Fair trial for the 53 workers repatriated?
December 20, 2013, 1:29 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

(Published in The Online Citizen on 19 December 2013)


1525682_10151763607317026_1746343565_nIn its media release, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that 53 migrant workers will be repatriated after being given a “stern warning”. These workers are those who have been identified as participants in the riot that took place in Little India and have failed to disperse despite the police’s orders to do so. They were said to be rounded up in the morning of 17 December. These individuals will also be prohibited from returning to Singapore. This is while 28 out of those arrested are still in the process of being tried in Court and the Commission of Inquiry into the riot is still taking place.

As I understand it, the Controller of Work Passes and Controller of Immigration hold authority over the revocation of work passes. However as rioting is considered a crime against public order in Singapore under sections 147 and 148 of the Penal Code, these 53 individuals should have been given the opportunity to stand trial, with concrete evidences being produced before they are being found guilty of undesirable actions and before any appropriate actions can be taken against them.

While some might view this as the Ministry’s effort to send a message to the migrant community that harsh consequences will befall them should they disrupt public order, I don’t think this is how “justice” should be served. On the contrary, I personally find it disturbing that they can be simply be rounded up and repatriated in such a non-transparent manner.

Being major stakeholders in how our system is run, I think it is time that Singaporeans question the non-transparency that goes behind this decision to determine who was not being co-operative and whose work permits to revoke. It is also time to ponder over Singapore’s harsh stance on migrant workers who have erred as well as the fact that there is currently no avenue for them to appeal against the revocation of their work passes.

Let’s understand this too – most migrant workers came all the way to Singapore in debt and they contribute to our industries with their labour and skills in exchange of a better life for their families back home. Instead of treating them with such a lack of justice, the least we can do is to let them explain themselves in Court, where evidences will be produced to prove their involvement or innocence in the incident and have all possible mitigating factors considered.


10 Comments so far
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Rioting and damaging private or public property has no place in society. We do not need people of this calibre, wherever they come from, to work in Singapore. It is not their right to cause mischief and they should not go unpunished. From memory, the last time we had riots in Singapore was in 1963 or 1964 and I lost a friend, journalist G. Subhas. I hope all other imported workers take note. Work hard by all means but don’t cause trouble.

Comment by James Connor

My points are:

1. Legal procedure needs to be undertaken before anyone is determined to be guilty of anything, and in this case, not co-operating with the police. Only then can actions be taken accordingly.

2. COI is not over. Mitigating factors should ALWAYS be considered. Just fyi, in all accounts I have heard including eye-witness accounts, no one in particular should shoulder the entire blame of the riot. Repatriation is not a trivial issue for low-waged migrant workers. A lot is at stake here for them. We do need to have look thoroughly into all the who, what, where, why and how, along with or followed by a fair trial before even thinking about repatriating them.

3. Arbitrary repatriation in this case reeks of non-transparency. As this is a case of public interest, the process by which these 53 are deem to have been “non-cooperative” should be revealed and reviewed publicly in a Court.

And personally, I don’t understand this: How can we tolerate (and even support) a system that decides that individuals are guilty of something without going through the legal procedure?

By the way, here is an update for you: Out of the 7 migrant workers acquitted of any involvement or wrongdoing related to the riot, 4 of them face repatriation. 4 innocent individuals will be sent home for… no reason. How do you feel about that?

Comment by rachelabsinthe

I have received video evidence of the carnage and destruction of the police cars and bus from a friend of mine who captured it all on his phone camera from various angles at different points of the rioting. Surely the police and authorities would have been given this video evidence by people who captured all this on their electronic devices. These people (mostly true Singaporeans) would have been the ones who proffered this evidence to the police, and who were disgusted by what they saw. No difference from CCTV. These rioters were caught in the act. What more evidence does one need? Rachel, don’t make a case for these “losers”. Singapore does not need them nor anyone of their ilk.

Comment by James Connor

I have also received videos and photos and have heard accounts of what happened before, during and after the riot, from people of various nationalities including Singaporeans (nationality IS NOT a factor to be honest). I am privy to the fact that people in the bus and around the bus attempted to remove their friend who was still alive but bus driver was in a frenzy or shock, which angered the migrant workers. There were also many other factors why the riot began in the first place and this is why the COI needs to look thoroughly into the matter. This is also why we need to find out more rather than point fingers based on the photos and videos we have seen.

Also, nowhere in my writing did I say that those who have committed wrongdoing should be let go. However what I advocate for, and have always advocated for, is transparency. Currently, there has been none, and people are being repatriated without being given fair trials.

No one should be deem guilty unless proven to be so through legal proceedings, regardless of nationalities.

Also, all factors have to be considered before pinning the blame on anyone.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

In the confucious society such as Singapore, sacrificing a certain number (53 in this case, and all are cheap poor foreigners) justifies the intended results of scaring the working populace into submission. We don’t owe them a trial or just process. Their work permits are revoked and they are deported immediately.
Although I can also support the thousands of disgruntled voices against this move, it is futile. Protect the nest first. Others can be secondary.
Now if these are 53 Singaporeans (born in Singapore), then it is a totally outrage. This may soon happen with internet controls and outspoken individuals.

Comment by KAM

Humans don’t normally act in a violent way without first being provoked or humiliated.

I rather hear from the beaten horses mouths than Trust third party interpretation especially the legal type.

Comment by Vivian

I can imagine what the gahmen response will be. Those to be served warning and repatriated may seek to claim trial if they truly are innocent. If acquitted, so be it. If found guilty, they’ll have to serve their sentences and then repatriated and prohibited from entering Singapore.

Comment by ape@kinjioleaf

[…] As I understand it, the Controller of Work Passes and Controller of Immigration hold authority over the revocation of work passes. However as rioting is considered a crime against public order in Singapore under sections 147 and 148 of the Penal Code, these 53 individuals should have been given the opportunity to stand trial, with concrete evidences being produced before they are being found guilty of undesirable actions and before any appropriate actions can be taken against them. While some might view this as the Ministry’s effort to send a message to the migrant community that harsh consequences will befall them should they disrupt public order, I don’t think this is how “justice” should be served. On the contrary, I personally find it disturbing that they can be simply be rounded up and repatriated in such a non-transparent manner. Being major stakeholders in how our system is run, I think it is time that Singaporeans question the non-transparency that goes behind this decision to determine who was not being co-operative and whose work permits to revoke. It is also time to ponder over Singapore’s harsh stance on migrant workers who have erred as well as the fact that there is currently no avenue for them to appeal against the revocation of their work passes. Let’s understand this too – most migrant workers came all the way to Singapore in debt and they contribute to our industries with their labour and skills in exchange of a better life for their families back home. Instead of treating them with such a lack of justice, the least we can do is to let them explain themselves in Court, where evidences will be produced to prove their involvement or innocence in the incident and have all possible mitigating factors considered.  […]

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With the stroke of the pen, they banish alcohol on weekends in Little India. They can easily with the stroke of the pen, made the employers issue pay slip to these migrant workers so that their rights to fair wage and timely payment can be properly documented.

But alas. they choose to turn their heads the other way and let the employers have a stranglehold on these poor migrant workers.

Rachel, I support you…Your views on how with the wave of their hands, they set their game rules and there are few like you who seeks justice for the poor and underprivileged.

The world will see and understand more about Singapore Human rights and the meaning of true justice.

Comment by Blissquek H. Kwang

The 53 have been handed a death sentence by COI.
most of these workers borrowed heavily and sold their property to come here and work.The agents will be hounding one family for the outstanding loan and the other family will be starving.To deprive them a trial is grave injustice.If the deportation is base on digital evidence,The G would have blown trumpet loud and clear.There is no need for a rush job,after spending $10 million for their integration.Very likely ,it is the use of primitive point and tell method by a few selected safety workers.What else can Pinky’s men offer?

Comment by Controller of imediategration




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