Apparently yesterday was International Migrants Day. I didn’t know that such a day existed! It’s certainly worth celebrating the people who have uprooted themselves and moved to strange new lands. The foreign workers in Singapore certainly have contributed much to our country and economy. And they do so while often being treated like pariah. Which is amazing. Thanks guys. And sorry for stupid comments that some of my fellow Singaporeans make to/against/about you. Comments like this:
The caption to the photo says: “I learnt today that some workers prefer to sleep without a mattress as they are used to it back in their home country.” If you just look at this comment, what would you think? Who do you think made the comment? Almost anyone you ask would tell you that they think this comment was made by Teo Ser Luck, who is the Minister of State for Manpower. But no… apparently, according to MOM, MOS Teo did not make the comment.
This is so wrong on so many levels.
Firstly, how can MOM expect that people don’t attribute the caption to MOS Teo when it appears right next to a picture of him lying in a bed in a foreign workers’ dormitory and with his name tagged to the caption? I didn’t know that administrators of government Facebook accounts have the latitude to put words into the mouths of our politicians! I wonder whether the administrator of Facebook accounts have to clear the captions/comments with higher authority. Perhaps for minor insignificant comments, maybe not. But for comments/captions that people would reasonably take to be comments made by the political office holders? So is this a problem with an overzealous Facebook account administrator? Or is there a need to review how Facebook accounts of Ministries are handled?
Secondly, even if MOS Teo didn’t make the comment, why would anyone in MOM think that this is an appropriate comment to make? How did they come to think that foreign workers don’t sleep with mattresses because that is what they are used to back in their homes? Did MOM officers find that out by speaking with foreign workers? And even if that is the truth, why would they think that it’s appropriate to post something like that on MOM’s Facebook page? For what purpose?
Lastly, why did MOS Teo think that it is a good idea to be caught on camera sleeping on the job? Ok… technically he didn’t sleep on the job. Nevertheless, why would he think that being caught on camera lying in another person’s bed is a good PR stunt? Were there no PR people around him on his visit to advise him? And why take and post that photo of him lying on the bed? What were MOM officers thinking? Did they honestly think that it’s funny, or would get him some attention? Well, it certainly did. Of all the wrong kind. Whatever possessed the MOM officers to chut this kind of pattern then? Perhaps MOM should really consider hiring some professional PR people. Or at least send their officers for some PR related courses.
To be fair to MOS Teo, his blog post about the visit was actually not bad. It probably paints a picture that is rosier than what the reality is, but that is likely because what he saw was very sanitised for his visit. But nonetheless, at least it showed that he had bothered to find out as best as he could the living conditions of foreign workers. MOS Teo also responded well to the comment by Ibrahim Khalil (presumably a foreign worker) who explained that foreign workers in Singapore don’t like sleeping on mattress because it is hot. And it is hot not only because of Singapore’s climate, but because of the lack of ventilation and the high number of people in the room. MOS Teo asked Ibrahim to send him a private message and MOS Teo would get MOM staff to follow up. Not bad.
I think this incident shows that our government officials still have some way to go in improving their PR skills. Unless they want more embarrassing incidents like this, I hope our civil service would get their staff properly trained.