Public altercations – from hawker centres to schools

Public altercations – from hawker centres to schools
Share this article on:

The recent spate of public altercations involving the use of violence is disconcerting. Are people too stressed, so much so that they are easily provoked into acts of violence over seemingly trivial things? What can be done about this?

In April alone, several such incidents have attracted media publicity.

The latest involving a couple quarreling with an older man in a hawker centre in Toa Payoh saw the younger man intentionally shoving or pushing the older man from behind. The 3 people were apparently arguing over who had the right to the hawker table.

On 20 April, even students were in the news. In fact, it is troubling that there have been not a few such cases involving students who think nothing of resorting to violence to settle disputes.

Such was the case in Hai Sing Catholic School where two students had a go at each other in the school’s canteen. The police were later called and are looking into the matter.

Also on the same day, a video of a 70-year old man was posted online in which the man taunted and later slapped another man in what is being called “the gay uncle video”. The incident took place in a MRT train. The older man has since been arrested.

On 16 April, there was a fight in Clarke Quay which led to the eventual death of a 31-year old man. 9 men between the ages of 20 to 30, have been arrested for the death.

And in the first week of April, the infamous Indian woman who physically and repeatedly assaulted sales staff at an Owndays shop in Tiong Bahru made her appearance in the news.

She too has since been arrested and police investigations are ongoing.

And just today, 24 April, this was in the news:

These are reported cases in April, but there are many such incidents in the last few years, many of which have been witnessed, recorded on video and posted online on platforms such as Youtube.

Last September, for example, 20 ITE students were involved in a fracas at a construction site in Choa Chu Kang, reportedly over a molest claim by a girl.

“The group of 19 males and one female, aged 16 to 23, were hauled to court for charges involving unlawful assembly with the intention to cause hurt,” The New Paper reported.

Here is a video compilation by a Youtuber of recent incidents.

And here is another incident in December last year, which took place right in Orchard Road, even as traffic passes the two men by.

From schools to car parks, in MRT trains to HDB corridors, from shopping centres to right in the middle of Orchard Road, from restaurants to shops, we are witnessing a troubling slew of individuals and groups taking things into their own hands when emotions run high.

Should the police do more to deter such behaviour? Perhaps. Are the police able to arrest and charge these individuals? Apparently, yes. However, it is to be noted that there are two kinds of offences under the law – arrestable and non-arrestable offences.

The Criminal Procedure Code spells out the offences under the two categories.

Included in the list of arrestable offences are:

  1. Unlawful assemblies or rioting
  2. Affray (Fighting in public places)
  3. Voluntarily causing grievous hurt
  4. Voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon

Do note that voluntarily causing hurt is a non-arrestable offence. In such a case, a warrant is required for the police to make an arrest.

Therefore, a police report must first be made before the Magistrate decides whether to issue a warrant for the perpetrator’s arrest, according to the Singapore Legal Advice website.

Despite these instances of violence, however, Singapore’s rate for “violent/serious property crime” has gone down, to a 30-year low, in 2016.

“The overall crime rate per 100,000 population similarly decreased from 611 in 2015 to 588 cases in 2016,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee in February this year. “This is the lowest in the last three years and compares favourably with other major cities. Singapore remains one of the safest countries in the world today.”

Business Times, Aug 2016

Nonetheless, perhaps Members of Parliament (MPs) should raise the issue in Parliament and discuss if there should be more done to curb such propensity to physical violence. If nothing else, such discussion at the national level could raise awareness among the public that such behaviour will not be condoned; and also perhaps prompt the issue of stress (at the workplace and schools) to be taken more seriously.

In the past, we prided ourselves as a “tolerant, caring, compassionate society” which abided by the rule of law. Have we become the opposite of this now, with even our children resorting to violent means to settle disputes, or reacting with physical abuse to provocations?

Hooliganism has no place in a civilised society, and we need to stamp out such behaviour, and the sooner the better. At the same time, we also need to understand why such behaviour is rearing its ugly head.