Yaacob Ibrahim Apologises Over Facebook Post, Says People Misunderstood His Position

Former Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has deleted a Facebook post about migrant workers after receiving backlash from many online.

The post, initially made on Sunday (5 Apr) then edited earlier on Tuesday (7 Apr), centred around an open space next to Kallang MRT station. Here’s a screenshot of the post:

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Tackling the “challenge” of foreign worker congregations

The post by Dr Yaacob, who is a Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency, highlighted how foreign workers tended to crowd at the open space next to the MRT station, causing inconvenience to his residents, and this was a “challenge” that he planned to “tackle”.

It ended with: “But it takes a virus to empty the space.”

Workers’ dormitories have been hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, with several clusters forming at these places, resulting in 3 of them being designated as isolation areas, with workers confined to their rooms.

The post was discovered by several netizens, many of whom work with migrant workers and are activists for their welfare, and it started garnering backlash.

Edits made in reply to backlash before post deleted

Perhaps in response to the initial backlash, Dr Yaacob updated the post to clarify his point.

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In the reply he appended, Dr Yaacob explained the issue wasn’t with the workers being there at all, but with their noise and the trash they leave behind,

But even this reply did not seem to satisfy netizens, who continued with their comments on his post.

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Another of the subsequent edits removed the last line referring to the virus.

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The post was then totally deleted.

Not even that can make people forget, however. The Internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy in this time.

A netizen managed to screenshot the various edits of Dr Yaacob’s post before it eventually disappeared from his page.

Former minister apologises, says people misunderstood

Eventually, Dr Yaacob apologised for the post, as quoted by TODAY Online,

I apologise for that line, it was never intended in any way (to discriminate).

He told the news website that the post was taken down because people had “misunderstood” his position, and he didn’t want to create “any further confusion”.

MS News has reached out to Dr Yaacob for comment.

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Serious conversation about migrant workers needed

While migrant workers are now in the spotlight thanks to the recent spate of Covid-19 outbreaks at dormitories, Singapore society at large hasn’t really considered the well-being of these foreigners who help build our beautiful buildings.

This is part of the reason why the outbreak occurred in the dormitories despite warnings that it could happen.

We haven’t treated our foreign workers too well either — such that former diplomat Tommy Koh has called our treatment of foreign workers “Third World”.

A comment like this from a minister, who appears to see foreign workers gathering as a problem to be solved, doesn’t help.

There needs to be a serious discussion in Parliament or even higher up to deal with this issue that we’ve largely swept under the rug.

Featured image adapted from Google Maps and Facebook.