SMRT Strikeforce

This is in response to a Facebook post by Dr Vincent Wijesingha, Treasurer of Singapore Democratic Party, on the recent strike of a group of foreign SMRT bus drivers. It was reproduced on Yahoo News Singapore yesterday.

(My words are in red)   

“People have speculated whether the drivers’ claims were true or not or whether they were excessive and unreasonable. Should we or should we not allow strikes and particularly in the essential services which hold up and inconvenience our lives. We should get rid of these foreigners and employ more locals so that they can’t hold ‘us’ hostage.”

Yes. These are indeed some of the pertinent questions that were on the minds of people after the news broke. But as far as I know, none of the people I had spoken to regarding this issue had any doubts in their mind that the strike should be NOT be allowed, and Dr Vincent should not be unaware of the reason since he wrote that it ” hold up and inconvenience our lives”    

“Surprisingly, some are even angry that their action resulted in rapid remedial action by the authorities. And of course, taking shelter in the safest of all propositions, some have cried that the law is the law and no one should break it.”

Really? It IS a surprise to me then.

I wonder who are the angry “some”? Their fellow PRC drivers or PRCs staying in Singapore? The PRC media? Or maybe Dr Vincent and the SDP?  In fact, many Singaporeans were actually complaining that the authorities did NOT take even swifter actions.  

Also, what did Dr Vincent mean by “taking shelter in the safest of all propositions”.  What? It is not a good enough reason? Does it mean Dr Vincent would deny that “the law is the law and no one should break it”? So he is ok with people breaking our country laws with impunity? 

“Nowhere, except among our more gifted commentators such as Andrew Loh and Alex Au have I heard the harder questions asked and challenged laid. Nowhere did I hear anyone ask how their families were coping with a salary increase of thirteen cents an hour. Nowhere did I hear the cry raised that we should at least wait to hear the whole story before moving so decisively to charge these men and then imprison them awaiting trial even though they are no danger to society and will not, cannot, abscond if bailed.”

Firstly, If the families of the drivers are really having problems coping with “a salary increase of thirteen cents an hour”, then we got to question why the drivers would even agree to work here at the salary level BEFORE the increment? It is quite improbable that there was no such problems before the increment but, suddenly they surface AFTER the increment? So by some twisted logic, we should not even give them the increment in the first place, since it was the increment that created those problems!!

Secondly, a burglar may have plenty of good reasons (eg his family is starving), but it does not make it legal for him to steal. So why does it matter what were the drvers’ stories? It still does not change the fact that they did engage in an illegal act. In any case, let them tell their story to the judge in court, and it is up to him to decide if they are migitating factors.

Thirdly, so what if they are “no danger to society and will not, cannot, abscond if bailed” (in any case, this is a matter of opinion. Can anybody guarantee that?)? If the procedure is that they be kept in remand while awaiting trial, then so be it. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

“This is unbecoming of us. It is not worthy of us. Their well-being is our well-being; we cannot presume to enjoy life when the very enjoyments we take for granted have been afforded to us by the workers whom we are content to see paid so little and bullied so much when they, like Oliver Twist, ask for more. We owe them a bit more than that.”

Huh? As explained above, I don’t see anything “unbecoming” in the way we handled them.

Again, what does Dr Vincent meant by “we cannot presume to enjoy life when the very enjoyments we take for granted have been afforded to us by the workers whom we are content to see paid so little and bullied so much…”? Just how did we took them for granted? So shall we pay them the same level of pay as a Singaporean driver to show our appreciation? Wouldn’t that further infuriate our fellow Singaporeans, who are already quite sensitive towards foreign workers?   

Anyway, If they wanted a higher pay, they can ask in a proper manner through the proper channel. If we will just allow anybody to threaten us and disregard the law of the country, then I wonder what kind of society we will turn into?

And honestly we are not to one who fixed their salary, so why put the rest us on a guilt trip by suggesting we are enjoying our lives at the expense of the “poor” drivers  ?  

“Workers rights are indivisible. We cannot ask for concessions on our own behalf but ignore or deny them to others because they happen to come from a different country. To use another hackneyed phrase, we are in this together. I can’t drive my own bus to work powered by petrol I processed myself on a road I laid myself. I can’t build my own office building or office furniture. I don’t cook my own food in the canteen or wash up the tableware.

Somehow, Dr Vincent presupposed that the drivers were discriminated because their nationalities, but on what basis can he claim that is the case? He seemed to forget, they were arrested BECAUSE they broke the law. So does he mean that a Singaporean who went on strike would be (or should be) treated differently as a PRC or Indian national who broke the law?

By the way, if I remember correctly, his party was quite vocal in protesting against Govt’s FT policy, but now, they are suddenly championing the cause of foreign drivers? Hmm… can’t help but question the motives behind.

“If, as fellow workers, joint participants in this enterprise we call society, we cannot see this elementary truth, we have a lot of learning yet to do. But do it we must, because make no mistake about it, our government will have on hesitation in dealing with us in the same way it has dealt with the Chinese bus drivers. None whatsoever. Do not rest content that the PAP carries a torch for the Singaporean worker; it does not.”

Over here, Dr Vincent warned us that the “PAP” (notice the emphasis on the party) Govt will deal with Singaporeans likewise. Now, isn’t that a fair thing? He sort of contradicted his earlier statement he wrote that we shouldn’t discriminate the drivers just because they are PRCs, meaning we should treat them as equal to locals. But now he was saying that treating dealing Singaporeans the same way is a bad thing. So which is which?  What exactly does he want?

“We cannot let these Chinese workers take the rap for asking only for fair employment. And we cannot agree to their punishment when all the processes that exist in our name denied them the basic right to have their grievances heard.”

Take the rap for who? Who was he speaking on behalf for? So what is fair? And since when/how did we deny them of their “basic right to have their grievances heard”? Were they bounded and gagged to the court? Didn’t they manage to speak to the media during that 2 days of strike? So what was Dr Vincent talking about? Can he give us some examples instead of just making bald assertions?

“Throughout history, concessions have only been won against corporations and governments when they have been demanded. If you think that the right to an eight-hour day, a forty-hour week, a one-hour lunch break, and basic safety and health standards were given to you on a platter proffered by Lim Swee Say and his friends, you are very severely mistaken. These Chinese workers, by doing what we have been cowed from doing ourselves so long, have in fact widened the democratic space for us. And in time to come, when we are less afraid to think for ourselves, we will come to thank them.”

Ok. So to sum it up: Dr Vincent sees the PRC strikers as some kind of democracy fighters or martyrs, sacrificing themselves for the welfare of fellow workers in Singapore, thus we should applaud their efforts, hail them as heroes and appreciate the widened ” democratic space” (whatever that means) they won for us….

But the fact remains: the drivers were fighting for their own self-interests, not ours. They wanted more money and they fought for it by refusing to go to work, hoping to force SMRT into submission. 

I do not, for a moment, believe they even care about the rest of the Singapore workforce or the state of democracy of the nation.So please, just cut the BS and call a spade a spade.

I get really offended and disgusted by politicians who tried to “cash in” on incidents like this by coming out and pontificate about helping the “suppressed and bullied workers”  . Do they truly have their interests in mind? Or was it just another story to attack the Evil Empire of “PAP Govt”.

In any case, I wonder what would Dr Vincent have done differently if he is the “authorities”??  



8 thoughts on “SMRT Strikeforce

  1. Let’s get this straight about this nitpicking exercise you are indulging in.

    Vincent is with the SDP. That is obvious.
    But what’s not is, are YOU with the PAP?

    By the way, I have no political party affiliation.
    But, I have a penchant for what’s logical, rational
    and moral, always. Doesn’t matter who said it.

    1. Hmm… is that all you see in my post? Party affiliation?

      And no, I am not with the PAP. But I voted for them in last year GE. I am just an average Singaporean staying in HDB, buy my groceries in NTUC and paying my GST.

      Same here. I am also for logic and moral. So what seems to be the issue here?

  2. I thought it would be quite obvious. While Vincent made no bones about what his take is on the issues, which should be read and understood based on its merits, you were the one who have made snide references to his party affiliation. To my mind, for what’s its worth to you, I see him as speaking as one who is involved and committed to a cause for better treatment of foreign workers esp. those in the low wages level. It is in this context, that I can see where he is coming from. Nobody, wants to break the law, But it does mean one cannot question it or how it is being implemented or that there cannot be a more enlightened approach versus a legalistic one that you have so obviously sided with, conveniently and quiet unthinkingly I would say. There is a Chinese saying about the law: The law is but human relationship.

    That in a nutshell is the problem with your nitpicking:One sided and with little balance.

    1. Hi George,

      I appreciate your feedback. At least I know after all these years, somebody finally bothered to read my humble blog.


      1. Honestly, I have re-read my own post and find only 3 references to SDP.

      i) “This is in response to a Facebook post by Dr Vincent Wijesingha, Treasurer of Singapore Democratic Party..”

      This is a fact. So I guess no dispute here.

      ii) “I wonder who are the angry ”some”? Their fellow PRC drivers or PRCs staying in Singapore? The PRC media? Or maybe Dr Vincent and the SDP?”

      Since Dr Vincent mentioned that “some” people are angry, I think it is important to know who they are and see the motivations/reasons behind their anger.

      If they are from the PRC community, then naturally they will side with their countrymen.

      If it is just SDP (I have yet to hear anything from other Opp Parties so far), then it is also likely that their views will not be that impartial, given their well-known “anti-PAP-govt-stance”.

      If they are average Singaporeans (like you and me), then of course, I am very much interested to hear their views since this is an incident that affects Singapore.

      Thus I think it is fair thing to ask Dr Vincent to elaborate on who are those people. (ok, he probably will not get to read this)

      – “By the way, if I remember correctly, his party was quite vocal in protesting against Govt’s FT policy, but now, they are suddenly championing the cause of foreign drivers? Hmm… can’t help but question the motives behind.”

      I am being factual here.

      As far as I know, I have not once heard the SDP speaking up for foreign workers. In fact, they are against these low-wage workers coming here and taking away the jobs of Singaporeans.

      If they haven’t been caring much about them all this while, wouldn’t you suspect the timing of their sudden concern for them?

      In any case, even if you take away this few references about SDP, the whole meaning of my post will still remain intact. That is: I am questioning Dr Vincent’s framing of the strike. It is never about him or his political party.

      2) If you are offended by my apparent “snide references” about SDP, perhaps you might want to note that Dr Vincent was not above making unsavory remarks on other parties (actually only 1) too.

      – “…make no mistake about it, our government will have on hesitation in dealing with us in the same way it has dealt with the Chinese bus drivers. None whatsoever. Do not rest content that the PAP carries a torch for the Singaporean worker; it does not.”

      This is a very clear case of posioning the well and indeed, he made no bones about it.

      3) I suppose it is a little presumptous on your part to think that I, or anyone else who holds the same view, did not think enough about the whole thing beforehand.

      Well, I did spent some time thinking about it, and this is my take on the matter. I don’t see why it should be labelled as “convenient” and “unthinking”.

      4) Yes. You are right. I am not trying to be balanced here. I am just trying to be consistent. Having a personal opinion would invariably entails taking sides, and there is no way to be “balanced” about it.

      After all, you don’t see Dr Chee and SDP being “balanced” in their comments about the PAP-Govt (I certainly don’t recall them having anything nice to say about PAP), but you can’t fault them. They are just being consistent with their ideology.

      Thank you. Peace.

  3. I think we should look at the issue itself, and not the act. Although the act is illegal, it is probably the last resort these vulnerable groups can resort to. But I think most of us have been conditioned that strike=chaos=no good

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