Do you remember the circuit breaker?
It was a dark period in Singapore’s history – possibly the darkest period of any country in history.
We were stuck in our houses for what seemed like an eternity, even though it was just a couple of months.
Plus, we could still go outside every day for exercise and and to buy some lukewarm, takeaway Prata.
But even though we had work and Netflix to keep our minds busy, it still felt like we were slowly going insane.
Reader: Looking at Netflix’s home screen gives me anxiety now
That’s bad enough, but imagine being locked up in a tiny room for 42 days, all because your boss doesn’t like you.
3 Foreign Workers Were Locked In Small Room By Manager During CB Period For 42 Days ‘Coz They Were ‘Troublemakers’
Three migrant workers were locked in a small room for 42 days over May and June during the Covid-19 pandemic by the general manager of Ad-Meth Mech Field, a mechanical engineering service provider.
And when I say that the room is small, I’m not exaggerating.
These men were confined in a 3.4m by 4.3m room on the company’s premises in Tuas, which is only slightly larger than a bedroom in an HDB flat.
The workers – Pandiyan Jayakanthan, 23, and Ganesan Pandi, 24, and construction supervisor Muthuraj Thangaraj, 39 – only had access to one bathroom the whole time.
One of the poor workers was confined for 39 consecutive days.
According to The Straits Times, the Indian nationals were locked up from 12 May to 15 May and from 19 May to 26 June.
It is unclear if they were confined around the clock.
But why did their boss do this?
Punished for Being “Troublemakers”
On May 12, their boss – Singaporean Shaun Pang Tong Heng – discovered that Pandiyan and Ganesan had been bothering another worker in the firm.
After locking them up for three days, Pang let them out after they complained that the confined area was warm and had mosquitoes.
So they were moved to an air-conditioned room which had three beds, a water cooler, and Wi-Fi connection.
It also had a bathroom. The door to this room was not locked.
On 18 May, Pang viewed a video clip that showed Pandiyan and Ganesan leaving the room, and decided to confine the three victims again because they were “unremorseful”, according to the prosecutor.
Or maybe, you know, they didn’t like being caged like animals?
Pang then ordered one of the firm’s supervisors to lock the men up and told them he would call the police if they didn’t comply.
So, they were locked up from 19 May to 26 June. They had their phones with them and were given three meals every day.
Caught by MOM
On 25 June, one of the men alerted the Ministry of Manpower to their confinement, and a group of MOM officers arrived on the scene the next day.
The officers instructed Pang to release the three victims.
The 41-year-old general manager was fined $9,000 on Thursday (17 Sep) after he pleaded guilty to three counts of wrongful confinement.
Pang’s defence lawyer said he’s remorseful and confined the men as punishment.
Pandiyan and Ganesan, for example, allegedly left their place of residence to buy alcohol despite being near a Covid-19 cluster.
Pandiyan also reportedly drove a company lorry even though he had no licence, and the third victim, Muthuraj, was previously caught for drink driving.
However, as the prosecutor pointed out, Pang had no right to take the law into his own hands.
If we’ve learned one thing from the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore, it’s that we clearly need to treat our migrant workers better.
Not locking them up and housing them in rooms that aren’t cramped or squalid would be a good start.