I have been winding down these few weeks to spend treasured time with Caden and Charles. Both boys will be going to Kindergarten and Pre-Nursery respectively in 2 weeks’ time. These few weeks, I got to role-play with Caden, who imagined he was a policeman and taught Charles more vocabulary. I am also very thankful to my helper with me who has been with me for the past 2 years for taking good care of them. I felt happy, safe and contented. Yesterday night, I was happily prancing away with Caden to Mariah Carey’s What I Want For Christmas and it set me thinking of what I really wanted for Christmas 2013.
Just not too long ago on December 8, 2013 at about 21:23hrs, a private bus in Little India ran over an Indian National and this triggered an outrage and a severe riot which was one that Singapore had not witnessed since The Hock Lee Bus Riots in 1955. I was reading the news of the riots on Yahoo! Singapore and I was dismayed, shocked and stunned. Seriously, I was frightened and feared that the riot would spread. I followed the news closely for the first few days and I was elated and overjoyed that the the Government had quickly dispatched the Officers from the Special Operations Command (SOC) and Gurkhas, who together with our courageous Policemen, brought the riot to a cessation and put the rioters into custody.
In my humble opinion, I do not think that the riot was pre-meditated but it is an isolated event. However with this riot, I believe that the Government will increase its vigilance not only on foreign violence but also on domestic violence in Singapore. The blue collar workers who have been imported to do menial tasks which Singaporeans have rejected to do, are more likely prone to violence due to their lack of education and their mindset is that everything can be resolved with violence.
A Committee of Inquiry (COI) has been appointed to investigate what caused the Little India riot. Former Judge of the Supreme Court G Pannir Selvam has been appointed as Chairman of the COI. The other members are former Commissioner of Police Tee Tua Ba, former President of the Singapore National Trades Union Congress John De Pavya and Chairman of West Coast Citizens’ Consultative Committee Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee. The COI is expected to submit a report of its proceedings, findings and recommendations to the Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean within six months.
I am just grateful that the Government reacted so quickly to deploy the Police and Singapore’s Elite Armed Forces to stop and bring the riot to a standstill. When I heard that the rioters were caught and facing charges, I was delighted because I can safely bring my sons out again. They are also able to attend their classes as planned. More importantly, I was born, bred and educated in Singapore and I would be very sad if I had to move to another country so that my children could be safe to attend school and grow up without violence, hostility and enmity. The crux of the issue is that Singapore is my nation, my country and my home and why should I move?!!
I am really not sure what the rioters were thinking, but I opined to say that they usually resort to violence to solve any altercation, disputes and quarrels when they are unhappy being less educated. Hence, before they are put to work, I think MOM should provide a mandatory course for all foreign workers who are less educated about working in Singapore. The course should teach them what is Singapore like and how they should behave in our multi-cultural society. It will definitely help them to assimilate well into our society.
All I want for Christmas this year is peace and joy and the ability to spend quality time with my family. We want to enjoy the comfort of family life in peace and harmony. We do not believe in using violence and I want my children to grow in an environment with little or zero hostility, with joyous peace and with lots of love. I am sure many mothers hope for the same thing for their children too.
I anticipated that the problem came about because Singaporeans are very welcoming people and Singapore’s openness to foreign labour has enabled it to attract, retain and absorb the best of foreign talent, providing it with a clear competitive advantage over its neighbours. However, with Singapore accommodating all foreign workers, it becomes very difficult because Singapore will have to address differences in cultures, work ethics, languages and moral values of the workers which are very different from Singaporeans.
In February 2013, amid much debate and controversy, the White Paper on Population was passed by the Parliament of Singapore. The paper which was issued by the National Population and Talent Division was considered a roadmap for Singapore’s population policies and it had a pronounced and explicit impact on the workforce.
The Paper started off with maintaining Singapore’s aim is to build a sustainable population with a strong Singaporean core. However, in order to stay competitive and create better jobs for Singaporeans, the country will also need to employ a fair number of foreign workers to complement and fill in the employment and labour gaps. I suppose we do not mind foreign workers as long as they stay out of trouble and work hard, I think that will be good enough. We should be thankful that the foreigners are willing to do menial jobs which most Singaporeans abhor.
The costs of living in Singapore has not decreased and in fact, it is on the rise. There have been repeated calls for a minimum wage by some Members of Parliament in Singapore, especially in view of how the system has worked in countries like the US and Hong Kong. The minimum wage idea will be able to counteract the high costs of living in Singapore with wages lagging behind for the lower income Singaporeans. It is doubtful that the costs of living will come down and the best thing to do moving forward is to give every Singaporean a decent standard of living and that is to give them a reasonable wage. The exact amount can be worked out by experts to determine the minimum living wage required for Singapore’s cost structures.
My sentiment is that the unrest of the Little India Riot is not due to work conditions or minimum wages because I believe they are here in Singapore to seek a better life, and we have given them more than fair treatment. I sincerely believe that the Indian workers’ life in Singapore is a much better one than the life they are leading in India. In order to come to Singapore, these foreign workers will have to work on a minimum wage because they need to pay off their dues to their Agents in India, who have brought them to Singapore to work. I suppose this strongest root cause that the workers are unhappy with their low wages because they have to pay off their Agents. I am not a HR Professional dealing with such issues but I am optimistic that we will overcome this obstacle which we have done so on many occasions building this nation.
Let’s hope that this will be the very last unrest that Singapore has to face and that we will be able to live in peace, joy and racial harmony. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!