So the latest hype in Singapore is over the proposed bill to ban consumption of alcohol outdoors from 10.30 pm to 7.30 am. Honestly, the main thing that puzzles me about this ban is it seems to highlight the Little India Riots as the trigger for the Bill. The COI identifies alcohol induced intoxication as one of the key reasons for the riots, hence necessitating such a ban. However, if we revisit the events of the 8th of December 2013, which ultimately culminated in the riots, can we really attribute it to the consumption of alcohol?
Foreign Indian workers have made their presence felt in Singapore for decades and have contributed to most of the skyscrapers that now adorn our skyline. With their limited wages and long working hours, entertainment options are limited for them and they often have to resort to gathering with their friends in open fields and unwinding over some alcohol. Not all that much different from what the affluent do in clubs and bars. Prior to the riots, there has hardly been much media coverage over issues arising from foreign workers and their consumption of alcohol. In fact, I recall more incidents involving teenagers fighting in clubs and bars under the influence of alcohol.
The root of the problem then seems to be the differences in backgrounds, cultures and approach to dealing with problems. From ancient to colonial to modern India, the nation has been plagued by the deadliest of riots. When you put a group of people who are used to vehemently protesting against any perceived lack of justice in a situation where they deem their fellow country man to have been unfairly treated, regardless of whether they were drunk or stone-cold sober, the outcome would have been the same.
I am then forced to question the suitability of the ban as a solution to prevent the recurrence of such riots. By that extension, clubs and bars should be regulated, due to the fact that they are breeding grounds for fights, casinos should be banned for their potential to cultivate social vices, and Facebook should be banned because the lasting damage inflicted by irresponsible and insensitive social media users is comparable to the harm caused by alcohol consumption.
Do I think the ban has its merits? Perhaps. The SPF crime brief does not mention the extent to which alcohol induced crimes are statistically significant, but I would assume such a ban would go some way towards reducing the numbers. Should the ban be in response to the riots? I honestly believe that awareness and integration would be much more effective in mitigating the differences among the residents of Singapore who hail from different walks of life, and play a more important role in managing the perceptions of these foreign workers.