20131215 Little India riot – PM Lee and Sunday Times disagree on issues

After the Little India riot occurred on 8 Dec, the PAP government has continued with its PR campaign (with the help of mainstream media) to wipe clean the underlying issues. Cause of the riot – alcohol!
DPM Teo has praised the SOC troopers for a job well done despite 25 emergency vehicles damaged, 39 police, SCDF and auxiliary officers injured. link Minister Shanmugam then said there was “No evidence that foreign workers are unhappy with job conditions”. link After “smelling the environment”, Minister Lui said “alcohol could have been a contributory factor”. CNA Earlier on, he had also said it was “hard to say definitively” if alcohol is to be blamed. Ministers after ministers have refused to await a thorough investigation report before making any statements. It appears the government has refused to accept there are underlying issues faced by foreign workers.

On the front page of The Sunday Times (15 Dec), PM Lee put his weight behind his ministers by saying there was “No evidence riot reflects workers’ unhappiness”. PM Lee said: “There is no tension, there is no sense of grievance or hardship or injustice.” In other words, Singapore is a foreign workers’ utopia.

SMRT drivers were therefore silly to have gone on a strike, volunteer organisations such as TWC2 and HOME are simply trying to resolve imaginary problems of foreign workers. If all is hunky dory, then why did the government belatedly set up Migrant Workers Centre in 2009? If the 7000 plus cases (the sunday times 22 sep 2013) it has handled since opening were all trivial issues, NTUC and the SNEF should better prioritise their limited resources.

On the same issue and in the same papers, Mr Han Fook Kwang said “there isn’t much interest in what they do, how they cope here and what problems they face.” The government has continued to be indifferent to foreign workers.

Han is also aware that the first year income of a typical Indian worker goes to the agent. Foreign workers are therefore in a vulnerable situation, subjected to abuse by employers. The MOM has the records.

Also acknowledged by Han is the tough working life in Singapore ie not just the long hours but at sites with “less than ideal safety conditions”.

TWC2 has been helping foreign workers since 2004 and the issues it listed are:

– unpaid salaries
– wages paid as “loans” which have to be paid back
– unilateral deduction of previously agreed pay for various items such as levies
– unauthorised work for other companies.

Would anyone in their right mind be happy in such a situation?

Our government, on the other hand, has even denied foreign workers the right to having a payslip. link

PM Lee need not look further than TWC2 for evidence of unhapppiness of foreign workers who were exploited. He could also watch 3 videos @ link.

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