Ex Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has apologised for a Facebook (FB) post that he made that had remarked on foreign workers gathering near Kallang MRT.
In his post, he said : “The open space beside the Kallang MRT Station is empty. Usually every Sunday both foreign domestic workers and workers will congregate till late at night. This has caused some inconvenience to my residents. We have developed a plan to tackle this challenge but it takes a virus to empty the space”
Although the FB post has since been removed, we have repeated it here because it highlights a disturbing sense of superiority and entitlement that the establishment and some Singaporeans may feel towards our country’s blue collar labour. By linking inconvenience to a disease that has swept through the world killing hundreds of thousands also makes light of the devastation that COVID-19 has caused globally.
Ibrahim is a member of the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP), the dominant party in our government and also the government who appears to be pushing ahead with a general election despite lock down measures.
Looking at Ibrahim’s attitude in line with the apparent plan for a general election, could it be construed that some in government do not really have regard for the welfare of the populace outside the elite?
We cannot make windows into men’s souls and there will be some that will always hold deep seated prejudice but Ibrahim is a public figure. The fact that he is publicly making these views known is shocking to say the least.
Either he feels so superior that he sees nothing wrong with his post or he is completely tone deaf – neither is particularly reassuring for a Member of Parliament, an ex minister and former Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs for 16 years to boot!
Is this the high calibre minister that we pay millions for?
Ibrahim has acknowledged the error of his comments by saying: “I apologise for that line, it was never intended in any way (to discriminate).”
But how can he make a comment like that and not mean to discriminate? In not so many words, he is implying that foreign blue collar workers do not have a right to congregate in public spaces because it is an inconvenience to residents! It is a public space!
Residents do not have a right to dictate how a public place is used given that no illegal activities have taken place?
According to reports, Ibrahim had added that residents had been affected by the litters and noise caused by foreign workers gathering in the area. Does Ibrahim really think that the inconvenience of his residents are a good a reason to deny workers who really have nowhere else to go and who are paid pittance some respite?
He has also said :”We have never shooed them away … We have never asked them to leave but asked them please don’t litter the place and please lower your volume,” Does he think that they are pigeons? “Shoo”? Is he for real?
His apology is almost worse than his post!
He also said that he had taken down the Facebook post because “a lot of people” misunderstood his position, and he wanted to avoid creating “any further confusion”. His FB post was crystal clear.
There is nothing to misunderstand really and his attempts at apology makes it even more clear the deep seated sense of entitlement that he feels. Is this attitude also held by others within the PAP?
What are Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan’s views on this? These workers that Ibrahim so disdainfully talks about are after all from neighbouring countries and Singapore has close relationships with the governments of these countries.
These comments plus questions of how we are providing for our foreign labour in lock down might raise issues with our neighbouring countries?
As Prof Tommy Koh rightfully commented, “The way Singapore treats its foreign workers is not First World but Third World”