In response to the labour dispute that erupted between SMRT Corp and its China bus drivers on 26 November 2012, the Singapore government has termed it an “illegal strike” and instituted legal proceedings against five of the drivers. One of them has since pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 6 weeks in jail. Following that, the other four drivers found lawyers, and their friends and supporters raised the money to pay their bail.

In order to give them time to consider their options and prepare their defence, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) has rented them a place to stay and made arrangements for their basic daily needs. This will enable them to concentrate on seeking justice in the courts.

We have launched a public appeal for donations to help provide for their accommodation and sustenance needs.

The reason for what we have done is simple. In the public discourse surrounding this incident, much has been said about Singapore’s commitment to due process as the proper way to resolve disputes. Due process is only good when people have reasonable access to it and should include ensuring that the accused live in such conditions that they come to court in sound physical and mental condition. It is in this spirit that TWC2 has stepped forward to help give the men the support they need for their day in court.

Looking ahead, TWC2 staff and volunteers may have to help the men in other ways, e.g. language assistance given their poor command of English, communicating with the Ministry of Manpower as and when necessary, etc. These are routine assistance we have given to the thousands of foreign workers who approach us.

The eventual outcome of legal proceedings is a matter strictly for lawyers and the courts. TWC2 will refrain from any action that may be misconstrued as an improper interference in the judicial process.

We have our views on the case and on the lessons that might be drawn from this whole episode, and we will make them known in a statement at the conclusion of the legal process.