SINGAPORE: A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer narrowly escaped injury after a hydraulic jack that was being used to lift a bus suddenly gave way.
This dramatic account by police officer Senior Station Inspector Akhbar Ali of how Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu’s body was extricated was heard on day seven by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot on December 8 last year.
The COI was told that an SCDF officer was trying to extricate Sakthivel’s body from under a bus as a boisterous crowd ignored instructions to back away. Instead, the crowd continued to push the vehicle.
This caused the hydraulic jack that was lifting the bus to suddenly give way.
The SCDF officer was almost pinned under the bus and only just managed to get out in time.
He also managed to partially pull Sakthivel’s body out from under the bus. When the body was finally extricated, the SCDF officers placed a white cloth over the body.
Senior Station Inspector Akhbar on Thursday said he also helped to clear a path for the SCDF officers as they carried Sakthivel’s body to a nearby ambulance.
He also told the committee that he was angry and frustrated when he saw two police cars being flipped on their sides.
He said a group of foreign workers told the officers not to intervene as the crowd was violent and would not hesitate to harm them.
Separately, a traffic police officer – who directed seven others to get out of an ambulance and run – explained to the committee that they had not done so out of cowardice.
Station Inspector Muhammad Adil Lawi said he heard the rioters threatening to burn the ambulance, and evacuating was a “tactical decision” as he felt their lives were at stake.
There was also another vehicle which had been set ablaze near the ambulance.
“When I saw the fire through the cracked windscreen, I realised there was no more time to spare, and that the threat was very real,” he said.
Station Inspector Adil added that if they had not evacuated the vehicle, they would have been burnt alive.
According to his statement, the ambulance exploded shortly after they left the vehicle.
As the most senior officer in the vehicle, he said he felt a sense of responsibility, and directed the officers to run in the direction of Bukit Timah Road because he knew there were police resources there.
In the video clip of the incident – which was shown in court on Thursday – a group of foreign workers were seen opening the doors of the ambulance.
When asked if he knew whether these men were targeting the police, Station Inspector Adil responded: “I could not take the risk, because I don’t know if they were rioters or people trying to help us.”
The committee also heard that not all the foreign workers who were present at the scene of the riot that night were hostile, and some had even tried to help the police.
For example, a group of workers carrying a bag that appeared to be on fire tried to set a police patrol car ablaze, but were stopped by others in the crowd.
In another video clip, a man was seen dancing around a burning Traffic Police motorcycle and, shortly after, was pulled away from the wreckage by another man from the crowd.
Two other officers also described how they stayed at the scene despite being outnumbered, including Staff Sergeant Kamisah Hanafi, who was hit in the stomach by a concrete slab, and Traffic Police Officer Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani, who drew his baton and charged at a group of rioters several times to try and contain the situation.
When asked by the committee if he feared for his safety, or was worried that he would be overwhelmed and his weapon taken, Traffic Police Officer Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani replied that his purpose was to instill law and order, and ensure that no innocent bystanders were hurt.
He was commended by the four-member committee, who called his actions brave.