No, I do not believe foreign workers should be housed on off-shore islands

 

The idea of housing foreign workers in offshore islands seems to be getting revived following the Little India riot on Sunday night.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said back in April that Singapore was open to housing foreign workers at offshore islands. The story on that is being reposted and shared again in light of the riot.

The idea is something that many people, the kind who opposed the establishment of foreign worker dormitories in Serangoon, would support.

It would also likely be appreciated by those who join some of the nauseatingly racist discussions online about foreign workers hanging around residential areas in Singapore.

Do you recall the violent rejections when foreign worker dormitories were to be built in the Serangoon area? Only after much negotiation, give & take and cajoling did the dorm finally run. Though it may have cost the previous MP a seat in Parliament.

And just last week, a program on Channel News Asia discussed the issue of groups of foreign workers hanging around residential areas at Race Course Road – the remarks were not pretty.

Through no scientific poll, I don’t think it is wrong to conclude this is what the more vocal people on the ground want.

They may be vocal – but this is not the right direction to head.

We are all labourers – be you a cleaner, a clerk, an executive or a technician, we are all still someone else’s employee. The only difference here is our foreign friends are from another country. They are here, merely because Singapore is such fertile ground to make a living. I was also once a foreign worker working in someone else’s country, and I wasn’t asked to live in such-and-such a district.

 

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(Photo from “Beyond The Border, Behind The Men“, a group promoting migrant worker integration)

Some say they drink too much. Some say they behave funny. Some say they are rude. But wait, have we heard sentiments about Singaporeans from other nationalities? I’m not saying we should do a tit-for-tat, but if we cannot rid ourselves of this “holier than thou” attitude, then we have no right to chide others for saying similar things about us.

On the whole, you will not disagree with me when I say that Singaporeans live in harmony with our foreign friends. I’ve seen uncles at coffeeshops trying to break the language barrier with fellow foreign diners. I have seen supervisors and workers having a good laugh after work.

 

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Just like how not all of them are rambunctious rioters, not all of us Singaporeans are xenophobic pricks either.

Let us speak boldly and let Minister Khaw Boon Wan (of the Ministry of National Development) know that it is integration that we want, not separation.

We cannot allow the ugly Singaporean get their way.

 

 

 

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About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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