Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Singapore's champions for human rights come from the most unexpected quarter, Chinese migrant bus drivers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the last 3 days, Singapore's state controlled newspapers have been reporting of something almost unheard in the island city state run as a dictatorship by the Lee Ruling Family, worker strikes, which finally ended when the bus driver workers returned to work after being threatened with criminal charges and arrest. See http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/smrt-bus-drivers-china-return-work-20121128

But seeing their actions, local Singaporeans who would never have the courage to even imagine going on strike, an action which is normal behavior in any other civilized country, should not only be inspired by it, they should also be ashamed.

The Chinese nationals who are my heroes, had legitimate right to complain. Malaysian and Singapore bus drivers in the island were given higher wages while Chinese nationals were paid less even though they were doing exactly the same work. About 170 workers initially refused to work. After the government brought dozens of armed police in riot gear ready to attack them, they eventually gave up and agreed to continue working. The exact terms of the settlement were not reported but we expect the strikers to have won in their wage demands and living conditions. 

The manner in which Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore makes use of these foreign workers to do low wage jobs in the island so as to keep wages low, is beginning to backfire. The government which is trying to take advantage of these foreign workers should understandably be very worried by what has happened. They should also realize that worker unrest is now going to increase and make it increasingly difficult for them to abuse their workers. The writing is on the wall. This is only the beginning of Lee Kuan Yew's problems. It may well be the beginning of a revolution.

The mistakes of the Lee regime in using cheap foreign labor are many. He mistakenly thinks that foreign workers would be as docile, timid and submissive as his Singaporeans. Not true. China's history is based on a revolution for better wages and living conditions. Protest is part of the culture of the Chinese in China. And by brining them to Singapore to do cheap labor, Lee did not realize that they would behave the same as they would in their country and would protest if you treat them badly. In fact there are thousands of protests each day throughout their country, a daily occurrence. If Lee wanted cheap workers who are both docile and cheap as well, he should have looked elsewhere although I don’t think there is even a single country where people are both submissive and cheap. 

Second, he houses them in dormitories together with cheap labor workers from many other countries. By doing this, it enables disgruntled workers at any one time, to let others know of their grievance and persuade others to join. This housing arrangement is a perfect recipe for mass demonstrations. As to this particular protest, by now it must be certain that the Chinese bus drivers have already spread the news of their strike to several other hundreds of workers, who are now aware of their plight, and who may now themselves consider going on strike. 

Third, foreign workers are not as desperate as the local timid Singaporeans. They don't really have to take any nonsense. They came to Singapore to work, and if their working conditions turn bad, they could always go home or even go to another country such as the Middle East. Wages are no better in Singapore than anywhere else.

Fourth, this sort of courage to stand up to an unfair unscrupulous employer becomes an example to local Singaporeans who would see them as their champions. They would begin to feel that if the Chinese nationals could do it, so could we. 

Finally it draws home the ruthlessness and cruelty of these Singapore employers by threatening to arrest and jail harmless workers who are only asking their fair share just as anyone else would. This sort of disgraceful behavior adds fuel to the anger that many Singaporeans already have against the Lee Ruling Family who can only manage to rule through fear. This means even more skilled and educated people who are outraged by their government's behavior will add to the already high rate of emigration to the West. It's already small shrinking tiny population of 2.5 local born, through mass emigration, falling birth rate and ageing population will shrink even further and the government will have to resort to bringing in even more cheap foreign labor, thereby only worsening the problem.

Thank you Chinese bus drivers. You have contributed greatly towards advancing human rights in Singapore Island

I am glad I am in California which enables me to write this without fear of being arrested and the realization that even more people both in Singapore and the rest of the world can read it. I would not have been able to do this had I been within Singapore.

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


Anonymous said...

Yeah! Who would have thought that they, of all people, would start something like that? Well done.

Lim said...

Ah..the delicious IRONY! The master of his piddling universe thought by importing 2+ million new "coolies" he could get away with even fatter profit margins. Those responsible, those who threatened the striking bus drivers with their attack riot police should be remembered when the day of reckoning arrives in Singapore. Every single one of those soulless kow towing boot lickers must end up in jail (or worse) for what they and their predecessors have done to the good people of Singapore, through the decades of iron rule.

Anonymous said...

Another great idea from a President Scholar gone wrong, ie getting cheap labour from China. Generally, policies will not work in SG for too long due to its size, increasing population, To register a high GDP rate, it comes at a price, MRT breakdown, zero population growth, pay differential, disatisfaction, migration, SG natives displacement (aka migration). Moral of the story, dont hire President scholars but get policy makers who have a heart and understand broader issues.

Anonymous said...


Seow Leow La !!:
November 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm (Quote)

This is almost like a “Singapore Spring” except that it is not Singaporeans who stood up against their Lords, but some bus drivers from PRC.

Personally, I don’t like them as I think they are a danger on Singapore roads – but this time, I like their guts.

Thank you for standing up for Singapore – but it is also time you go home since PAP government cannot accept such behaviour. I will be surprised if they do…soon Pinoy maids, Bangla Workers will join in and then we have International Spring in Singapore……

Unknowingly these Fts imported to screwed the sinkies are actually doing the oppressed sinkies a huge favor.


Anonymous said...

It's begun.
Thanks to the commies from the PRC, gutless Singaporeans will be getting democracy. How ironic.

All the LEE family wanted we cheap, subservient workers.

Both local and foreign workers condone PRC bus drivers’ strike

I respect the PRCs who dare show their middle finger to PAP

Anonymous said...

I'm a Singaporean, am I and glad that the bus drivers held a strike.

Anonymous said...

Its only human to voice your frustration. When one is paid less for the same job, the authorities can't expect the affected people to be quiet. The era of subservience is long gone. What are the authorities thinking. This can only happen in one place in the world.

Holly Fam Ee Lee said...

The pay difference was about $300-350. However,the Chinese workers were given fully paid accomodation, but malaysians had to pay for own rental. In Singapore, the absolute cheapest rent is at least 2500 for a 3 bedroom. So, the Chinese had a better deal i think.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Holly Fam EE Lee,

I am not sure where you live but you appear to get the facts of Singapore wrong. Even if a 3 bedroom flat costs $2500, foreign workers wil cram as many as 5 into one room, which would make their accomodation costs only perhaps $100. Second most Malaysians prefer to live accross the border travelling to work everday making it even cheaper. As you appear not to know even these basic facts, I am not sure the difference you claim of $300 to $400 is indeed true.

But the point is not whether they were treated better or worse than the Malaysians, but arresting them for an action, protesting, which is not only their right but indeed their duty when oppressed. These brave workers are to be respected and admired because by standing up to the injustice, they have served not only their own cause but also those of every other worker in Singapore who are being persecuted by this dictatorship for the sake of foreign investment.