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1-On-1 with Gilbert Goh, the Man Behind the 6.9 Mil Population White Paper Protest

Gilbert Goh was once jobless for 18 months. The struggles during that stretch is probably what drives him now as the founder of Transitioning – a voluntary welfare organisation that champions the rights of workers in Singapore.

His latest effort – this year’s protest against the 6.9mil Population White Paper.

Gilbert is no stranger to controversy. He has sparked public concern (or support depending which side of the fence you sit on) when he wanted to burn an effigy of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew at a fare hike protest. The other incident which sticks out – encouraging the public to vent their frustration on a poster of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

You might think that Gilbert truly detests men in white, or men in pink. But he says what’s he’s looking for is to protect fellow Singaporeans.

We play devil’s advocate and ask Gilbert some tough questions.

(1) Protest numbers appear to be dwindling with each protest. Why do you think so?

The firsr protest which drew 5000 people on 16 Feb, 2013 came about because there was alot of pent-up anger against the government for the foreigner influx.

Subsequent protests drew lesser crowd because people are less emotional though they still feel agitated by the foreign influx.

Singaporeans are also by nature not too defiant and collaborative.

(2) You say that conditions in Singapore are bad. From your understanding, how bad is the labour situation in this country?

Local PMETs still find it tough to be rehired and some are beibg replacedby foreigners.

Most locals are miniority workers in the work places with some having to report to fireign supervisors.

The work experience of some foreign workers also look suspect and many were found to have fake certificates.

(3) Is it fair to blame the labour situation solely on immigrants? Minister Tan Chuan Jin said recently that foreigner are more “employable” and that’s why they get better wages. Shouldn’t it be the case of may the best man for the job win then?

The foreign floodgates have open up the labour market considerably and employers may have over depend on foreigners especially in the IT and service industries.

Jobs from the lowest rung to the highest hierarchy face competition from foreigners these days so much so that we need to look at work abroad.

I am unsure why the minister says that but its the kind of statement that should alarm many of us.

(4) The ruling PAP government has also bore the brunt of citizen anger, but it appears to be in between a rock and a hard place – cut foreign worker numbers and hurt SMEs, allow more foreign workers and risk higher unemployment for locals. How do you think the government can better tackle this issue?

There is truth in that statement but the policy should frankly try to look at reinforcing local hiring, is the FCF sufficient protection for our PMETs?

Should the government do more to protect Singaporeans at the expense of having some companies closing down because they can’t get enough foreugn workers?

Companies need to compensate well enough to attract licals to work for them. There are still more than 80,000 jobless locals now and many are professional.

(5) Singaporeans complain that it isn’t easy to find a well-paying job here that allows them to lead a comfortable life. Could it be the case that our expectations of a “comfortable life” are too high?

We have a certain ninimum lifestyle to maintain and clearly jobs which pay of $1500 to $1800 will only attract workers from the poor third world countries.

Without a minimum wage legislation in place, companies will want to pay the lowest and often only foreigners will apply.

(6) Do you think Lee Kuan Yew is right, when he said younger Singaporeans need to get the spurs stuck in their hides? After all, if we’re that unhappy, why not find jobs abroad rather than live within our comfort zone?

Many Singaporeans arenow working abroad with better work conditions and pay, so he is right in a certain way.

Jobs in third world countries though command lower salaries than here are still attractive due to their ultra low cost of living.


(7) You’re no stranger to controversy, having in the past encouraged protestors to vent their frustrations on a poster of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and even wanting to burn an effigy of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew. Looking back, do you think those actions were correct?

We are activists and if compared to other countries, our actions are very mild.

However, if we are warned not to do certain controversial stuff, we will comply and co operate with the police to ensure peace and stability here.


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