Yeo Guat Kwang the saviour has arrived

Yeo Guat Kwang -

“Remind me, what’s the name of this centre again?”

I’m feeling generous today, so let’s start off this post with not one but two jokes:

Question: How can MP Yeo Guat Kwang single-handedly create 65 jobs for the economy without lifting a finger?

Answer: By retiring.

In case you are wondering, the question and answer make up one joke. The other lies somewhere in the question.

Yeo Guat Kwang, as some may know, is the super hardworking PAP MP with 65 jobs. And the reason he’s mentioned here is because he has suddenly popped up all over the news with something to say as chairman of Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) — no doubt one of the many part time roles he hold.

Throughout this week, the likes of Tan Chuan-Jin, Lim Swee Say and Amy Khor harped on about proper channels for grievances and how the unions and related bodies are there to help workers in need. We only need to look at what has happened since the arrests of the Chinese bus drivers last Saturday to see the difference between what is touted by them and reality.

The first driver, Bao Feng Shan, was charged in double-quick time and sentenced on Monday to six weeks’ jail in an unprecedented display of bureaucratic efficiency that must have jacked up our productivity levels by at least one percentage point. He had no lawyer to represent him. Today, the other four drivers appeared in court. With this extra few days, the Chinese Embassy managed to find with some difficulty several lawyers on pro-bono to represent them. The Straits Times report mentioned that the Chinese Embassy was not aware that there is free legal aid available to foreigners here. If the embassy didn’t even know this, can these bus drivers be expected to know? Ominously, there will be no embassy to help if the bus drivers charged had been Singaporeans.

After the arrests and leading up to the court cases, the NTUC and NTWU did a double act of Desmond Kuek and Lui Tuck Yew — they were nowhere to be seen when all the action was going on. There was no assistance provided to these drivers to ensure there was proper legal advice and representation. All was left to the embassy. Maybe Zorro Lim is still sore that the drivers didn’t pay up the membership fees.

Now, all of a sudden when events have passed, this unheard-of sleeper cell of NTUC and SNEF by the name of Migrant Workers’ Centre has appeared everywhere in the press and chairman Yeo Guat Kwang is now lamenting that they need to do more to reach out to foreign workers in need of help.

So why didn’t MWC offer to help these drivers right after they were arrested?

Today also saw the sit-in by two Chinese construction workers. A copycat act with more to follow? After last week’s “is this a strike or is this not and how do we make it illegal” full day exercise pouring over the rulebook, the authorities quickly concluded this time that there probably isn’t any law requiring 14 days notice before you can sit in a crane — memo to Shanmugam: better get that in quickly! So they arrested the two offenders for “unlawfully remaining at the place and causing a public order disturbance”.

Together with the shipyard accident, a lot has happened with our workers in the last two weeks. After much is done and dusted, MWC breezed conveniently into the news to claim that it could have helped the SMRT bus drivers, sit-in construction workers and injured shipyard workers. Apparently, a saviour in the form of Yeo Guat Kwang has descended, no doubt a result of Tan Chuan-Jin’s incessant praying every night for something to make all these problems go away.

After enviously looking at all the Facebook photos his buddy Lawry Wong has been posting in the fa-la-la time he is having with his new ministry, our Acting Manpower Minister must be having thoughts of returning this portfolio under the lemon law before he is required to stop ‘Acting’. Perhaps to Zorro Lim who has snuck under the radar without one all this while right under the PM’s nose.

This day, though, belonged to MWC. After long being overshadowed by the good work of NGO Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), it has now made more news in 24 hours than its entire 3-year existence prior. Not bad for a day’s work and Mr Yeo has now met his year-end appraisal target of newspaper mentions. He can now go back to his other less demanding jobs.