Just read a story by Alex Au who is one of Singapore's most prominent bloggers that confirms one of my biggest heart breaks – there's something rotten in the state of Singapore. The story was about a boss who brought over 600 foreign workers from Bangladesh and housed them in cage. Instead of paying them, the boss in question allowed them to rot there and as expected, one of them actually died. As a result of this, the boss was – wait till you hear this – 4 weeks in jail and served a $36,000 fine. You can get the details of the story at: http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/jail-for-bosses-who-mistreat-workers-says-judge/
I don't know what it is but I'm shocked. I shouldn't be – I've lived here for over a decade. This isn't the only time I've read about how badly people can be treated especially if they have the misfortune of being born dark skinned and from another Asian country. As far as an alarming number of Singapore's educated professionals are concerned, the proverbial “Darkies” from the rest of Asia are blessed enough to clean our shit.
What's more worrying is that there have been too many times when the system, which prides itself in being above the petty prejudices of people, sometimes accepts and supports the prejudices. In this case the system showed itself to be as rotten as the people who committed the crime. Let's look at this case. The man conned the vulnerable into the country on the promise that they would have a job. The people that he conned flocked to Singapore in the hope that they'd have the chance of supporting their families. Instead they ended up living in a cage with no job and no money. He fed them two insignificant meals. One of the men ended up getting chicken pox and died as a result.
For cheating and dare I say causing the death of one of them, he was finned $36,000 a sentenced to four weeks in jail. Now, let's compare this to what you will get if you suggest that the powers that be in this little island are less than perfectly clean or if you damage property but not human life?
Let's start with Michael Faye, the American Teenager who caused one of our bigger diplomatic rows with the USA. Mr Faye decided that it was fun to damage other people's property and for that he got a few strokes of the cane. Since the US President of the day complained, we made the mistake of reducing his strokes by two instead of increasing them (Mr Faye is a Pink Blotchy and therefore considered above human in Singapore Speak).
While I may have agreed with Mr Faye's punishment – let's compare this to what this man got. Mr Faye was a brat and showed no consideration for someone else's property. As an expat child Mr Faye was enjoying the good life in Singapore but when the time came for him to face the music for his misdeeds he ran squealing to the US Embassy claiming he was somehow special. I remain unsympathetic towards Mr Faye and I am disgusted every time the Singapore Government lightens the sentence of someone from a Blotchy Country because the Blotchy Head of Government says something. I personally feel that if Pink Blotchies can get away every time their governments squeal, we the people have an obligation to delivering the extra-sentence that our government reduced.
Having said that, let's compare Mr Faye's crimes to Mr Paul Lee's. Mr Faye was a brat but he never took a life or even caused a physical injury. Yet he will now be scared for life. Mr Lee on the other hand brought people to Singapore on false promises and housed people in conditions that caused the death of someone. If Mr Faye's damage of property is worth several of the best, surely Mr Lee's damage to human life has to be worth something similar?
Now, let's look at what you get if you suggest that the people ruling Singapore are a shade less than squeaky? Well, in November 1995, the International Herald Tribune had to pay a mere $214,285 to settle a libel case against the powers-that-be. In 2008, a blogger called Gopalan Nair was arrested for accusing a judge of being a “Prostitute,” in a libel case that involved one of the powers-that-be and sentenced to three-months in jail.
I do agree that there should be laws against slandering people. Calling people names that damage their reputations should have a price. However, did International Herald Tribune and Gopalan Nair kill people? Did they cheat anyone, especially the vulnerable? No, they didn't. In fact they took on the most powerful people in the land and rightly or wrongly they paid the price.
Let's look at the price of calling someone in power a name and the price is either a few months in jail or a hefty fine or even both. However, if you cheat a couple of hundred darkies and place them in conditions that causes the death of one of them, your financial penalty is six times less than slandering the powerful and the jail time is three times less.
I'm sorry, but isn't there something wrong here. We are supposed to be a country that prides itself in its justice system. We make it a point of telling foreign investors that they can deal with a somewhat fair legal system when they invest in Singapore. We are a country that announces to the world that we practice this thing called “Equality of all before the law.” We claim that we are “Ruled by Law.”
So since we're making all these claims, where exactly is the equality of the law here. It seems clear that there is one law for Pink Blotchies and Posh Singaporeans and another law for Darkies and poor Singaporeans. Are we ruled by law or are we ruled by the whims of the man on top?
The lesson from these cases here is that as long as you live in Singapore you better bow-down and kiss the feet of every impotent Pink Blotchy but you are perfectly entitled to kick the shit out of any Darkie. If you tell the Blotchies that you don't wish to donate your hard earned money to their scam, they are entitled to complain to their embassy and our government will rush to defend their right to rob you blind. On the other hand you are entitled to kick the shit out of Darkies – even if you end up killing one of the buggers the law will slap you on the wrist with a fine that you can always pay in installments (Mr Lee incidentally had more than enough cash to pay people off) and you may get housed in jail at the tax payers expense.
The saddest thing about this whole affair is that it could have been prevented. As Alex Au's report points to – the police were called several times and somehow they couldn't find anything wrong. They merely had a glance at the premises and saw that everything was OK.
Seriously, what's the point of having police officers if the only idea of investigation is to make a phone call or just have a quick look at things?
Just observe the way the police take an active role in questioning Darkies who happen to be sitting at the corridor minding their own business. A darkie who has the misfortune of wanting to stroll at night will undoubtedly be questioned by police.
However, if Pink Blotchies want to get drunk and display their culture by singing their folk songs (Ere' we Go, Ere' we go is a Blotchy Folk Song that's played during football matches), nobody seems inclined to say anything. When youth gangs start loitering, the police are equally blind to the problems they may cause.
Seriously, there's something so rotten in Singapore and with Singaporeans that it's gone beyond the state of funny. How can we as a society tolerate and accept this as being part of our natural landscape?
Well, there is hope. I think the first ray of hope comes from people like Alex Au who report the things that the mainstream media don't. We need more people like Alex Au and Andrew Loh the former Editor of the Online Citizen and now Public House, who are willing to look for the voices.
The internet provides people like these men to organise voices together. They help remind Singaporeans that they have an active role in creating the community that they want. My only regret is that being a good person is financially crap. Neither Alex or Andrew is racking it in from the advertisers nor do they have the privilege of having people willing to pay for the content that they provide. Both Alex and Andrew are better patriots than say – The Young Muslim Politician who Supports Israel's Blockade of Gaza from Pasir Ris GRC aka Thambi Pundek. Both have accepted that they're going to be struggling to pay bills to do what they do but yet they continue. This is genuine love for the country. So at the ground you have the Alex Au's and Andrew Loh's who will get people thinking and hopefully standing up for themselves.
There is hope from the top too. Mr Lee had the audacity to try and appeal his already light sentence and ran into Justice VK Rajah. Thank God Singapore still has judges like this man who understands what justice is. He rightfully rejected Mr Lee's appeal and proceeded to chide the lower courts for giving him such a ridiculously light sentence.
There is something rotten in the state of Singapore but there's also hope. As an ordinary citizen struggling to make a living, its tough to deal with the rot but when you know there's hope life becomes a little lighter.