The Singapore government introduced a new bill in parliament on January 20, giving police special powers to “maintain public order” in Little India, a hub of Indian-owned businesses, eateries and pubs, where migrant workers from India and other South Asian countries get together in their rest time. The proposed law will allow police and other state agencies to enforce various restrictions and regulate movement of persons.
The Little India area in Singapore witnessed fierce protests by Indian and other South Asian workers, following the death of a young Indian construction worker who was run over by a bus on December 8, 2013. Hundreds of migrant workers are reported to have been involved in the protest actions, which were brutally attacked by the police and civil defence personnel. Reacting in typically fascist manner, the Singapore authorities have clamped court charges on 25 Indian workers, deported 56 Indian and one Bangladeshi worker and issued police advisories to 213 others in connection with the protests.
Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said the bill was among "temporary measures to try and nip things in the bud" at Little India. He said the bill was confined to Little India as it was the government's duty to do what it can to prevent another incident. "If you are coming in, taking in the air, going into the restaurants, enjoying the open air, walking about - none of these powers would impact on you," Shanmugam told over 400 workers in Tamil at a workers' dormitory. He issued a veiled threat that “if they did nothing wrong, nothing would be done...”.
"We are trying to restrict it, to keep it contained. The incident (riot) took place there. There is where you get a large concentration of foreign workers coming on weekends. We haven't yet seen a similar situation in other places," the minister is reported to have said.
The Minister's statement, together with the special law for the area, are nothing but a outright threat to the tens of thousands of migrant workers from India. It is an open announcement that state terror would continue to be unleashed against workers in order to prevent them from organizing for their rights and dignity.
As reported in MEL, January 16-31 issue, tens of thousands of workers from India and other South Asian countries are working in Singapore, primarily in sectors where the wages are very low, working hours long and working conditions extremely insecure and unsafe. They have no labour rights whatsoever and can be hired or fired at the will of the capitalist owners and state authorities. They are forced to live in squalid conditions, in crowded dormitory compounds, some housing up to 8,000 people, on the fringes of the island. In their scarce free time they gather in “Little India” to meet up with their compatriots. It is but natural that "Little India" has become a hub for migrant Indians to discuss their problems, and organize for their redressal.
Singapore is a state where workers, especially the migrant workers, have no rights whatsoever. The capitalists from Singapore, as well as from all over the world, consider Singapore as a safe haven because the laws of the Singapore state are such as to ensure the maximization of profits through the unbridled exploitation of workers.
The silence of the Indian government on this attack on Indian migrant workers in Singapore once more reveals the close collusion between the ruling classes of the two countries. This is very much in keeping with the shameful record of the Indian state in colluding with the capitalists and governments in other countries to facilitate the super-exploitation of the Indian workers there. MEL condemns the fascist repression of the Singapore government on the Indian and other South Asian workers and the criminality of the Indian state in refusing to defend the rights of our brothers and sisters in that country.