Thursday, November 29, 2012

Singapore. Unprecedented strike by Chinese migrant bus drivers open a can of worms for Lee Kuan Yew's authoritarian government

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Lee Kuan Yew's authoritarian police city state of Singapore, the unspeakable but long expected event has finally happened. Chinese migrant low wage bus drivers have finally gone on strike, demanding equal wages paid to others doing the same job and equal living conditions.

About 4 days ago, about 200 Chinese bus workers went on strike. This news went viral throughout the world, since such activity was unheard of in that tightly controlled island.  When they were threatened with police in riot gear with guns and truncheons, some 100 of those caved in but not the remaining 100 who continued against all odds. Now the island's state controlled newspaper reports that 4 have been arrested and charged in the criminal court and face fines and imprisonment extending up to a year. See

The Singapore government is repeatedly using words such as "criminal" and "illegal" to represent the actions of these drivers. Calling someone criminal does not make him one. His action should be criminal and in this case, they are simply not criminals. They were simply asking for fairer treatment and equal wage for equal work. Nothing criminal about that.

The government's argument is, like all their other nonsensical arguments, is that because bus driving is an essential activity; the law requires them to first give notice before they took strike action. But any one with any common sense also knows that if the law itself is unlawful there is no need for anyone to comply. This law requiring notice is unlawful under the Singaporean context because we all know that it would have been useless for the workers to have given notice since all that the government would have done is simply to cancel their visas and quietly send them packing to China. When a law is useless on its face, the need to comply no longer exists. The Chinese bus drivers were within their rights not to comply with the notice requirement.

Going on strike should not be an earth shattering event in any other country; workers all over the world do it. It is a fundamental human right. But not in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore where there has not been one for the last 30 years. In the past, up till now, local born Singaporeans have all been successfully cowed and intimidated never to go against authority, which has managed to keep this totalitarian one party police state in power for so long.

But the problem with the Lee Kuan Yew government when they insist on making people obey them is that they have lost their legitimacy to rule. Lee Kuan Yew and each member of his family pay themselves each $3.7 million a year which they call a salary and a further undisclosed amount through corruption. Any worker such as these men who earn a measly sum of less than about $800.00 per month would naturally be aggrieved when their rulers corruptly get away with millions at their expense. This is exactly why the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution happened. The revolutionaries were not criminals, they were heroes. They were standing for justice.

Secondly with a corrupt government and a corrupt legal system in the island which merely pass down dictates to prop up the Lee Ruling Family, no one would be expected to follow the laws in industrial action, since you simply cannot get justice.

Lee's government is already having it very hard for a very long time. The local population is simply not procreating with the lowest birth rate in the world. To make matters worse, the island itself only has about 2.5 million local born Singaporeans, a number which is falling by the day from the low birth rate, high emigration rate and an aging population. In addition, the government has built up an overly large economy which requires a large labor force relative to its size which it does not have. It therefore has no choice but to continue relying on foreign labor.

But foreigners are not Singaporeans. The Chinese from China have a long tradition of protests which is part of their Communist ethos. That is how they brought down the capitalists in 1949, by a revolution. And mini revolutions happen every day throughout China for better living conditions.

The arrest and criminal charges against the 4 have, like a can of worms, will result in huge painful consequences for the Lee government. For one, everyone can see that the Chinese drivers were in the right. Their action is justified. This creates even more hatred against the government for this bullying cowardly tactics against innocent workers who were asking only for their just rights. Which means even more people would emigrate, even fewer babies would be born and worst of all for the government, encourage others to join suit. In this case, the Lee government would simply be helpless. They simply cannot send everybody to jail or send everyone back home; because if they did, who will do the work for them.

On the other hand, the Lees simply cannot loosen up either. If they did what they should rightly do, by stopping these arrests of workers, decriminalizing strikes and work stoppages, stopping the theft of millions by the Lee Family in corruption, and making sure that you have rule of law, the people would be happy and content in the island. But doing this would also mean the end of this totalitarian corrupt dictatorship.

The Lee Ruling Family have been caught in a vice of their own making.

No, it is simply too late for the Lee regime. These proud courageous Chinese bus heroes have done it. They have done the unthinkable in Lee's tiny island. This would mean the start of other strikes of Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians and even Singaporeans who would now be emboldened to finally say enough is enough. Yes, the striking Chinese bus drivers have indeed opened a can of worms for the Lee Kuan Yew administration. It will be interesting to see whether they can carry on bullying their people and if so for how long.

A reminder. I am able to write this from the safety of California, USA. The Singapore government has not had the courage to demand from the foreign Internet provider of this blog, to try to stop its entry into Singapore which explains why I can continue to write. Had I wrote this from within Singapore, I would have been arrested the next instant as I was in 2008 in Singapore.

Gopalan Nair
A Singaporean by birth in exile
Attorney at Law
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 4375

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Note that this government also refuses to implement minimum wage and there is no law against age, sex, and race discriminations in employment.