COMMENT: Housing foreign workers offshore not the way to go

Is housing foreign workers offshore the way to go? (Malaysian Insider photo)
Is housing foreign workers offshore the way to go? (Malaysian Insider photo)

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He also works for the National Trades Union Congress and writes at The views expressed are his own.

The idea of housing foreign workers in offshore islands seems to be getting revived following the Little India riot on Sunday night.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said back in April that Singapore was open to housing foreign workers at offshore islands. The story on that is being reposted and shared again in light of the riot.

The idea is something that many people, the kind who opposed the establishment of foreign worker dormitories in Serangoon, for example, would probably support.

It would also likely be appreciated by those who join some of the nauseatingly racist discussions online about foreign workers hanging around residential areas in Singapore.

Now, many people may be quite passionate in objecting to seeing foreign workers near their residences, but I don’t think giving in to their demand is the right direction to go.

Be you a cleaner, a clerk, an executive or a technician, most of us are all labourers in a way. The only difference here is our foreign friends are from another country. They are here, merely because Singapore is such fertile ground to make a living.

I was also once a foreign worker working in someone else’s country, and I wasn’t asked to live in such-and-such a district.

Some say these foreign workers drink too much. Some say they behave funny. Some say they are rude. But wait, have we heard sentiments about Singaporeans from other nationalities? I’m not saying we should do a tit-for-tat, but if we cannot rid ourselves of this “holier than thou” attitude, then we have no right to chide others for saying similar things about us.

On the whole, I think Singaporeans want to live in harmony with our foreign friends. I’ve seen uncles at coffee shops trying to break the language barrier with fellow foreign diners. I have seen supervisors and workers having a good laugh after work.

Just like how not all of them are rambunctious rioters, not all of us Singaporeans are xenophobic jerks either.

Let us speak boldly and let everyone know that it is integration that we want, not separation.

We cannot allow ugly Singaporeans to get their way.

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