Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the last December riot involving South Asian migrant workers was ‘unfortunate’ but the workers were here for purpose.

"The (foreign) workers are here for a purpose, we need them. They are building houses for us, they are building trains for us, they are working all over in banks, in so many companies," Lee said during an event here on Friday.

"I think we have to manage the non-indigenous population in a way that we can bear over the long term, and the Little India riot notwithstanding, we have to continue to do that," he said.

Just as the riot did not change how Singaporeans viewed foreign workers, the workers themselves "continue to be quite comfortable living and working here, and certainly, many more are wanting to come (to Singapore)," Lee said.

"That's why we have to manage the numbers (of foreign workers in Singapore)," he said.

As for the impact of social media, Lee said that how information was disseminated quickly online could cause knee-jerk reaction.

The December 8 night riot was sparked by the death of an Indian national in a bus accident in the Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, pubs, eateries, motels and hotels where migrant workers from South Asia gather over weekends and day off.

Lee also stressed on how to maintain harmony between different cultures here, saying it was crucial to manage the speed at which new migrants came to Singapore, as well as the mix of where they came from.

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