Foreign Workers: You Can Live Here, but Stay Invisible!

The loudest saga is finally over. The Singapore government has decided to scale down the size of the foreign worker dormitory in Serangoon Gardens, from 1,000-pax capacity to 600. It has also taken into account some of the residents’ request.

What made me rolled my eyes in disbelief is some of the requests that were submitted by residents. Here are some of the requests as quoted word-per-word from The Straits Times Oct 17, p. A3, with my comments:

The government has said YES to:

Growing trees and shrubs near the dorms access road to block the sight of the street from surrounding houses

I have nothing against trees and shrubs. The greener, the better. But the reason for making this request indicates that “yes, foreign workers can stay here. But we don’t want to see them. Please hide them from our eyesight.”

No mass gatherings or activities after 10:30pm

I have nothing against this principle. But I think the same rule should be imposed on the Singaporean residents in the area … I have known certain Singaporeans who host dinner or mahjong parties late into the night, using public roads as a car park for their guests while there are clearly “no parking” marks on the side street. At least the dorm will have its own parking area for their vehicles ….

To minimize traffic jams, the Ministry of National Development will work with the dormitory operator to arrange for buses to pick up and drop off workers within the dorm’s premises

I have nothing against this. Pickup and drop off indeed should be done within a complex, not on public side streets.

The operator of the dormitory will provide amenities, such as a mini-mart and laundry room, so that the workers will not have to venture out into the community to use those facilities

Unbelievable! This is downright selfishness, or worse … classism. While I agree that a large dormitory should be equipped with amenities, the fact that residents requested the workers NOT TO VENTURE OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY TO FIND SUITABLE AMENITIES is just incredible! What if the workers don’t like the food provided in their in-house canteen? What if the laundry facility outside of their complex is cheaper? What if their in-house mini mart doesn’t have the things that they need to buy? We can’t deny their rights for price comparison and choice!

And this request would only hurt local businesses, already impacted by the economic downturn. If the workers indeed cannot venture out into the community, local businesses will not get a single benefit from 600 additional residents.

If the residents really want to impose this rule on the foreign workers, what about testing this rule amongst the Serangoon Garden residents themselves for three months, where they can only go to one mini mart (which may not sell your favorite cigarette / instant noodle / biscuit / tissue brand), one laundry mart, and five closest eating houses that sell exactly the same thing every single day? See how that feels …

I am glad that this issue actually came up in the media … it forces many Singaporeans to really confront the issue of living in harmony and classism, where in one hand many selfish people finally came up to the surface while on the other hand we can start seeing that there are good-hearted Singaporeans too.

I hope some people actually keep an archive of the newspaper clips on this issue, and some decades later, we could hear Singaporean kids / teenagers commenting, “I can’t believe Singaporeans said this about foreign workers in the early 2000s!”

* Check also: Foreign Workers: Not in My Backyard!


11 thoughts on “Foreign Workers: You Can Live Here, but Stay Invisible!

  1. Sure. if my maids go missing on evenings and a bump appears on her a few months later. don’t tell me ‘oh’. sad to say, there are class status among us folk. and that involves the world. if there wasnt, we wouldn’t have HDBs, Hearlanders, first class, businees class divideds. if so be it, why not fill the vacant lots at ulu pandang with our foreign workers? wouldn’t the world be better? ops. i forgot mah bow tan lives there

  2. Foreign workers have dirty habits. If you don’t believe me, just go to golden mile complex during the day and see how much they drink and litter. Geez. I really really pity the residents of SG!

  3. Retracting my earlier comment, I don’t mean that all foreign workers have dirty habits (ie. littering). But unfortunately, many of them do.

  4. Hi C – I agree with you that classism is a daily reality in our lives, but most of them (e.g. business vs economy class, job opportunity for uni vs ITE graduates) are not self-imposed by us, the ordinary people … rather by organizations, in a lot of cases by corporations who segment their target audiences.

    I think your questions boil down to what the Singapore government has said repeatedly in the media in the past couple of months: “We cannot house them all in Jurong / Tuas. We cannot forever isolate them from the Singaporean community. Building a new dorm is much more expensive and will take too long, while the need for dorms are urgent.”

  5. Hi again Filia – can’t agree with you more on this. Foreigners (regardless of nationalities) may have a different standard to Singaporeans when it comes to cleanliness and order. I think I read somewhere that the government will attempt to provide these workers with some education on the Singaporean way of living.

    I think this education program is long overdue, but better start now than never 🙂

  6. Trust me, the rest of the world DOES NOT envy your Singaporean way of life. We don’t aspire to being shallow and yuppified shells of what human beings should be.

    Your concept of cleanliness and order only serves to show the world that you are a population dominated by uptight and anally-retentive snobs.
    It’s okay, keep your country to yourselves – there aren’t that many happy and carefree people that want to live around mean and nasty Singaporeans anyway.
    Granted, there will always be some wonderful exception to this and thank God’s grace for that.
    It is fortunate that at least the owner of this blog exhibits a leaning toward the type of compassion that seems lacking in many Singaporeans. A ray of sunshine in an otherwise very grey sky. Good for her! Wish there were more like you.
    I suspect that the term ‘dirty foreigners’ will only ever applied to non-white visitors. I am well aware of the ingratiating way many of your countrymen and women pander to the western visitors.
    What a racist, classist bunch of people! Money obviously cannot buy grace.
    For the record, I don’t hate Singaporeans per se, but I do hate the attitude of people who think they are worth more as a person because they are Singaporean. Being Singaporean has nothing to do with your value as a person and you won’t get Brownie points in Heaven on the basis of your citizenship alone.

  7. Hmmm…I just read your profile and realised that you (blog owner) are not originally Singaporean afterall. That explains it then.
    Australians think Singaporeans have bad habits too. I read a newspaper article that said Singaporeans like to reserve their dirty habits and littering for when they travel abroad . Shame on you!
    Don’t dish it out if you don’t want it back!

  8. Hi bubble&squeak … I agree with a lot of what you have to say, although I wouldn’t have said it as bluntly as you did 🙂

  9. To bubble&squeak, it is common to find people like you who despise the perceived lack of freedom in Singapore. But have you ever stayed in Singapore? Most of us are politically apathetic and this can be traced back to our humble beginnings when immigrants came to Singapore simply to find a job.
    I gather from your tone that you are not Singaporean.
    It would then be forgivable if you did not realize how we are more concerned with our development, never mind your precious liberalism. For the advancement of our community’s interests, personal sacrifices do have to be made.
    Look where American style liberalism and free-market economic policies have landed them. Out of the frying pan and into the fire; from heavily in debt to worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And Singapore? We are calmly meeting this new challenge with the maneuvering leeway our vast reserves provides us with.
    As for “dirty foreigners” usually not referring to whites, it is true to a certain extent but then if you were able to analyze the situation you would have realized that this is a result of the reputation the whites have built up for themselves as generally cultivated, well-mannered people.
    I suggest you try harder at understanding us Singaporeans before you attempt critiquing us again…

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