Police work with organisers of large events to prevent crushes, stampedes: Sun Xueling, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Police work with organisers of large events to prevent crushes, stampedes: Sun Xueling

The police here work with organisers of large-scale events to control crowds, pre-empt congestions and ensure that there are sufficient entry and exit points to prevent crushes and stampedes, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling.

Ms Sun said in Parliament on Monday that should there be disturbances at such events, the police would step in to “remove the source of agitation”.

The police would also provide clear instructions on how the crowds can disperse from a congested area if necessary, she added.

Ms Sun was responding to questions from six MPs on measures to deal with risks arising from crowd surges during festive periods and at public events.

The questions came after recent crowd-related tragedies happened overseas. These included a riot and stampede that broke out in East Java, Indonesia, after a football match on Oct 1.

Supporters of the losing team invaded the pitch, causing officers to fire tear gas in an attempt to control the situation. This triggered a stampede, leaving over 130 people dead and 320 others injured.

In another recent tragedy, Halloween festivities in South Korea turned deadly when more than 150 people died in a crowd crush in Seoul’s Itaewon district on Oct 29.

Responding to a question from Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) on multiple gatherings in an area that may lead to a substantial crowd, Ms Sun said the Ministry of Home Affairs recognises that when crowds gather, they usually do so during specific festivals.

“So when there are specific festivals, whether or not it is New Year (or) Christmas, I think the police are on quite high alert, and they know (the) venues that crowds will gather,” she said.

Ms Sun added: “They would be on standby, there would be police patrols to ensure that there is law and order and to disperse crowds if necessary.”

Replying to Mr Gerald Giam’s (Aljunied GRC) question on the use of tear gas to control crowds, Ms Sun said: “The police will only use riot control agents, which include tear gas, in very specific situations where there is a serious threat of harm to persons and property or the risk of significant public disorder.”

She noted that tear gas can cause public chaos, adding: “Another lesson that we have learnt from looking at incidents that happened overseas is that the action that we take has to be proportionate, and we have to be very careful in the way we handle such incidents.”

The police are also working closely with event organisers on plans to monitor the crowd size, as well as other measures such as the deployment of security personnel and the regulation of crowd control at potential chokepoints, said Ms Sun.

“It’s not just about the absolute size of the crowd. You can have a situation whereby the absolute size is not very large but (the people) are in a very concentrated, very congested area, and there might not be entry and exit points that are... available,” she said.