister of State for the Preservation of Hawker Dishes, welcomed his appointment, believing his involvement would encourage more people to consume Indian curry and live better as One People, Many Spices. Isn't it One People, Many Cultures? asked this reporter. Same-same lah, the minister said as he munched on a take-away chapati roll filled with mutton rendang, taupok bits and dipped in Devil's Curry. He sipped on what looked like a bandung drink mixed with Chinese herbal tea. He threw up.
"Traditional dishes still better," he said, weakly, leaning on an aide as his knees buckled once again. "But maybe not Indian rojak or this kind of rojak."
Minister of State for Clean Toilets saw his task as nothing new. "I told those chaps many times we had a challenge on our hands, but they never listened. 32,000 buggers descend on Little India every weekend. You tell me, where to find a clean toilet? No wonder the workers find the grass here greener than from where they come. They crap all over the place!"
Speaking on accountability, BOI chairman, Minister Jaga (aka Dy PM), said the first people to be hauled up for questioning would be the Mayor and MP for Little India. But since the redrawing of constituency lines the last election, no one knew who was in-charge of what or where anymore.
Further more, a recent survey of school kids aged 14 and above could not name one single thing a Mayor's job entailed. "Collect pay, lor," said one cheeky youngster in immaculate Singlish. Others wondered if the Mayor and MP did the same job, i.e. give away prizes at end-of-school term ceremonies.
When asked about the alcohol ban in Little India, Minister Jaga (aka Dy PM), became livid. "Ban is ban," he said, rather testily.
"You have to forgive my colleague," said PM. "You must understand the stigma his kind, er, his race, had to go through over the past few decades."
"People used to think Indians were all "todi kings", you know. Drink like siao," explained the PM. "Drink and cannot work."
"Can you imagine not being hired because of that?"
Minister Jaga looked at his PM and his eyes softened. Looks like the sugar cube worked, he thought. But he was wrong. The PM went on to say:
"But we have made great strides since. We even hired an Indian for the top job of president of this country! But sadly, his gene expression overwhelmed him and he could not resist, even when on the job.So you say lah, how to trust these people?!"
Minister Jaga suddenly realised why his Dy PM title was more ceremonial than actual. They couldn't trust him to be sober! His bloodshot eyes again became livid, and he was lost for words. I need a drink when I get home, he told himself. "This is getting too much to bear!" And so, unknown to the BOI chairman, he had already unwittingly unearthed the very reason why the rioters drank, and got violent.
- A parody by TC Lai
Continued at: Little India Riot III - The Charge Sheet