A clip that’s currently going viral on Facebook is not doing Singapore any favors for the country’s reputation of not treating its migrant workers well.
Joey Chin filmed a dispute that took place earlier today at a void deck of an HDB block in Kaki Bukit — an incident that elicited utter disgust over the unkind behavior of a local man. According to Chin, a man in his 60s who claimed to be a resident there was so crabby about a South Asian migrant worker taking a break at the void deck that he had to harass the poor man.
“This foreign worker just had his lunch, lying on the ground at a corner resting, taking afternoon nap (without blocking anyone’s passage),” Chin wrote. The Singaporean man took notice while walking by and yelled at the worker, telling him off for taking a nap there.
“This is my house! Here is not for sleeping! What are you doing here?!” Chin noted the man to have shouted.
In the clip shared by Chin, the man is noticeably hostile to the worker, who appears to be wearing a uniform typically worn by staff in the shipping industry. The worker tries to defend himself, but the self-righteous uncle can be heard threatening to involve the police and asserting that he knows the “Singapore law”.
Chin was incensed by the shameful behavior. According to him, he confronted the uncle, who was confused why he, as a fellow Singaporean, was not taking his side.
“He left immediately after not being able to rebut my words, warnings, and scolding,” wrote Chin. It’s unclear what happened to the worker afterward, but folks made their support for him pretty clear.
Public spaces for migrant workers
The incident brings to light a long-discussed issue: the availability of public spaces for the often marginalized community of migrant laborers. Workers having their meals and resting at void decks near their workplaces have been a relatively common sight in Singapore, but there are some who believe that they have no right in doing so.
Back in 2016, Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua had to make a public apology after getting flak over her suggestion that communal areas in Little India — such as playgrounds and void decks — be fenced off to foreign workers. That, on top of her associating them as “walking time-bombs”.
Non-profit organization Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) highlights how the lack of adequate housing and indoor spaces for foreign workers is a prevalent issue.
“Not providing shelter for people who provide the sinews of our economy is a disgrace,” wrote TWC2 in a 2012 article. “Forcing men to live in the rough with nowhere to eat, chat or wash themselves should stir our conscience.”