Netizens slammed The Straits Times (ST) article titled “Encounter with Bangladeshi cleaner changed his perceptions” and claimed that the article may infuse prejudices among the readers about racism towards migrant workers.
On 31 March, ST published the article which focused on how a business developer of Migrant X Me, Seah Cheng, 26, changed his perceptions towards migrant workers after he came across with a Bangladeshi cleaner.
In the article, it was highlighted that Mr Seah’s perceptions towards migrant workers were influenced by his friends and family who warned him that migrant workers would “kidnap” him. They added that migrant workers have an unpleasant odor, while some even ridiculed their skin colour and food.
“They are all criminals, and they’ve been sent here to work for very low as punishment,” said one of Mr Seah’s university friends.
Mr Seah’s perceptions changed when a member of the youth ministry at the Queenstown Baptist Church introduced him to one of his migrant friends, Md Kamrul Islam, 33, who is a Bangladeshi cleaner.
Mr Kamrul shared about the reasons he came to Singapore and his working conditions in the country. According to Mr Kamrul, he had to spend more than $5,000 on agency fees just to work in Singapore, which took him more than a year to pay off the fees.
Thereafter, Mr Seah felt encouraged to reach out and befriend with migrant workers in the neighborhood, and was later introduced to other migrant workers by Mr Kamrul. He began to understand the issues faced by migrant workers.
“In the two to three months that I spent befriending them, I learnt more about their hardships and humanity, that they really were just people like us, who are able to feel hatred, compassion, jealousy, love and anger,” Mr Seah quoted.
Upon graduating from the university, Mr Seah went to volunteer with Migrant x Me, a social enterprise that aims to provide public education on the migrant worker community. He is now working as a business developer in Migrant x Me.
Meanwhile, Facebook user Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh posted a photo of the newspaper article on 31 March and pointed out about the “Chinese racists” in Singapore, adding that he felt glad Mr Seah has come into a realisation that Bangladeshis are “people like us, who are able to feel hatred, compassion, jealousy, love and anger”.
“But one hopes that other racists do not require such close “encounters” with these alien breeds in order to be awakened from their slumber,” he wrote.
He added, “Let’s put an end to Singapore’s institutionalised racism and discrimination, and foster home and school environments that teach kids about our common humanity.”
Many netizens commented on the Facebook post, slamming ST for publishing the article. They questioned the intention behind publishing such an article, noting that it may infuse prejudices among readers about the racism towards migrant workers in the country.
While some netizens commented on Mr Seah’s views on migrant workers.
One netizen suggested inviting migrant workers to share their experiences in order to open the minds of those who are living in “wonderland”.