According to the Centre for Domestic Employees, all six victims of the accident last afternoon are foreign domestic workers (FDWs) from the Philippines. Lucky Plaza, is widely known as a popular hangout for many of these Filipino FDWs. Some of the footages of the accident showed the Filipino workers enjoying themselves as they embrace the year-end festivities.
The accident brought an abrupt end to the merry-making. Many more could've been injured.
Apart from Lucky Plaza, there are some other areas that foregn workers gravitate to. Paya Lebar is usually frequented by Indonesian domestic workers over the weekends. Workers from the South Asian continents also come to Paya Lebar and Lucky Plaza on the weekends, in search of company.
However, these areas are not purpose-built for the large gatherings that we normally see at Lucky Plaza and Paya Lebar. Apart from the seats available at restaurants or coffee joints, there are inadequate seatings in the malls in these vicinities. The limited seats at the pedestrian areas outside the malls are also limited, and taken up quickly. Thus, they take to relaxing in any oen areas they can find, some of which are dangerous due to their proximity to the roads.
But what else can they go?
Male foreign workers can return to their dorms where they can use the facilities such as basketball and badminton courts etc.
We need the FDWs. But they do not have access to such facilities.
And that, unfortunately, is an indictment of where we are as a society. There are many failities available in our neighbourhoods, we have the beaches and open spaces in our gardens, yet these FDWs do not feel that they are wanted there.
We try to treat them like human beings on weekdays because they work for us and live in our homes but when it comes to leisure, we expect them to make themselves scarce. Clearly, many of us are not yet the First World people that we claime to be.
If we don't welcome them into our spaces, then where else can they go? The pavements? The road side?
The government too must do more to create such safe, leisure spaces for the FDWs. They can't just leave that too the FDW agencies or the NGOs because they do not have the resources to engage the FDWs on that scale.
As we welcome the new year, use this accident to reflect on our values as a society. How far away are we from being a truly open and welcoming society?