Local human rights activist, Kokila Annamalai, has once again lent her voice to, and stood up for, the voiceless and very vulnerable migrant workers.
Just lask week, Kokila started a petition urging Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo, to protect the migrant workers against COVID-19. This came after more clusters emerged at worker dormitories around the country.
In a Facebook post last evening, Kokila took umbrage at the unfair and harsh treatment meted out by local authorities to these workers for flouting circuit-breaker (CB) regulations. While locals who flout the rules face written advisories or fines, these workers face possibly face irreversible, permanent punishment.
She also shared some of the actual sentiments by workers, who were not too pleased with some of the MOM's PR over the state of the factory-converted dormitories.
Needless to say, some of the workers disagreed with MOM and asked that they really look into the issues of overcrowding, and the lack of hygiene.
Kokila was conflicted because the need to raise awareness about the situation had to be balanced with the possible repercussions meted out against the workers who spoke out.
She was adamant in her conviction that the workers have to be able to speak freely without the fear of censure.
She is right. The foreign workers are in a diffficult position. They value their jobs. They trusted the system here and that is why they left their families and friends behind to work here. As much as Singaporeans may think that these workers are dispensable, we need them. Just look at the amount of workers at construction sites before Covid-19 struck us.
It is only right that we protect them, just as we protect our fellow Singaporeans who may be at risk of Covid-19.
In Kokila, they have someone who is feisty and fearless. She will ensure that the government does what it needs to protect the workers. It's time the government listens, and take punitive measures against errant employers and dormitory owners.