Monday, 9 December, Singapore - By now the shocked world (aka the many int'l millionaires who party here daily at the Marina Bay Sands) would have recovered from their rapid finger-flutterings and mutterings of "OMGs" to take stock of what actually happened last night in such an 'ultra peaceful' place as Singapore.
"Did it really happen?" asked Mrs Jimmy II Shoes, her expression one of shock, incredulity and lost of daylight time, a common malady with frequent latenighfers. Or it could be a case of mascara gone amok from rubbing shoulders and behinds.
'Did It Really Happen' was the most tweeted phrase in Tweetersphere last night (and early morning), many choosing to believe that rioting on this island republic had gone the way of smallpox or only happened during the time of Policemen Wore Shorts (PWS) - a nostalgic period most familiar to the impressionable people at the Singapore Memory Project. In Orchard Road Shopping Time, the event would be forgotten like last year's Great Singapore Sale. Little India Riot? Where got....Oh.
When the nation's 3G network finally jammed from too many Youtube downloads, it slowly dawned on the infinity pool populace at MBS that the rioting event could, possibly, have happened. When one poolsider, known as Diamond Drink Party Girl (the new incarnation of the Sarong Party Girl) saw the video, she had this to say: "Cheh, only two burning vehicles. That's like bi-sai (boogers) in a Michael Bay movie." With that, she flopped underwater and resurfaced beside another angmoh who was similarly holding a high fluted wine glass with something shiny inside.
At one of the newer heartlands, our reporter Kay Poh Siao, spoke to some residents about the incident. Madam Epok Epok, 65, saw it with her own eyes. She lived on the 75th floor of the new 100-floor HDB Pinnacle III, 'highest-rise living for the 22nd Century and beyond" according to the housing board. She was excited but could not add much. "Yes, yes, I saw it. But I was so high, the fires were macham kuching eyes at night. Sometimes there, sometimes not. Plus I also old, eyesight not so good. But my abang saw it too." Incek Milo Susu, who was standing at the windswept balcony and pointing in the general direction of Little India, nodded and added, "Heng ah, we so high, so velly safe! If down there, susah lah."
HDB should build more of these, Incek Susu suggested, as he caressed his hardearned balcony ledge. At 75 storeys above normal citizen level, the sight of the country below was indeed breathtaking. "Heheh, die also nearer to heaven," he chuckled.
Down at another immigrant hotspot, Geylang Lor 2 to Lor 22, Mr Pim Cha Boh, expressed dismay. "How come never call us? We could riot together. Back in China, we velly one heart one. Communist mah." According to him, immigrant tensions in Geylang were also bubbling under the skin. But because of the many 'beautiful ladies' there offering massages and other services, any grievance under the epidermis was soon salved. "Little India should have a Geylang. This way they think of enjoying and not make trouble. Kenna sai, their Desker Road so old like visiting your grandma. Heritage status liao. Must innovate, innovate!" When this reporter put to him that he spoke very good Singlish and wondered if he was Singaporean, Mr Pim slinked away not before saying, "Only PRC do bad things. Only PRC. Me not Singapore nang. Curry simbeh chow." Simbeh chow? Hmm....
At the rioting crime scene in Little India, two burnt out vehicles marked the spot. A stretch of the road also had long black marks as if an F1 race had just passed through. But that was in September and in Twin Durian downtown.
Madam Fong Sai Yuk, who lived nearby in Race Course Road, thought at first it was another festive occasion. "Aiyah, here every weekend also Black Ant Day. I thought it was another festival thingy. Sekali mata chia come yee-oh yee-oh. I stick my neck out to see. I saw the appu nei nei picking up things and turning this and that. I thought they were area cleaning as usual. Even when the fire started I thought it was Thaipusam again. Then the riot police came, again I thought it was play-play only. Sekali they beat people like real, like in some HK movie. Then I think maybe real. Then the TV news confirmed. But at first I thought it was the Noose, haha, funny show. But the chaboh very sui, so must be CNA. That's when I believe jeen eh (real one). Still I called my son in NS to confirm. Wah, by then siao already. I mean I siao, not Little India. What if my son kenna activated? Jialat. Only son. Sekali killed how?"
As Mdm Fong's eyes turned misty, this reporter quickly retreated and found Civil Defence commander James 'Mr Good Eats' Tan standing atop Mustafa Centre surveying the situation and nursing a masala teh tarik in one hand. What was your reaction, Commander Tan, given that rioting is rare in Singapore? "Might as well lah," he said, raising his glass. "I mean the teh tarik, heheh!"
"You should try the chapati restaurant by Norris Road over there," he said, looking rather absentminded and pointing dangerously close to the riot crime scene, still smouldering from the attention given to it by his hose-totting men.
"Like I told that reporter Darren just now. Train, train, never use, Like married never go honeymoon. Don't know real situation will fire blanks or not. Always, wait, wait, tan tan."
His Dy Commander, Sim 'Wayang' Mu Lat, who was in a car park with an IT consultant earlier when he received the call. "I was getting head, no, I mean I was getting ahead with my IT contract negotiations when my phone rang." He showed me his 3G phone, a Sony Xperia. "Waterproof one, very suitable for fire fighting folks like us." He then leaned over and whispered, eyes looking a bit shifty, "Shh, IT lady give one. Off the record, ok?" Obviously, unlike Comdr Tan, Dy Cmdr Sim was very well trained in Media Relations.
Dy Cmdr Sim then straightened up and declared, in pseudo commanding voice, "Yes, yes, rioting in Singapore velly uncommon, like PAP losing in a General Election. Never happens. But my men, they are very well prepared. When not writing food blogs with our commander, they train like siao. As siao as our station cat catching rats, which is seldom. But still, a cat is a cat as long as they catch mice right? I think it was that China Deng fella who said that."
"Here at Home Team, we all dress like we ready to catch rats anytime. Blue, Grey, Dark Blue, Orange....doesn't matter what color. Home Matters Minister ah gong call, we go."
How was this different from the Hock Lee Bus Riots?
"Huh? Oh, Hock Lee. Yeah. We always practice that one. See, bus crowded, train crowded, taxi cannot find. We know one day commuters will get so fed up and they will riot. Believe me, as in the Hock Lee bus riots, we are ready. Ready to clobber anyone who dare disrupt our World Class transport system." With that, Dy Cmdr Sim swung his baton a few times at some imaginary skulls for emphasis. There was a wild look in his eyes but it soon passed. It was replaced by the familiar look of utter boredom and expectation blunted once too often. This reporter has seen that look many times on reservist men, training for a war that was discussed but never came. The 'War Games Fatigue' look. Or that 'Army Waiting Time' look. One and the same.
Just then, Cmdr of Riot Police, Captain Tua 'Bare Knuckle' Gong walked up. Did he have an inkling of the trouble to come?
"Er, my men was playing carrom when we got the call. Did you know my unit won the division carrom championship? Good rite?"
"Eh, Sim, jiak ba buay?" said Captain Tua when he shook hands with Dy Cmdr Sim. "These guys fight fire, we fight people, heheh," said Captain Tua pointing to Dy Cmdr Sim and then pounding his fist into a palm.
"Sorry, what was the question again?"
Did you guys have an inkling if this was going to happ....
"Oh, yes yes, absolutely. We have men on the ground. We knew that it was going to happen. See that ambulance and police car that got burnt? COE almost expired, why we sent out those old vehicles. Burn nebermind."
"We also neber fired our guns. Wah lao, fire one bullet like spending MAS treasury money. Who want to do the paper work. Not me! Why I tell my men use fists and batons better. Somethings are better done the traditional way. We did away with the secret societies the same way. Hoot until they submit!"
When pressed on how the riot police knew what to expect, Captain Tua confessed that they have been monitoring a migrant worker NGO help group, that Black Ants Are Our Friends Too or BAAOFT, which some locals would call "fuck the ants off" in moments of anti-foreigner angst.
"We have a spy in there, so we know the issues."
"Low pay, long hours work....Haiz, any farmer's bull will also complain. Plus Singapore bosses like sai, you know. You got watch recent episode on TV or not? Work the employees never pay. You must pay the boss to pay you? Wah lau, where got such thing! Really really shameful. I Singaporean I also cannot tahan these people. Ren zha, scum. No wonder no Singaporean want to work these jobs. It's not the work, I tell you. It's those see nang bosses!"
Just then, Commissioner of Police, Poon 'Shiny Whistle' Pi Pi appeared. "Talking about me, Tua, izit?" He apologised for being late, having come from a carpark meeting with an IT consultant lady also. His whistle was dangling out of his pocket, recently shiny and a little wet. He quickly stuffed it back in.
"Heheh, no lah, sir," said a sheepish Captain Tua. "Government job best. AWS, year-end bonus, pak si also buah chow, heheh."
COP Poon, how do you see this issue?
"Oh, oh, back to this, eh?" COP Poon nudged, with a wink that oozed much Johnny-Come-Lately you-forgive-me, and a smile.
"A blip, I say. A blip."
"Will never happen again."
Sir, how come you so confident?
"Well, as in the recent bus strike, we will come down hard on these people. Come here work make trouble. That's not the Singapore Way. Here, people should work quiet quiet and go home and make babies in their high-asset apartments. It's the Singapore Way, I tell you. Work hard and Ah Gong will look after you. Ask any old lady at the kopitiam clearing dishes. Did we put a gun to their heads? No? Work is its own reward, I say. Singapore Way, Singapore Way."
With that, COP Poon walked over to Dy Cmdr Sim and draped a friendly arm around his shoulder. This reporter could hear them talking about a certain IT lady and the tickets they got for the MBS Pangaea Club. Heheh, Diamond Drink Party Girls, zirconia can or not? With that, they disappeared into the lingering smoke of the Little India Riot, soon to be another insignificant footnote in the fast changing but orderly place that is Metropolis Singapore. Not far away, a car horned, impatient that the road had not been cleared up yet.
The End - By TC Lai
More humor: National Pledges; One Leg Left