A police whistle hung on the wall in my boyhood house in the Naval Base. It was made of brass, so it wasn't a toy. I didn't think much more about it, until years later, after the family had moved away, my mother reminisced about those days. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, there were a lot of labour unrest. Workers were going on strike. This also happened in the Naval Base. These agitators came by our house to persuade my father to join their cause, to strike. My father was steadfast in his refusal to make common cause with them. I learnt that they subsequent threatened my father and the family with harm if he continued to hold out. So any time these rabble-rousers came by again, my father would just blow the police whistle in an effort to summon the authorities. I am not certain if the police were responsive then, but I understand that it had the effect of scaring these bunch of people away. That whistle was still hanging off the wall in the late 1960s into the early 1970s, when labour unrest had subsided significantly.
So I can sympathize with the small number of SMRT's Chinese bus drivers who were reportedly forced to go on strike recently. They could possibly have been faced with harm if they had not gone along with those who initiated the strike action. To its credit, the government took the effort to investigate and separate the perpetrators from the willing and those others who were forced. One should not, to use a Chinese saying, apply the same brush to one and all.
When something works, although not to perfection, you think nothing of it. But when your daily work and routine is threatened, that's when I can understand why people are calling for the heads of all the Chinese bus drivers. I think this labour unrest was handled in an even-handed, deliberate and wise manner. Due process was followed to determine the facts of the case, and action taking accordingly. At no time did the situation get out of control. Otherwise, many commuters' lives would have been seriously disrupted. And I am glad that both the workers and the employer were taken to task. If one was favoured over the other party, this episode would have been left to fester, and the symbolic whistle would still have to be left hanging on the wall. But I suppose, given the paranoia this latest episode of industrial action has created, that whistle must be readily available when called upon.