From activism to falsehoods: Where does migrant worker Zakir Hossain truly stand?

Zakir Hossain migrant worker falsehoods

TL;DR – Activists do real research and base their arguments on facts, not falsehoods.

Migrant worker Zakir Hossain has been making waves online in the past one week or two – after having his work permit rejected and sent home abruptly. He speculated that he was disallowed to work here because of his activism work.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) responded to media queries, stating that it Mr Zakir’s work pass has been renewed several times throughout his stay in Singapore “despite his activism”. MOM took issue with the fact that some of Mr Zakir’s public posts on his Facebook page have been “misleading, false or deliberately provocative”.

For example, Mr Zakir in October 2021 made a post which described migrant workers as “work slaves” and alleged that soldiers and armoured vehicles surrounded the Westlite Tukang dormitory. When you think of the word slave, what comes to mind? Physical abuse, denigration of one’s dignity and unpaid work are few that comes to mind. Are all our migrant workers treated as “slaves”?

Police armoured vehicles never surrounded the Westlite Tukang dormitory. Police were activated to standby at the dormitory because a group of workers was behaving aggressively. Eventually, no arrests had to be made by the police, and the case was resolved.

One of Mr Zakir’s Facebook post, which was written in poetry form, listed the grievances of migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. He signed off the post as “Workers from Westlite Jalan Tukang”, but it was pointed out that Mr Zakir does not even reside there.

MOM has taken extra lengths to address the well-being of migrant workers since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Residents of the Westlite Tukang dormitory were witnesses of MOM and their employers’ efforts in addressing the plethora of issues they faced.

“S’pore hasn’t pushed us away, the government has embraced us,” says migrant worker in a heartfelt note

What do we see from this case?

Mischaracterization(s) – What is Mr Zakir’s agenda? It would seem that he was inciting migrant workers to ‘rise up’ by raising unverified facts during a time when emotions may be high. It does not do justice to activists and activism – especially when falsehoods are used and repeated. True activists conduct research and verify facts to ensure their case is presented strongly.

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Misrepresentation(s) – Why did Mr Zakir claim to represent a dormitory he did not reside in? Without conducting the due diligence of fact-finding and verification, he posted falsehoods which misrepresented the true situation. Readers of his posts – regardless of if they stayed in Westlite Tukang Dormitory or not, will be concerned about what has been alleged, and may act on it.

In this day and age where social media has penetrated almost every corner of modern societies, the amount of information available out there has proliferated beyond imagination. With this amount of information, the way we consume information has also changed – we tend to take shortcuts and take information at face value, falling into the clutches of falsehoods.

Personally, I think that propagating falsehoods is a no-go. It harms our society, and we must guard against it. Especially so when the propagator of falsehood is a foreigner who may not wish Singapore well.

If you were MOM, what would you have done?


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The Editor

Author The Editor

Either busy trying to save the world, or poking my nose into other people's affairs.

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