A letter written into this publication by Jun Low made a very astute and concise point in relation to Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo’s steadfast refusal to apologise for the COVID-19 spread that is currently still raging through our migrant worker communities.
Low says: “An apology is not by demand, but rather it should be out of sincerity and recognizing what has gone wrong due to one’s oversight, mistakes and lapses.”
In declaring that she was not aware of any migrant worker who has demanded an apology from her or her ministry as a justification for not apologising, Teo is implying that she will not do something (even if it might be the right thing to do) unless it is demanded of her.
By extension, does this mean that our government may not do something that is right for the country and its citizens unless it is demanded to do so? If so, how does one demand things from the government?
To be able to demand something from someone, one first has to have a certain degree of bargaining power. In Singapore where we have an overwhelming Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) majority government and a seemingly pliant mainstream media, what bargaining power does the average Singaporean have to demand anything?
Using this line of logic, it would appear that as it stands, we don’t have very much power to compel the government to do anything it doesn’t want to do. In short therefore, we might have an accountability issue.
Teo will not apologise because no one has demanded an apology from her. The migrant workers do not have the clout to demand anything. What does this mean? That the whole thing is done and dusted? Over? Swept under the carpet?
This is a scary mentality on the part of a minister and belies the attitude that she and by extension her colleagues in power may have.
Because no matter what moral obligations there are, on paper, they will never have done anything wrong. She is right to say no migrant worker has demanded an apology from her. Which migrant worker whose sole livelihood depends on the whim of the Ministry of Manpower wielding the power to grant work permits and the like would dare to demand an apology from a haloed minister?
This refusal to apologise is therefore fait accompli because she knows well that no migrant worker would have the temerity to demand an apology.
Do we want a government that would only do something (even if it is the right thing to do) only if it is demanded of them?