This one might feel like deja vu: an individual of privilege getting called out for making questionable remarks on the plight of Singapore’s migrant workers, blaming them for forming highly infectious Covid-19 clusters.
It’s an odd point of view to take, especially since the individual is a well-connected figure involved in volunteerism and philanthropy who’s been featured several times in media publications for her endeavours in social work.
The woman aired her controversial views publicly on her Facebook page over the past week, which were then screengrabbed and shared by a community of local private hire car drivers.
She expressed concern that Singapore taxpayers are paying for the accommodation of migrant workers during the circuit breaker while also suggesting that they aren’t willing to “make an effort to recover” after getting sent to live in safer temporary accommodation than their dormitories.
The repost of her perspectives did not go down well on Facebook, garnering hundreds of comments and thousands of shares by angry netizens.
But at least her contentious posts elicited a heartfelt message by a Singapore-based migrant worker who wished her well.
The social worker has since changed her profile picture on Facebook and removed her posts from the public eye.
Insensitivity in the time of coronavirus
Since Covid-19 took an intense hold on Singapore, the pandemic has shined a light on the country’s migrant workers and their living conditions. Over the past several days, viral infection rates have exponentially risen with most of the figures coming from migrant labourers living in crowded dormitories.
As of April 23, a total of 21 dormitories have been gazetted as isolation areas, while foreign workers in other dormitories are also effectively on lockdown and are forbidden from leaving the premises. The authorities have also housed hundreds of workers temporarily in alternative sites such as army camps, vacant HDB blocks and even “floating hotels” as a way to contain the spread.
The virus also exposed insensitive sentiments that some Singaporeans have towards migrant workers, who form the majority of the manual labour workforce in construction, logistics, sanitation and many other industries.
A controversial forum letter published in national Chinese-language broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao was slammed as xenophobic by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam after the writer blamed the foreign workers' cultural backgrounds and living habits for spreading the virus.
But not everything’s bleak. Multiple crowdfunding campaigns have successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the migrant workers quarantined in Singapore. Over the weekend, Singaporeans lauded a Sengkang General Hospital doctor who was caught on camera reassuring the quarantined workers in their native language.
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