A report in The Straits Times of Aug 19 concerning measures to be implemented by the government to improve the safety of workers makes Father Paul Staes a little happier but he says more is needed

NEEDLESS TO SAY, I was very happy when I learnt about the planned government measures for assuring that “Workers on lorries get more protection.” The news even got full coverage on page one of today’s The Straits Times (ST), with a telling picture to top.

It was a tragic accident on the PIE on Aug 23, 2007, reported under the heading “13 workers flung out of crash lorry; one dead”, that led to my first letter to ST Forum, published as “Better mode of worker transport needed” (Aug 28, 2007). The letter drew quite some positive feedback, even to the point where some people have come to identify me as the “advocate” of the cause of workers’ transport.

Unfortunately, not much progress has been made since then.

On Feb 22, 2008, ST published a well-documented and richly-illustrated article on the subject, stating that “Safety takes a back seat for lorries’ live cargo”.

The statistics mentioned in today’s article further underline the sorry state of affairs: In 2007 there were 210 injuries and casualties, a 300 percent increase over the 69 of 2005.

The new safety measures come none too early. I’m glad that MP Halimah Yacob questioned the appropriateness of a three-year period for full implementation of these new regulations. Granted, slow and partial as it is, increased safety is still an improvement. It’s also heartening to note that one aspect of the plight of hundreds of thousands of non-citizens in our midst got first-page coverage. I must confess that I was disappointed when their contribution to Singapore society’s success story was nowhere acknowledged or mentioned in the National Day Rally address.

But I regret that, even after these new measures, we remain stuck with a mode of transportation – visible to all, citizens and tourists alike – that is not flattering for a first-world country like Singapore. Such treatment is not good for our public image; it is not dignified for our fellowmen, nor is it good for ourselves as human beings.

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