WELCOME TO EDITION 770 of GRAPEVINE
Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh flanked by President Narendra Modi of India and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
As recently as last month – March 2020 – Singapore was admired and envied as a “Gold Standard” in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. The country took restrained measures that were not overly restricted. People could still eat at food courts and restaurants. And go to the cinema. Schools remained opened.
Since then, Singapore has seen an explosion of new infections at 18 dormitories housing foreign workers. And now has one of the highest number of coronavirus cases per head of population.
As of yesterday – Sunday 19 April 2020 – Singapore recorded 6,588 cases for a population of 5.8 million. Hong Kong, which is next door to China, only has 1,026 cases for a population of 7.4 m.
The “Diamond Standard”, however, goes to Taiwan. With a population of 23.8 m, the island off the Chinese mainland has just 420 cases.
Foreign worker dormitories in Singapore have been described as a “time bomb” by an international professor of law.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, Tommy Koh, a former dean of the law school at the University of Singapore, the country’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, and currently Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large did not mince his words.
‘The dormitories were like a time bomb waiting to explode. The way Singapore treats its foreign workers is not First World but Third World. The government has allowed their employers to transport them in flat bed trucks with no seats. They stay in overcrowded dormitories and are packed likes sardines with 12 persons to a room.
‘Singapore should treat this as a wake-up call to treat our indispensable foreign workers like a First World country should and not in the disgraceful way in which they are treated now.’
Wishing you A Good Week Ahead.