In 2011, I cheered when the Workers’ Party won Aljunied Group Representative Constituency.
In 2020, I voted against the Workers’ Party.
IN 2021, my choice to vote against the WP was vindicated.
Singapore has implemented a series of vaccine discrimination measures over the past three weeks. Unvaccinated people are banned from entering malls, save for those with negative pre-event tests and those with a medical appointment or a letter of support to pick up a child from childcare. Unvaccinated people are banned from dining in. And now, starting January 1st, unvaccinated people must undergo a Covid test daily at their own expense before they can return to work. This means an outflow of about $300 a month on Covid tests alone.
This last measures signals a key policy shift. Previously, employers could not fire an employee for refusing to be vaccinated. Now, employers can choose to allow an unvaccinated employee to work from home, to place him on no-pay leave, or to fire him “as a last resort”. The last is now no longer considered wrongful termination. Already I am hearing stories of employers harassing unvaccinated employees to get vaccinated or threatening to fire them.
Not only that, it is unclear whether these measures extend to the military. The bulk of the military is composed of full-time National Servicemen. It’s not possible for everyone in the military to work from home. An NSF’s allowance (not salary) is barely sufficient to cover the costs of the tests. Will the Ministry of Defence cover the cost of testing unvaccinated NSFs? Or will NSFs be forced to cover the tests out of pocket? If the latter occurs, this imposes even greater financial hardship on NSFs, especially those from lower income families who cannot help them shoulder the burden.
This is a vaccine mandate without calling it a mandate. Proof of vaccination has become a Covid pass in all but name. These policies impose immense financial, psychological and time costs on the unvaccinated. They divide Singapore into two countries: a country for the vaccinated, and no country for the unvaccinated.
Northeast Singapore is especially hard-hit by these measures. Essential services in the northeast are concentrated in malls: banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, childcare and tuition centres. Outside the malls, it is extremely difficult to find standalone stores that will admit the unvaccinated. Unvaccinated northeasterners have to travel to other neighbourhoods far from home just to pick up essentials.
The Workers’ Party governs the northeast through the Sengkang GRC team. During the televised election debates of 2020, team member Jamus Lim says the goal of the WP is to deny the government a “blank cheque“. Over the past year, the government has steadily expanded its power, encroaching upon the rights and lives of ordinary citizens. What is the WP’s response?
Silence and worse than silence.
The Workers’ Party has remained steadfastly silent on discrimination against Singaporeans, against their own constituencies, against their own voters. They have not challenged the government’s heavy-handed Covid measures in any meaningful way. At a time when their own voters were facing considerable stress from the government’s Covid policies, the WP social media accounts were busy sharing photos of dogs and cats, discussing their policy positions on other issues, encouraging people to get vaccinated, and otherwise completely ignoring the suffering of their constituents. The closest the WP has come to directly confronting the government’s Covid policies is highlighting the plight of migrant workers under a de facto lockdown in their dormitories for a year and a half—but not their own voters, the workers whom they claim to represent, who now have to choose between the jab and their jobs.
I have also seen allegations that the WP is actively blocking, censoring and ignoring people who demand answers from them.
Here’s one such post:
Samantha Wong claims her post was disappeared from Jamus Lim’s Facebook page.
Here are other complaints:
It’s very strange that the Workers’ Party is paying a lot of attention to migrant workers, but has spoken not one word for the Singaporean workers who voted them into Parliament.
Here’s what Jamus Lim has to say about the WP’s position on vaccination, through private messages and replies:
Here’s another private conversation on Facebook messager:
After the first response, Jamus Lim did not reply.
What can we make from this collection of statements?
Lim believes that unvaccinated people are ‘more virulent’. The facts remain that the vaccine does not prevent transmission. Vaccinated carriers can still spread the virus. It’s why the most vaccinated countries in the world have seen or are seeing record Covid transmissions even after hitting major vaccination milestones. Most infamously, Waterford County in Ireland is 99.7% vaccinated, and also has the second-highest Covid incidence rates in the country.
Worse, because the vaccinated experience milder symptoms than the unvaccinated, the vaccinated may unknowingly spread the disease to others around them. Asymptomatic vaccinated carriers won’t know they are carrying the disease unless they are tested. In contrast, the unvaccinated are more likely to develop symptoms, and therefore seek treatment and isolation. If there’s anyone who needs to be tested regularly, it’s the vaccinated, for they are more likely to be superspreaders.
Not only that, the latest UK Covid surveillance report indicates that fully vaccinated people develop lower levels of N antibody levels, and that more vaccinated adults than unvaccinated adults catch and transmit the virus. This suggests that the vaccine interferes with the immune system’s ability to produce antibodies against the nucleocapsid protein, which is the outer shell of the virus. This could potentially drive future mutations down the line and reduce long-term post-infection immunity. (More details here.)
With a leaky vaccine that does not prevent transmission, there is no public health reason to compel people to take the vaccine. There is no ‘fair compromise’ here. There is only division.
Lim further claims that the WP will “speak up when there is any extended period of discrimination against the unvaccinated, and especially in situations where these individuals would not otherwise impose any social cost”.
That extended period is already upon us. There is no declared end date to the ‘temporary’ discrimination measures. There are no firm key performance indicators for the lifting of restrictions. Policies can be tightened and relaxed by government fiat. The government is already pushing for measures in 2022, indicating that it expects vaccine discrimination to continue well into next year. The Ministry of Health is already recommending booster shots for persons aged 30 and above, among other demographic groups, which implies they have plans to run up to the end of the year, and quite likely mid- to end-2022. Experts quoted by the media are talking about even more restrictive measures, such as banning the unvaccinated from public transport and imposing a nationwide mandate. Private companies and unscrupulous employers are taking measures into their own hands and proactively discriminating against the unvaccinated above and beyond government regulations.
We’re likely seeing the signs that the vaccine’s protective period has ended in Singapore. Previously, the Ministry of Health broke down hospitalisations and deaths by vaccination status. Later, the MOH lumped together the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated together into the ‘not fully vaccinated’ category. Today, the MOH stopped disclosing vaccination status completely.
Why would the government do that? The only reason I can think of is to manage the optics. It is highly suggestive that the majority of hospitalised patients and decedents are now vaccinated or partially vaccinated, which runs counter to the government narrative that vaccinations protect you from severe illness and are necessary to reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
Despite this, the government is still pushing vaccines. This shows that the government is committed to vaccines, and therefore vaccine discrimination, for the long haul. What is the WP’s red line for ‘extended period’? At what point will the WP say enough is enough?
What about ‘social cost’? With a leaky vaccine, social cost becomes irrelevant. Both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated can spread the virus. It can be argued that the vaccinated impose higher social costs on everyone because they don’t know if they carry the virus unless they test themselves regularly, and the government has deigned to return some of their freedoms and continues to scapegoat the unvaccinated. The only ‘social cost’ with this current policy is the cost incurred by the unvaccinated for making a choice. That choice is no longer free when there is such systemic pressure to coerce people into making a different choice.
Lim claims ‘we need to better understand the differential treatment of unvaccinated ones’. Once given information and leads on where to go, he remained silent.
If wider feedback is any indication, his position is aligned with the WP, which in turn is aligned with the government’s position of pushing for everyone to get vaccinated at all costs.
The voters trusted Jamus Lim when he asked them deny the government a blank cheque. The government has drawn its blank cheque. It has hammered the people with increasingly restrictive policies, with no end in sight nor even signs of success. People are still catching the disease by the thousands every day, without signs of slowing down. The people of Northeast Singapore, the same people who voted for the Workers’ Party, are especially affected by these measures. In the face of this, Jamus Lim remains silent. As silent as the rest of his party.
If the Workers’ Party will not speak for the most oppressed minority in Singapore, the people who comprise their voter base, then what is the difference between the WP and the People’s Action Party?
As we’ve seen in the West, the hard Left has no problems with increased government power, so long as they benefit from it. The hard Left has no qualms with discrimination, so long as they are the ones doing the discrimination against a socially approved target. The hard Left does not care about your rights, so long as theirs aren’t being threatened.
The new blood in the Workers’ Party swings left—further left than the PAP. We saw a glimpse of this in 2020. In 2021 we see the fruit.
The rest of the silent opposition does not get a pass either.
When he was a member of the Progress Singapore Party, Brad Bowyer spoke out against government coercion. He was criticised by his fellow party member Kala Manickam and faced flak from multiple directions. Eventually, he resigned from the PSP and was deplatformed from Facebook.
PSP’s Leong Mun Wai spoke up against vaccine discrimination. The Singapore Democratic Party has called for an end to blanket interventions in its 8 point plan. Goh Meng Seng of the People’s Power Party also spoke against vaccine discrimination.
What about the rest of the opposition? What have they said?
The silence is damning.
In the previous two election cycles, the opposition proudly trotted out its next generation of candidates who they claimed were credible and would represent the voices of Singaporeans. We are living through the most critical moment in Singapore’s history, and you can count on the number of fingers of one hand the number of opposition politicians who are speaking up for the most oppressed minority in the nation.
We cannot count on the opposition to save us. We cannot count on the media to dig up the truth. We cannot count on the government to lift its measures.
We must, by our hands, save ourselves.
Continue to speak up. Continue to support each other, in whatever way you can. Set aside the government propaganda and the wild conspiracy theories flying around, and seek out the raw data and the independent experts who can properly interpret them. Identify and support small businesses who won’t discriminate against you. Find alternative employment if you cannot bear the cost of the daily swabs or if the employer will terminate for exercising your free choice. Build you talent stack and create a side income, and pivot towards remote work and working from home. In the gravest extreme, prepare yourself to leave a country that discriminates against you simply for not being part of the majority.
Walk away from a society that rejects you.
How do you survive in the coming cyberpunk dystopia? My latest series Singularity Sunrise has some ideas.