Rights group urges value system of open approach towards foreign workers

March 13, 20149:07 am239 views
Rights group urges value system of open approach towards foreign workers
Rights group urges value system of open approach towards foreign workers

SINGAPORE — There is a need to develop a healthy, open approach towards foreign workers in Singapore and this has to come from a value system that should be nurtured in schools.

This was a recommendation put forward by Ms Braema Mathi, President of human rights group MARUAH, when she testified yesterday at the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing into the Little India riot. “We cannot be fluctuating from a moment of dehumanising them and then suddenly we humanise the person. It has to be consistently borne from a value system,” she said.

While workers’ rights have improved over the past three decades, Ms Braema felt more public education could be conducted in schools. “We (are) talking about guest workers, how we treat them. I think this is going to be the biggest area for us to work on,” she said.

The group had submitted a report to the inquiry, where it argued that the eco-system in which foreign workers operate in Singapore — both in terms of workplace conditions and the social interaction they have with Singaporeans and other communities here — should be examined in greater detail so as to understand the cause behind the Little India riot on Dec 8.

Ms Braema said there should be language skills for those, such as frontline police officers, who engage with foreign workers. “The guys in uniform are the most important folks, the most neutral folks in helping us bridge the gap because they are the ones walking the streets every day,” she added.

Five Little India residents who testified during the inquiry hearing yesterday felt the measures implemented in the aftermath of the riot have been effective in restoring calm to the area, though some observed that the crowd appeared to be returning to the size it was before the riot.

Mr Junaidi Lim, who lives at Chander Road said: “The only difference now is that there is no alcohol consumption. I believe the most important measure is the restriction on the sale and consumption of alcohol.”

However, Ms Tan Huilinn, who also lives at Buffalo Road, was against the alcohol ban. “I feel Little India has lost its charm and vibrancy as a result and fewer people visit the area, making it less lively,” she told the inquiry.

When State Counsel Tan Soo Tet asked Ms Tan to elaborate, the witness said the Thaipusam festival in January was quieter, compared with last year’s celebration. While she felt the number of alcohol licences should be reduced, Ms Tan felt the situation is “a forced kind of silence now”. “It was nice to see the workers being able to relax and just sit on the fields and catch up with one another, and now you don’t see any of that, which is kind of sad in my view,” she added.

Ms Braema had earlier told the inquiry it was too quick to focus on alcohol as the key element that led to the mayhem. “Alcohol played a role. To what extent, nobody knows. But it became alcohol; the new law is all about alcohol,” said Ms Braema.

After the riot, the authorities were given enhanced powers in Little India for 12 months, which included a general prohibition on alcohol sale, supply and consumption in the area, except under specific conditions.

Ms Braema added: “We feel we cannot have a riot take away our value system, and our value system has to go back to the fundamental of building bonds, repairing damage.”

 

source: todayonline.com

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