Singapore—While the rapid rise in coronavirus cases among foreign workers, as well as their poor and overcrowded living conditions, have been much in the news, another trend has emerged as well, the attitude of many Singaporeans toward these workers.
Writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, who often comments on social issues, took to social media to post an entry that began with, “Twilight of the elites, SG edition.”
While the country grapples with “its worst humanitarian crisis since independence” and tens of thousands of South Asians are “isolated in cramped, COVID-vulnerable conditions,” the writer says that the concerns among the rich are completely self-centered.
“Of course I’m concerned about the Bangladeshis who are COVID positive. What if one of them gave it to Mary Joy?”
“I’m worried by the dormitory COVID spread, yes. What if they take up all the ventilators and our health system crashes?”
“Absolutely, things must change in the future. We can’t go on like this. We must improve the dormitories so the workers never have to leave them. And we must start monitoring our maids on Sundays to see whom they mix with.”
And while one of the hashtags Mr Vadaketh uses is #creativelicense, and another is #notverbatimbutclose, many people commenting on his post seem to think these quotes are not far fetched or removed from reality.
There have been other voices saying similar things. Academic Donald Low wrote on April 14 that many Singaporeans blame the foreign workers themselves for their situation.
“In the immediate aftermath of the virus outbreak in many of the foreign worker dormitories, social and mainstream media were dominated by voices blaming foreign workers for their own plight, saying that hygiene was a matter of personal responsibility and upbringing, and that these foreign workers came from cultures that had lower public health standards,” he wrote.
Moreover, Professor Low said that regardless of the state of the dormitories, the virus would have spread among migrant workers simply because of sheer overcrowding. “But this, of course, is an inconvenient fact that does not support the popular stereotype of foreign workers from South Asia being ‘dirty’ and having lower hygiene standards.”
One netizen wrote to Lianhe Wanbao, “Aren’t migrant workers themselves responsible for this state they are in now? They like to gather and have poor personal hygiene. Surely that should be a factor? Instead of blaming the government, why not take personal responsibility? No government can provide a watertight solution to the pandemic. The Singapore government has already done a satisfactory job.”
Activist Kirsten Han commented on Mr Vadaketh’s post, “There is something so wrong with us.”
Another person commented that he had heard even worse things.
One commenter called Singapore an “apartheid caste state.”
The title of the writer’s post is a reference to the Twilight of the Gods, or Gotterdammerung, from German mythology, or Ragnarök, from Norse mythology. Both terms refer to a series of events that result in the death of a number of their gods.
Does this mean perhaps that the writer believes this crisis is a death knell for Singapore’s elite? Only he can answer that. —/TISG
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