For my EA, I conducted my first interview with Braema Mathi who is the former President of the human rights group MARUAH to obtain background knowledge on the migrant workers here in Singapore. Braema is currently greatly involved with the present migrant workers crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic so I felt this would be a fantastic opportunity to understand the perspective of an activist who has been working with migrant workers for a long time. The workers crisis in Singapore is about the migrant workers who during the COVID-19 pandemic have faced multiple hardships. With the factories and workplaces shut down due to the lockdown imposed in the country, the migrant workers have had to deal with loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. Thus, Braema has been working with MARUAH to specifically point out the poor living conditions at foreign workers dormitories. Post-COVID she felt that the recent media coverage of the new COVID-19 clusters in foreign workers dormitories have exposed the bad conditions of these living spaces which are unclean, cramped, and have poor hygiene standards. Through MARUAH, Braema and her team have been trying to promote and raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of human rights and related issues in Singapore.
I had the opportunity to interview Braema (through zoom) which I believe allowed me to obtain a broader understanding of the perspective of the migrant workers who have been residing in such unfair living conditions. In the interview, Braema initially explained the history of how Singapore first brought in its migrant workers and how important these workers are today. One of the comments that Braema made was that social class was prevalent in Singapore ever since the country accepted migrant workers. My questions were mostly based on social class in Singapore and cultural bias against migrant workers, and how they were and still are being segregated from our larger community. In Braema’s opinion, the segregation could only be diminished when the workers received their basic necessities from the government.
The pandemic has essentially revealed how more than the Singaporean government, it is the Singaporean society which is culturally biased and refuses to accept these migrant workers into their communities. What was most interesting for me during this interview is how far back the cultural bias dates in segregating our Singaporean societies from migrant workers. Additionally it was unsettling to realize the amount of migrant workers in Singapore who are treated as though they are expendable and are expected to only work on site and not live their lives as residents. This interview was definitely eye-opening as it was exposing both the Singaporean society and government for not playing its role as viable employers.
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