By Lee Kah Ghim

If you witnessed a man being punched in the eye by another, would you render assistance? What if the victim were a foreign worker, someone who belonged to a category of individuals Singaporeans so frequently look down upon; would you still help?

It was an apparent ‘no’ for the people at the coffee shop where Reubel Dewan Delwar was punched last week. When Reubel and his co-worker got into an argument over money matters, the co-worker sent a punch to his eye so powerful that blood immediately trickled out of his eye socket.  Reubel told me gasps could be heard from the people around, but that was all. No one came forward to stop the attacker or help stanch the bleeding. People actually retreated from the scene to watch from a distance. It was only when Reubel took out his phone and, with some difficulty, dialed the police did the attacker flee.

The police on the line asked Reubel for the address of the coffee shop, but Reubel did not know. Staggering towards a man in the crowd, Reubel asked for help in providing directions. The man shook his head and shamelessly replied, “Don’t know.” Reubel held his phone out to the rest of the witnesses but no one was willing to provide him with such a simple yet crucial answer — the location. Some of them might even be regular customers and should have known. In the end, the police only obtained the address when they told Reubel to hand his phone over to one of the stall owners.

After a few painful minutes of panic and desperation, the police and ambulance were finally only on their way to Reubel’s aid. It was an unnecessarily prolonged ordeal for him.

I learnt that Reubel has been working in Singapore for the past 13 years, save for the occasional return trip to visit his family. I asked him why he is willing to dedicate so many years of his life working here. Looking at me with his blackened eye, Reubel said, “Singapore here good, people nice. I work here good.”

Looking away, I could not help but feel ashamed for the people at the coffee shop on that fateful day. They are, without a doubt, undeserving of this foreign worker’s forgiving nature.