Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Tale of Slavery in 2 Cities

I read not one, but two reports of modern-day slavery in TODAY this morning.

The first was about a slavery ring in China in which more than 1,000 people were forced to work in brutal conditions. More than 450 young men and children had been rescued from a string of brick factories in Henan and Shanxi provinces. Some of the children were as young as eight. Many had injuries sustained at the hands of their cruel bosses. One man in his fifties was even beaten to death with a shovel for ‘not working hard enough’.

Many of the children had been abducted from streets and sold for as little as 500 yuan (S$101) to factories and mines where they were starved and forced to work long hours under appalling conditions, with dogs ensuring they could not escape.

The second report was about slavery right here in Singapore! In a story titled, The Story of Workhorse Albert’s Life or Lack of One, Murali Sharma wrote that “unsatisfactory work conditions are quite widespread”. His good friend Albert is a typical example of a victim of Singaporean-style slavery. He had to slog from 8.00 am to 10.00 pm on most days. His boss is a slave driver who doesn’t trust him and wants him to be contactable even on Sundays, and often berates him for his own mistakes. The poor chap is so miserable and stressed that he cannot even perform what in Singapore is considered a patriotic duty - marrying and procreating.

There is a slight difference in Albert’s case of course. He earns a 5-figure salary; and if he were to try to escape, he is unlikely to beaten or bitten.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Was That Really Necessary?

By now, if you do not know that Mediacorp artiste, Christopher Lee has been jailed for drink driving, you must be a hermit. And if you previously did not know who he was, you certainly do now. His face has been splashed all over the newspapers. The Straits Times even had one half of the front page of its Sunday Lifestyle Section covered with his photos.

Come on. I know the public has a right to know. And newspapers have a duty to report. But half a page? Now was that really necessary? The man is already paying a heavy price for his mistake. Is it really necessary to shame him further in this way?