Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lu Yeow Lim said, "The sentiment would have been inflamed if the police had fired, shot or killed any of the rioters.” (Agencies)
The riot on the night of December 8, 2013, was sparked by the killing of an Indian national in a bus accident at Singapore's Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where migrant workers from South Asia spend their day off.
Lu was answering questions of the state-appointed Committee of Inquiry (COI) on how he commanded the police in tackling the riot. The mob had outnumbered police during the violence.
"It was like fighting an insurgency so even if we wanted to shoot, shoot who? Stones were coming from behind people in the crowd," The Straits Times quoted Lu as saying.
"They (the rioters) might have set fire to a building, or attacked people. So my guiding principle that night: Where possible, do not escalate the situation, do not use force unless there is no choice, even if we are legally right in shooting," Lu told the hearing on Tuesday.
Lu said that since the riot had been sparked by a fatal accident, the death of another foreign worker might have escalated the violence.
While the rioters had burned vehicles, they had not set fire to buildings or attacked innocent people. Had this been the case, said Lu, "there was no question that we would have gone in".
The COI, chaired by retired Judge G Pannir Selvam, is looking into all aspects and causes of the riot.
The rioters, some 400 migrant workers from South Asia, injured 49 police and Home Team officials and damaged properties worth more than SGD 650,000.
Singapore has deported 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi worker for their involvement in the riot. Singapore previously witnessed violence of such scale during race riots in 1969.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lu Yeow Lim said, "The sentiment would have been inflamed if the police had fired, shot or killed any of the rioters.”