On 18 March 2014, Mr Kevin Teoh, the Divisional director of MOM’s foreign manpower management division, testified at the Committee of Inquiry into the riot in Little India in December.
Mr Teoh made four basic claims in his testimony, namely:
1. There are no abandoned foreign workers;
2. Out-of-work foreign workers can seek alternative employment (subject to permission);
3. MOM has ensured that foreign workers all know their rights;
4. Untrue that workers are forcibly repatriated.
Here in response to those claims, Mr Alex Au – who incidentally is the vice president of migrant aid group or NGO, TWC2 – has written a lengthy and detailed explanation of how and why the director (and MOM) is wrong on his claims.
Do take some time to read this article by Alex Au, written in his personal capacity but with no less authority given his involvement with migrant workers.
Here is an excerpt of Alex Au’s article.
You can read the full write-up here: “Manpower director makes incredible claims about how well migrant workers are treated by ministry.”
“In such situations, it may be axiomatic that bureaucrats, who are representatives of coercive power, may never be able to establish honest communication with members of vulnerable communities, and will therefore always be handicapped when it comes to having good data about these communities and their lived experiences. The better thing to do therefore is to rely on intermediaries for contact and information. NGOs are such intermediaries. Not wielding any power in themselves, not connected with social groups whom the vulnerable feel may be oppressing them, NGOs are far better able to earn the trust of vulnerable groups.
“The failure to grasp this philosophical point, to see the value in working through NGOs, is a major reason why MOM often finds itself flailing in rough waters. As Teoh’s testimony painfully reveals, there are huge gaps in the ministry’s awareness of the real situation, and frightfully naive beliefs in the fit and effectiveness of its theoretical solutions.”