Workers: Govt not at fault

Workers: Govt not at fault

SINGAPORE - Do you blame the Government, asked Law and Foreign Affairs minister K Shanmugam of the foreign workers. The answer: A unanimous "No".

Do you think alcohol played a part in the incident? The answer: Yes.

One foreign worker even stood up, saying that he came to Singapore by choice.

He said in Tamil: "At least in this city, I have the opportunity to upgrade my skills. I don't get that anywhere else."

The minister, along with Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair, Nominated MP R Dhinakaran and other Indian unionists, met about 40 foreign workers at a dialogue session at Kranji Lodge 1, a workers' dormitory, on Wednesday night.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "We've been engaging with the foreign workers, not just at this dormitory. The first thing they always say is that they are very ashamed (the riot) happened, and the second thing is that they are concerned about their future here, whether it means they have to go back (to their home country).

"If they haven't done anything (illegal), they have nothing to fear."

The dialogue session covered a range of topics that have emerged since the riot, such as living and work conditions, treatment from Singaporeans and the effect of alcohol on foreign workers.

Many among those present said they believed alcohol fuelled the riots.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "Eyewitness accounts suggest that a lot of (rioters) had been drinking prior to the incident.

"A reasonable person could draw the inference that a fair number were drunk and that's why (the riot) happened. But we should wait for the facts to be conclusive first."

Mr Shanmugam will be visiting another dormitory on Friday.

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