He’s the determined journalist of our short film “Ali Baba”. Meet Augustine Pang who broke the news about a migrant worker left for dead by his supervisors!
In 1997, Augustine was the first journalist who broke Mohd Bashar’s story which prompted an outpouring of public support. Bashar was a foreign worker who was left for dead by his supervisors after being injured at work. The short film Ali Baba under NVPC’s 15 Shorts initiative is based on the incident.
Augustine has since became Professor of Corporate Communications at SMU. He took the time to recount with us what happened; ultimately, he recalled the importance of how we should fundamentally respect each other as human beings.
Today, Augustine Pang works as Professor of Corporate Communications in SMU.
Bashar himself didn’t know he was illegal…
AP: “He paid the agent a lot of money so that he could come to Singapore to work. He thought everything was fine. Along the way, he got cheated by various people. They did not secure the legal permits that they promised him.”
“This was why he was thrown when he got injured. The bosses appeared to want to cover up their tracks and didn’t want to be found out that they were hiring illegal people.”
Augustine didn’t see a reason to treat him as someone illegal or ‘different’…
AP: “The whole interaction with Bashar was one of one human being to another human being. It was never about: I’m a Singaporean, he’s a foreigner. I’m legal, he’s illegal. It’s just human-to-human.”
Augustine thinks we should always humanise…
AP: “They are here to just do one thing: to earn their keep and to save enough money so they can provide a better living for their loved ones.”
Augustine is the main protagonist in our short film ‘Ali Baba’.
How Singaporeans galvanised to care once the story broke…
AP: “The newsroom received a lot of hotline calls with people asking how they can help. Members of the public poured out their support for Bashar. If I recalled correctly, The New Paper helped; in that we did not seek to solicit funds, when the funds came, The New Paper helped to manage the funds, so we could give it to Bashar.”
Affirming that Singaporeans are innately generous and kind…
AP: “The Singaporean public reacted because they could not fathom how this hideous act could be done to a fellow human being. They were shocked by the act itself.”
“As long as there is a good cause, as long as you are able to communicate the situation clearly, fairly… the Singapore public is generous and most willing to help.”
Our short film ‘Ali Baba’ depicts how Bashar was saved by soldiers who stumbled upon his body.
Bashar was not the only case and why this matters…
“I believe there were subsequent cases, and this calls back to our treatment of our foreign friends. These are people who come to Singapore to work and to earn an honest living. Some sold family jewelry or land in order to pay the agents to come to Singapore.”
“When they are here, some of them have to live in such miserable conditions! They build our beautiful homes for our comfort and roads for us to travel, and I think we can do better as a society to treat them better.”
How we should treat migrant workers…
“Sometimes people complain about the noise that they make… they make those noises as they have to do construction work in order to build our homes and roads… I don’t think they’re asking for much from us. A smile, a thumbs up, a wave, a nod, an acknowledgment, a thank you, that’s good enough.”
“In the busyness of life, we forget about exhibiting basic kindness. For me, it is a conscious effort to remind myself how the little things can make a big difference to them. They are also human beings with needs, dreams, dignity and self-respect. Show them some respect – that will go a long way to bridging the divide between us.”
Check out “Ali Baba”! Directed by Randy Ang, the film is part of the 15 Shorts initiative between NVPC and local film company Blue3Asia. It gathers 15 local filmmakers to tell stories of everyday Singaporean heroes.15 Shorts is in support of SG Cares. Like our Facebook page.