INT.OFFICE - MEETING ROOM VIGILANCE - MORNING
Mr Teo entered the room holding an opened notebook in his right hand. Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali stood up to greet him. Mr Teo signaled all to be seated.
AH TAN: Er... Sir, you're holding a... notebook?
MR TEO (grinning): Yes! From now on, I'll come into meetings with my notebook instead of the usual email printouts! We need to move together with time, you know? Even Khaw is meeting his people on Skype!
The three men nodded to show agreement and support.
MR TEO (turned his notebook to face the men): Gentlemen, the boorish America has done something terrible to us! They placed us on the Tier Two Watch List in their 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report! Alongside those third world countries like Bangladesh, China and India!
ALI: This is bad, man...
MR TEO (heatedly): This is not bad! This is outrageous!
AH TAN (reading from the notebook screen): There were no labour trafficking prosecutions or convictions during the reporting period. The Singapore Government showed an inadequate response to the sex trafficking problem in Singapore...
AH LIM: Oh... so it's because of sex trafficking?
The three men looked at each other in silent. Mr Teo turned the notebook back to face him then closed it.
MR TEO (sternly): Yes. I was puzzled when I read the report for the first time, I mean... how can Singapore be even be suspected of trafficking? Then like you, Lim, I realised that they are making the accusation because of sex trafficking. They are blaming us that women from China, the Philippines and Thailand had been tricked into coming to Singapore with promises of legitimate employment and coerced into the sex trade.
AH LIM: Oh... so the US officials have been to Geylang?
Mr Teo slammed his right palm on the table hard and stood up, while staring at Ah Lim irately.
MR TEO (berating): That is not the point! The point is, who are they to accuse us? Who are they to rank us so low? Singapore is always number one! This is an insult to us! And in the first place, can the US rank itself in Tier One when it is well known that the US has been unable to stem a flood of illegal workers, many of whom are trafficked by organised criminal gangs? They have not been able to cope adequately with this problem and that is among the reasons why immigration is such a hot political issue in the US! Maybe they should examine its own record more carefully before presuming to pronounce on other countries!
The three men nodded in agreement anxiously and waited for Mr Teo to calm down.
MR TEO: I tell you, this is more of a political ritual than an objective study. The whole report is a joke!
AH TAN: Actually I too think that the report is incorrect. If a woman entered Singapore legally but was abused, we will classify her as an immigration offender, nothing to do with sex trafficking.
MR TEO: Exactly!
AH LIM: Mmm... so the US officials have not been to Geylang...
All turned to look at Ah Lim stunningly.
ALI: Ah Lim, really, what has the report got to do with Geylang?
AH LIM: You see... first of all, those women from China, the Philippines and Thailand did not enter the country illegally. We give them work permits and invited them to come into the country as foreign talents! Yes we're giving away work permits freely, but that is not considered trafficking right?
MR TEO (rubbing his chin): You can say that...
Ah Lim grinned with satisfaction at Mr Teo's agreement with him. He then cleared his throat and continued.
AH LIM: Yes, we have more prostitutes than we used to have, but this is unavoidable right? As the population grows, these so-called low class jobs are shunned by the locals, so we have to bring in more foreign prostitutes! And then, these women are not abused what! Just take a stroll down the alleys in Geylang and you can see how happy they look! Just by sleeping with the generous Singaporean men, they earn so much more than what they make in their countries! They love us okay! Where got abuse?
ALI: Er... Ah Lim, you seems to know a lot about those women at Geylang...
Ah Lim froze in his seat and suddenly, blood rushed to his face.
2010 Trafficking in Persons Report,Hillary Clinton,Tier Two Watch List,Ministry of Foreign Affairs,MFA,human trafficking,sex trafficking