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A Tapestry Of Lies From The Ministry Of Manpower

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    From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling 30 June 2004 Singapore Review What a vast difference a week makes. The press release from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2004
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      From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling
      30 June 2004
      Singapore Review

      What a vast difference a week makes.

      The press release from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on
      the 22 June 2004 was swelling with positive optimism (see footnote 1)
      that the Ministry was easing towards a peaceful and acceptable
      resolution to the salary claims of 440 foreign workers owed in
      arrears by their employer, Wan Soon Construction Private Limited.

      But what an immense difference a week makes.

      Something apparently went abominably wrong in the course of 7 days
      which ultimately precipitated a mobilisation of over 200 discontented
      workers at the Indian embassy, inducing a nameless trepidation within
      the ranks of MOM. Suddenly, with one swift stroke, the layers of
      deception so meticulously erected were unceremoniously disrobed
      in "pompous" fashion.

      Abruptly, the public learned that an important omission was
      perpetrated by MOM in the press release for reasons that are too
      sinister to ever be declassified. Nevertheless, the deceit
      distastefully manifested when it transpired that the 118 workers were
      dispatched home, unwillingly "persuaded" to accept a sordid
      compromise, practically under the "menace" of being potentially
      charged as unlawful "overstayed" immigrants (see footnote 2).

      To further bemire the matter, MOM unscrupulously weaved a fable,
      projecting a façade of kindness in offering to render assistance to
      the "request" of the workers to be relocated to other employers (see
      footnote 3). Embarrassingly for MOM, the resolve of the workers
      elevated the truth to the foreground (see footnote 4), shattering the
      mask of falsehood in an emphatic manner.

      The beautiful lie was completed when it transpired upon the public
      that MOM, in earnest, did not have the means or the will or the
      competency to settle the problem. In desperation, MOM hid behind the
      protective time-tested technique of "bureaucratic procedure"
      excellently honed by the civil service of Singapore. The workers were
      far too sage to fall for the amateurish smokescreen (see footnote 5).

      MOM had effortlessly exacerbated the international opinion of
      Singapore as a "revolting republic" where justice is not dispensed
      without the procedure of grand mobilisation and visible pressures
      generated from media publicity. This reality will forever be etched
      into the minds of thousands of low-skilled foreign labourers,
      investors, and travellers.

      Volumes of agreements on trade and bi-lateral cooperation would not
      suffice to erase the stigma.

      Singaporeans can only pray that this eroding faith of the foreign
      workers, and the world, in Singapore may not one day become
      retributive towards our fellow overseas nationals. After all, there
      is wisdom in the old adage "Do not do onto others what you do not
      want others to do onto you".

      In the hurly burly, Singaporeans serendipitously witnessed a part of
      them which had long been consigned to the dustbin of history of
      humanitarianism in Singapore. It was a collective spirit of
      solidarity and brotherhood, and a culture of pro-activeness honed
      from a more permissive and comparatively liberal democratic
      institution. It was a spirit which can only exist in a society where
      men believe that the power of the people can surmount the resistance
      of the government they elected.

      The institution had long been erased from the psyche of this once
      dynamic nation ever since the days when repressive laws were enacted
      to suppress "independent thoughts". And it was this righteous
      institution which tore gaping holes in the tapestries of lies painted
      by MOM.

      These poor foreign labourers had taught Singaporeans a valuable
      lesson in democratic freedom.

      (Mr) Law Sin Ling


      (1) "The case is now in its final stage of settlement… To date, 118
      workers have resolved their salary disputes amicably with their
      employer and returned to their home countries. Another 59 workers
      will be returning home at the end of this month upon the resolution
      of their disputes" – MOM press release 22 June 2004.

      (2) "More than a quarter of them reached an agreement with the
      Manpower Ministry (MOM) last week and will leave the country soon. It
      is understood that they were offered a package because their work
      permits are expiring soon and they will have to leave the country" –
      The Straits Times 29 June 2004.

      (3) "For the remaining 263 workers, MOM is currently assisting them
      with their claims as well as processing their requests to work for
      other employers in the same industry" – MOM press release 22 June

      (4) "'We do not want 50 per cent or 60 per cent. We want full salary.
      We want full settlement and we want to go back to India. (Referring
      to the deal offered to the departed workers who accepted less than
      what they were owed)" – The Straits Times 29 June 2004.

      (5) "The MOM officers then tried to calm the workers down by saying
      that they would arrange for ANOTHER meeting to settle their problems.
      Said Mr R. Doss, 25: 'We have been to MOM MANY TIMES and there was NO
      settlement." - The Straits Times 29 June 2004.

      (6) "The Ministry treats complaints of salary arrears of foreign
      workers seriously" – MOM press release 22 June 2004.
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