This post was first written for Breakfast Network.
We wanted to float them “out of sight, out of mind” back on 2008 in dystopian floating dorms. Yesterday, there was more talk in parliament about housing foreign workers (FWs) on offshore islands.
Does anyone smell the stench of apartheid? Arkham City? “District 9”? Refugee camps? WW2 ghettoes? Discrimination? All this in the name of convenience and comfort for Singaporeans. After all, we want to “use them and lose them”, not see them walking in our neighbourhoods. No need to integrate them.
Why? Um, well… they smell, commit crimes and hang out with our FDWs. In the midst of the 2008 Serangoon Garden FW dorm debate, then Minister George Yeo shared that “We may grow much faster if we open our doors to foreign workers but if there are too many of them coming into Singapore, it will affect our living environment.” (Workers’ dorm: An issue for whole of S’pore, Serene Luo, ST, 8 Sep 2008).
He suggested building “townships” for them. There, they would get better access to “cheaper food” and “their own places for recreation”. For their own good. Because we don’t want to be near them, screamed the subtext.
Maybe if we end up building townships, we can also house all the other people who spit, commit crimes, smell bad, talk loudly, and don’t flush the toilet, regardless of nationality. Maybe even people who can’t speak or understand Singlish, because they will slow down the queues at the hawker centre. We don’t want to be seen as racist or discriminatory, after all. First sign of antisocial behaviour and off to the outer islands you go. Our new society shall rise pristine and reformed.
It will be an awesome spectacle of the Singaporean dystopia.