Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo said in Parliament on 4 May that she has not “come across one single migrant worker himself that had demanded an apology,”
It is a strange and defensive statement for one to utter given that most migrant workers have been living under lock down conditions with little interaction with the outside world. With that in mind, how many migrant workers would Teo have interacted with for her conclusion of not coming across any migrant worker wanting an apology to be meaningful?
Besides, most migrant workers are worried about their livelihood – would they really have the temerity to be demanding an apology from a minister (even if they wanted to)? In this regard, Teo’s statements are meaningless and could be construed as self serving.
Setting aside the apology to the migrant worker point, shouldn’t she also apologise to the people of Singapore? The government’s inaction when cases in migrant worker dormitories first became pubic knowledge in February may well have contributed to the high levels of COVID-19 cases in Singapore. This falls squarely in Teo’s domain.
Nor can she reasonably argue that no one has asked for an apology because Facebook (FB) and other social media outlets are alight with calls for either an apology from her, her resignation or both. So, even if no migrant worker that she knows of has asked for her apology, the people of Singapore have. Is she going to apologise?
Teo also took the opportunity in Parliament to read out an FB note posted by migrant worker Sozal Mirza thanking the government (‘Minister shares migrant worker’s note of heartfelt thanks‘). In context with the rest of her statements, it would appear that the message Teo is trying to send is that she (and her department) have done a good job and that the migrant workers are grateful.
There are so many migrant workers in Singapore. Is one message on FB from one worker able to represent the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Singapore?
With the unequal balance of power between migrant workers and authorities, could it also be possible that Sozal Mirza might have felt compelled to send such a message in the hope of improving his chances of securing his livelihood?
To brandish the FB message of one migrant worker together with her experience of no single worker asking for her apology as a conclusion that she need not apologise is a weak whitewash of the situation. Cases of COVID-19 are high and high because of potential oversights on the part of her ministry.
Even if she does not feel that she needs to apologise to migrant workers, she needs to apologise to the taxpayers in Singapore who are paying her salary. She cannot in good conscience say she is not aware of any Singaporean wanting her apology.