Singapore — Many voices have risen in support of activist Jolovan Wham, who has had some legal troubles of late. On Friday (May 22), he issued an apology to Manpower Minister Josephine Teo over allegations of corruption made on social media.
He said that, in a May 16 Facebook post, he had alleged the minister had “acted improperly and corruptly in relation to the development of emergency housing facilities by Surbana Jurong. I apologise unreservedly to Mrs Josephine Teo for making them. I have removed the statement and undertake not to publish any further statements on this, or to make any allegations to the same of similar effect, in any manner whatsoever”.
Mr Wham had been required to make a S$1,000 donation to the Migrant Workers Assistance Fund. His lawyer confirmed that donation had been made.
A netizen, standing in solidarity with Mr Wham, has called the required donation “ironic”.
“It is ironic to demand that one of Singapore’s most dedicated migrant labour activists, who has invested copious amounts of time, energy, passion, labour, money, and risks to his own life, donate S$1,000 to the Migrant Workers’ Centre’s fundraiser.”
The netizen, whose post was published anonymously on the Facebook page of Odette Yiu, pointed out that “MWC is part of NTUC (and therefore a state-sponsored agency)”.
Sharing the words of a friend who would like to remain anonymous:In solidarity with Jolovan Wham,It is ironic to…
One more irony the netizen mentioned was that Mrs Teo demanded an apology from Mr Wham, and yet she herself has not yet apologised for how foreign workers have been affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. The minister claims that the Government could not have anticipated the widespread infections among foreign workers would happen, despite activists such as Mr Wham drawing attention to the issue of overcrowded dormitories for some years now.
“Activists like Jolovan Wham … repeatedly raised the issue of overcrowding at dormitories and other entrenched forms of neglect that have accumulated over time to cause this disaster in the first place. Was it the lack of hindsight by the government? You be the judge. This is an infographic CAPE put up on this very topic: https://tinyurl.com/hindsightoroversight“
Mr Wham, who served as the former executive director at the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), has been advocating for better living conditions for workers in dormitories from 2007.
The netizen points out that Mr Wham has had his hand in numerous legal amendments that aim to make living conditions in Singapore better for migrant workers, including mandating days off, the freedom to move from one employer to another, preventing human trafficking, as well as the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act.
“None of these amendments are perfect, but they would have been a lot weaker if not for Jolovan’s activism and his appetite for risk, when most of us would shudder to utter a dissenting opinion in public as we fear losing our jobs or livelihoods,” the netizen wrote.
The netizen believes that Singapore needs more “Jolovans”, as this would give the country a better “shot at progressing towards a more humane society”.
After the news broke that Mr Wham was being required to make the S$1,000 donation, The Online Citizen’s Andrew Loh wrote: “I know of only a few other individuals who have given as much as Jolovan Wham in service of the migrant workers. He would gladly give S$1,000 and more to them, as he has done through the many years past. It is no boast to say that Jolovan, more than anyone else perhaps, has been the driving force behind the campaign to shine a spotlight on the migrant workers’ plight — long long before others even knew of the problems. We owe him a great deal.” /TISG