Photo by Rob O’Brien/Flickr
Dear reader, if you follow me on Facebook you might find the below repetitive. This is mostly for the benefit of those who don’t.
It’s been a busy month, as many of us have felt the need to speak up about the horrible COVID-19 crisis at Singapore’s migrant worker dormitories—what I have called “independent Singapore’s biggest ever humanitarian crisis”, a phrase that has been picked up. Good.
There has also been a lot associated racism and xenophobia.
Writing has been especially taxing because assorted censors have sprung up all around society, seeking to shut us up. My posts below, some satire, touch on these aspects.
Thankfully there has also been a lot of support from readers. Much appreciated!
Singapore: Let’s not ignore the downtrodden; nor those who speak up for them
On April 9th I published a commentary in New Naratif about the migrant worker crisis. First few paragraphs here:
Singapore has rightly won plaudits for its pandemic response thus far. Yet the recent emergence of clusters of infections at four foreign-worker dormitories shows that complacency is creeping in. What can we learn from this episode?
Consider first the warnings that were ignored. On 23 March, in a letter to The Straits Times’ Forum page (“Employers’ practices leave foreign workers vulnerable to infection”), Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a Singaporean NGO focused on low-wage migrant workers, called on the government to provide better accommodation for workers and crack down on errant employers. These are pleas that TWC2 and others have made for years, but with added urgency amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Coincidentally, the very next day, the Singapore government announced that it would begin to house returnees from the UK and the US at hotels, including five-star luxury ones on Sentosa, for their mandatory fourteen-day isolation. After some initial disgruntlement, it appears like most returnees adjusted to their new routine, finding solace in that beloved Singaporean pastime: one-upping other countries to feel good about ourselves. Nowhere else in the world, so it goes, would potential vectors be isolated in such decadence, able to enjoy biryani, bubble tea, care packages from loved ones and fresh laundry dangling from the doorknob.
Click to continue reading on New Naratif
On April 10th I published a rebuttal to all those who were seeking to get “critics” to shut up in this time of crisis.
Stop all complaining and criticising, Singaporeans. It is time to get behind our government. Politicians are already working so hard—what more you want? “Do not demoralise them [her team] with finger-pointing,” says Jo Teo.
Well isn’t that bloody convenient?
When things were going well, your party and its sycophants gleefully dissed others. Your provocateur in chief, “Our Beng”, filled an evening with his inane jokes, targeting Hong Kong and all the idiot Singaporeans around.
(Hey, Beng. Have you seen the latest figures? Carrie Lam has you in her pocket.)
It would be one thing if such mindless “Don’t complain” waffle was spewed by PAP fanatics. But over the past week I’ve seen it all over the internet, from the unlikeliest voices, people somehow transformed into PAP goons by patriotism’s worst instincts.
I think many in this group mean well, in a Singapore semangat, gotong-royong kind of way #SGunited
Sadly your desire to mute criticism is misguided, foolish, and even dangerous. We need the “critics” in civil society to help us mind gaps, even more so now.
Of course Jo Teo wants citizens to look away. She is the Manpower Minister who has presided over independent Singapore’s biggest ever humanitarian crisis: perhaps 50,000 migrant workers in four isolated dorms, packed in close quarters, the Coronavirus bouncing off their walls. This is Singapore’s equivalent of the Diamond Princess Ship—but more Dump than Diamond.
And so the government propaganda machine is in full spin, giving “Dormitory 2020” the same treatment as “Little India 2013”. It will all be blamed on Aneh/Bangla workers and their Indon/Pinoy girlfriends and Mustafa that lures them in and idiot Phua Chu Kang contractors who did not follow Singapore’s perfect regulations.
Our holy, million-dollar politicians? Absolved, but of course.
And so, #SGunited evangelists, whether or not you know it, you are helping the PAP with its ruse: we must get ready for elections, but you mustn’t ask any of the hard questions that will inform your decision. Now is not the time, lah. Next millennium, can?
#howdemocraciesdie #poorMustafa #alwayscomplaining #PAP #elections #singapore #COVID_19 #coronavírus #migrantworkers
On April 12th I published a satire in response to this awful Facebook post by a PAP politician.
Dear Honourable Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Communications Yaacob Ibrahim
On behalf of my wife and family, we would like to express our utmost thanks for your Facebook post about the Banglas who congregate at night in our area.
You correctly mentioned that they “caused some inconvenience to my residents.” You correctly described the Banglas use of our space as a “challenge” that we need to “tackle”. Your clarity helps me understand why PM chose you as his Communications Minister.
The Banglas used to sit there and talk. Use their mobile phone. Sometimes they eat and drink also. On Sundays they even bring their Filipino girlfriends! One hand hold their girlfriend’s hand. Other hand hold another Bangla’s hand. So funny hor!
Don’t these people know that they are not supposed to socialise in Singapore? Just finish project and go home.
I am impressed, MP, that you already have a plan to tackle the Banglas—that’s why you have my vote. Not like the useless opposition. Waste time, talk only.
Of course we are all sad about the coronavirus and its impact. Now I cannot find the New Zealand 101% Manuka Honey that Boy Boy needs for his studies.
Despite these hardships, we believe in looking forward. Just like you, when you said that “it takes a virus to clear this space”. Now that the Banglas have been cleared, we should think about the possibilities!
Perhaps a community garden? Which all CITIZENS can enjoy. We can get a few Corona-free Banglas to water the plants at night. Fast one. Now that Min Jo Teo has cleaned their dorms, I hope they spend more time there.
Thank you for doing a fantastic job as MP. Your achievements reflect Malay progress. Your people have come a long way.
We are so grateful to be Singaporeans. My friends in other countries have faced a lot of racism. The usual “China virus” insults.
Thank God we live in a country where there is no racism. And it is all because of the wonderful work of the PAP.
God bless you
Mr and Mrs Lee Bee Got
(The above is satire. Yaacob first edited, then deleted the post. In his apology, he said that people had misunderstood his position.) #OKBoomer #fightracism #stopracism #pap #singapore
On April 15th I published this short because I realised that many Singaporeans do not actually care for the South Asian migrant workers themselves:
Twilight of the elites, SG edition
As Singapore faces its worst humanitarian crisis since independence, with some 50,000 South Asian workers isolated in cramped, COVID-vulnerable conditions, overheard at dining tables around the city:
“Of course I’m concerned about the Bangladeshis who are COVID positive. What if one of them gave it to Mary Joy?”
“I’m worried by the dormitory COVID spread, yes. What if they take up all the ventilators and our health system crashes?”
“Absolutely, things must change in the future. We can’t go on like this. We must improve the dormitories so the workers never have to leave them. And we must start monitoring our maids on Sundays to see whom they mix with.”
#creativelicense #notverbatimbutclose #surveillancesociety #ghetto #segregation #migrants #migrantworkers #elysium #twilightoftheelites #PAP #Singapore
On April 21st I published a satire on the ongoing segregation and “otherisation” of the foreign worker community in Singapore, fuelled, perhaps unwittingly, by government statements and releases.
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2 thoughts on “Some recent corona-related writing”
I am so glad that you have brought up this topic on caring for the foreign workers in Singapore. You are the voice of these people and I totally agree with what you’ve written. I’m so proud of you. You are able to articulate what many people think but are unable to do so clearly.
Whether construction workers or maids, some people treat them as if they are less than human. These workers have left their homes and families for years at a time to make money in sometimes dangerous and harsh environments. Singaporeans are too spoilt and won’t do any of the “dirty” jobs and yet they look down on these poor workers. They need to be well looked after and given proper accommodation and care. They need to be treated as we treat our families, with dignity and kindness.
Thank you for speaking up on their behalf. You are a true blessing. Hope you and Liling are keeping well. We are into week six of our level 3 lockdown. The children are mostly working from home. Esther has reduced hours at work so they can maintain social distancing. U Vinayan goes to work as usual since there’s only 5 of them rattling around in the factory! I spend my time ringing the older folks in our church and family who are single or elderly. I shop for some of them but other than that, I’m spending more time cooking!
Take care and God bless you.
Great posting, I hope Singapore could learn from its mistakes and keep improving itself for the better.