2 who knelt in protest and wouldn't budge arrested

Two people were arrested yesterday for kneeling in the middle of Bendemeer Road and refusing to move when told to do so.

Videos and pictures taken by drivers and passers-by, and later uploaded onto social media, show a man in a yellow T-shirt and green shorts, carrying a yellow backpack, kneeling on the middle lane next to a woman dressed in a black T-shirt and pants.

Both were holding sheets of paper covered in Chinese writing, and making a commotion as vehicles whizzed past, apparently protesting an agency fee dispute.The drama took place in front of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Services Centre at noon yesterday.

An MOM spokesman said the woman, a work permit holder, had gone to the centre with her husband to get help in obtaining a refund of agency fees she had allegedly paid her overseas agent. She wanted the local employment agency which had hired her to return the money.

"Based on her representation, our officers explained our laws and regulations to her, which she refused to accept," said the spokesman. "Despite our efforts, she was not satisfied."

A construction worker, who wanted to be known only as Mr Amin, said he was waiting at the bus stop outside the centre when the incident took place.

"I saw them run out onto the road. They were shouting and crying in Chinese," said Mr Amin, 32, of the pair. "Some security (guards) from MOM tried to talk to them, make them cool (down), but they did not listen."

Vehicles in the middle lane were forced to slow down and change lanes to avoid hitting the couple. MOM officers helped to divert traffic while several drivers wound their windows down and urged the duo to move out of the way, but their words fell on deaf ears.

The police, who arrived in 15 minutes, said the pair were arrested on the spot for committing a rash act.

Investigations are ongoing.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline '2 who knelt in protest and won't budge arrested'. Print Edition | Subscribe