Amy Cheong: A storm in a teacup?

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When I opened my FB yesterday morning, I sense lots of indignation over racist remarks made by Assistant Director of NTUC Membership, namely Amy Cheong. We have a group of about 30 train officers on Whatsapp keeping each other in touch. Many were up in arms over those remarks. There are about 10 Chinese train officers in Tanah Merah station with more than a hundred non-Chinese staff. So much screen pictures and links were Whatsapped to me and my FB tagged in order to let me see. My Malay colleagues were indirectly asking what’s my take on the issue! The pressure was on me to make a “statement” on the hot issue of the day. I had to take a stand.

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I assured them on FB or Whatsapp that the Chinese lady’s behavior was wrong and unacceptable. It was uncalled for and in bad taste. I posted a link on my FB that I’ve once blogged about my Malay colleague’s wedding at the void deck sometime this year, an event which I had enjoyed it immensely. Click here to read about it. Let me apologise to all my Malay colleagues and our Malay compatriots. Like you, my feelings are also hurt by those stupid remarks made by a senseless Chinese Singaporean Australian lady. Let me say that most of the Chinese Singaporeans do not think like her. She is one of the rare minority amongst us. The majority of Chinese Singaporeans do not identify with her mentality.

The power of new social media has increased tremendously. Within 12 hours, her remarks on her FB have gone viral reaching to every nook and cranny of cyberspace! Our new social media think-tanks will have lots of research and dissection on hand regarding this real phenomenon! I just attended a workshop on the dangers of new social media last Friday conducted by RSIS-NTU. I understand the real dangers. Those participants expressed their fears of such a situation. They discussed on measures to counter such a situation. Top media officials from various organizations are wary of such missteps which may lead to instability and social anarchy in our fragile multi-racial society. It is no laughing matter.

The NTUC and the government leaders in this case, were quick to defuse the situation with almost immediate damage control before it got out of hand. NTUC did the right thing. They were swift in their action by sacking Amy Cheong. That action in a way dosed off the wild bush fire that was gathering bigger and bigger spreading faster than you could ever imagine.

The PM, ministers and MPs were also quick to condemn such racist remarks. They were quick to put down the anger and hurt felt by our Malay compatriots and all peace-loving Singaporeans by making statements supporting multi-racial and tolerance in our multi-racial compact society. Kudos to all of them. Indeed, they have acted wisely. They know about the destructiveness of the powerful new social media platform, if mis-used. PM’s statement of condemnation – even though he is on official visit in New Zealand was widely reported in the local MSM especially the local radio stations.

Now that the storm within the teacup is over, it is time to reflect and learn from this episode. A potential disaster is averted. Amy Cheong has since repented and apologised.. She has also lost her job. We should now leave her alone.

My Malay colleagues have also moved on and stopped their outbursts when they heard that she was sacked and punished. Things seem to have gone back to normal.

I feel that this Amy Cheong episode won’t be the last. Every now and then, there will be people like her repeating exactly the same mistake. When such an incident happens again, all of us i.e. Malays, Indians and Chinese MUST remain calm and not over-react. Our leaders must also be quick to come forward to clarify and demolish such racial slurs or remarks to prevent them getting viral and causing more damage. We must always remember that a majority of us whether Chinese, Malays or Indians do not condone such remarks and see anarchy in our society. I did my part by contributing comments on FB, online websites like Singapore Daily, Online Citizen, TRE, TRS etc in support of our Malay compatriots and assuring them of our respect and tolerance. As a Chinese Singaporean, I spoke out strongly against Amy Cheong’s remarks. If more Chinese Singaporeans like myself spoke out in the heat of their anger and indignation, I am sure it will help much.

In my WhatsApp communication with Lohcifer of Lohandbehold.com he said “This outburst of Amy Cheong confirms that for some, race-related undercurrents still exist in this fragile society. Bloggers may crave hits but one more blog post about this incident is one more blog post too many. For the sake of preserving this country we call home and maintaining our harmony which has taken years of blood, sweat and tears to build, I strongly urge restraint. At this moment there is no need to add to the cacophony. So the less said, the better. I will not be blogging about this. The key priority now is to continue our peaceful coexistence in the spirit of mutual acceptance and tolerance.”

Click here to read “My fellow Singaporeans …”

A Buddhist boy in Bangladesh had his name tagged to an image uploaded to Facebook. The image was deemed offensive to Muslims and that started a wave of protests and violence which resulted in 7 temples being burned, 5 others destroyed and over 50 houses belonging to the Buddhist minority in Bangladesh being damaged. You can find the full story here. How did that happen? A “friend” of the Buddhist boy tagged him to an image to make sure he sees it. Other “friends” of the boy see it and commented on it, “liked” it, friends of those friends commented on it, “liked” it …. and before long the image is spread to thousands and thousands through geometric progression. Source

Amy Cheong says sorry for Facebook post – Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: The woman who posted offensive comments on her personal Facebook page on Malay weddings at void decks said she’s terribly sorry.

Ms Amy Cheong said in a statement on Monday that she’s aware of the pain she has caused through her insensitive remarks on social media.

She said: “Please see me as a person offering my most sincere apology.”

Ms Cheong said there was no racism intended in her posts.

She said she was trying to rest and the noise was affecting her greatly; and she understands that this was not a valid reason to post the comments.

She added that she was wrong and repentant.

Ms Cheong said as soon as she realised how it has affected Singaporeans, she promptly took down her posts and apologised through Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Ms Cheong, who was an assistant director of the Membership Department in the National Trades Union Congress, was sacked on Monday, a day after she made her posts on Facebook.

Social media experts have also weighed in on the incident.

Many said Singaporeans should be extra careful on what they post online, as it could lead to unfavourable consequences.

Director of Singapore Internet Research Centre at Nanyang Technological University, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, said: “In this case because the community reacted, in a way she has been punished. Because people sort of know now, this lady probably wouldn’t be hired for a frontline job. We will continue to have such incidents in the future. I guess, a lesson here is you should be careful what you post online.”

Ms Cheong’s posts also led to netizens expressing frustration over her insensitive comments.

A page called “Fire Amy Cheong” was even created before 9am on Monday.

And after it was announced that she was sacked by NTUC, hundreds commented on Channel NewsAsia’s Facebook page.

The public also expressed similar frustrations to her comments.

A netizen said: “It’s quite vulgar – the words that she used. I think we shouldn’t tolerate this kind of nonsense.”

- CNA/ck http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1230163/1/.html

PM Lee, ministers respond to racist comments
AsiaOne | Mon, Oct 08, 2012
SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed his shock over the racially offensive comments posted on Facebook by former NTUC assistant director Amy Cheong.

On his Facebook page, he said: “Several of you wrote to me through Facebook about the person who posted offensive comments about Malay weddings on her Facebook page. I was shocked to hear about this. The comments were just wrong and totally unacceptable.

“Just last week I shared a WSJ Asia [Wall Street Journal Asia] article on why people say nasty things online that they would never say face-to-face. I reminded netizens that we needed to be extra careful and watch ourselves. I did not expect to see such a dramatic example so soon. Fortunately the person has promptly apologised for her grievous mistake. But the damage has been done, and NTUC did the right thing in terminating her services.

“Let us treat this incident for what it is: an isolated case that does not reflect the strength of race relations in Singapore. But it sharply reminds us how easily a few thoughtless words can cause grave offence to many, and undermine our racial and religious harmony. Let us all be more mindful of what we say, online and in person, and always uphold the mutual respect and sensitivity that holds our society together. – LHL”

Other ministers have also responded to the Facebook postings made my Ms Cheong.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam is glad that NTUC acted quickly with regards to Ms Cheong.

He posted on his Facebook page: “Good that NTUC acted quickly… The person’s comments were offensive not only to Malay-Muslims, but all the rest of us who value Singapore’s multiracial spirit and who want to take it further.”

Law Minister K. Shanmugam echoed what PM Lee said calling Ms Cheong’s conduct and comments shameful and completely unacceptable.

He posted this on his Facebook page:

“Some friends have asked me about Amy Cheong and her Facebook comments about Malay weddings at void decks. Her comments and conduct are shameful and completely unacceptable. This confirms what I had long suspected and said: there are deep fault lines in our society, based on race/religion.

“The emergence of the Internet and social media such as blogging and facebook frees some people to say what is really in their hearts. Her comments reflect a deep seated racist attitude coupled with contempt for those who are less well off, or who wish to spend less.

“I had said, in 2002, in Parliament, that we should look deep into our hearts and ask what the attitudes of non-Malays are towards our Malay brothers and sisters. We will be a truly civilised society only when we deep in our hearts accept everyone as equal.

“I enclose a copy of the speech. I am glad that NTUC took swift action to terminate her employment. This should send a message that such conduct will not be tolerated.

“Excerpt from my speech in 2002:

“I think, it was ingrained in the psyche of many, though not all, non-Muslim Singaporeans that somehow our Muslim Singaporeans were less competitive, and less able. These feelings and reactions were reinforced by the relative insularity of the lives which many Singaporeans lead.

“Those who were involved in community work and had to reach across racial lines could overcome such reactions. But not many had such opportunities. Our Muslim Singaporeans, of course, picked up on those feelings. And our Muslim Singapore society stood feeling that it was not adequately respected by sections of Singaporean society.

“I would add that these are only my personal views, and others may well disagree. We cannot prove or disprove these things. We can only look straight into our hearts and minds.”

And Acting Manpower Minister, Tan Chuan-Jin wrote that he embraces and celebrates Singapore’s diversity.

He posted this on his Facebook page:

“As I write this, prayers from Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, our oldest Mosque in Singapore, are being broadcasted. This is part of our life. It is part of our landscape…together with the burning of offerings, void deck funerals and weddings, increased parking during Friday prayers or Sunday morning worship.

“Yes, there are many of such activities that can seem to ‘intrude’ into our personal space. Individuals write in to complain.

“But we all give and take. Most live and let live. Many are proud of this colourful tapestry that we have here. This is part of what it means to be Singaporean.

“The reaction of some individuals do not reflect the values that the rest of us hold on to.

“I for one embrace and celebrate our diversity.”

Ms Cheong was fired by the labour movement Monday.

She has apologised for her remarks through her Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as in a statement to the media.

A police report has been lodged against her over the incident, and the police are investigating the case.

Asiaone

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Singaporean Chinese living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes and observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting.
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39 Responses to Amy Cheong: A storm in a teacup?

  1. lepoard says:

    Comments like this made in Malayasia will spark instant riots n killings.

    • Yup. Sensitive issues like race and religion can always explode and get out of hand. We have to be very careful when we make remarks. An educated person holding important posts must be extra careful with her/his public comments. We shld learn from past experiences. But then ppl tend to forget. They have short memory.

    • I don’t think so. Look at Namewee’s rap and numerous other racist comments, videos and parodies from either side over the years. These things have become 家常便饭 to them. All races joined hands in the Bersih movement. Very often, we take for granted what we think we do better than others. Actually, that may not be the case at all.

  2. ex-SMRT taxi driver says:

    Good morning sir,

    With your write-up above and so many articles have published here. It shows that your knowledge is so fantastic that doesn’t match your job.

    大才小用。

    Good luck to you.

    • Thank you, sir for your compliments. I wish you were my boss then my future will be bright. Lol!

      PS: To be fair to my bosses, they offered me an Investigation Post in OCC some time back. It’s more than two grades higher but I not keen. I still prefer to drive trains.

  3. patriot says:

    Hahaha… .. ….

    Talk about divide and conquer

    Gintai, who do You think is the
    Winner of all tis squabble among
    the Sinkies?

    The good men win all playing
    peacemakers.

    Great strategy, i must say.

    patriot

    • It shld be divide and rule. Typical British colonial form of govt?

      • Divide and conquer is the IT version of the original divide and rule.

        • patriot says:

          Divide, conquer and rule .
          Divide and rule without
          victory will not go along
          well with the people.

          When the people fight
          amongst themselves,
          the peacemakers will
          be seen as saviours
          and righteous.

          patriot

          • We shld not fight amongst ourselves. We fight against foreigners. Do you agree?

          • patriot says:

            The Strategy is to make the people fragmented with ploy. How else to divide.
            It may appeared as a silly personal indiscretion or unintentional blunder. Such that it is also fits in as an isolated incidence and none will be wiser for it.
            Anyway, though a storm in a tea cup, the incident nevertheless has shifted much focus away from other more important issues. And that is the purpose.

            patriot

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  5. pumpkin says:

    I agreed that Amy Cheong has made an offensive remarks on her FB that may have impacted on our race relations. She is now contrite and has apologised profusely for her stupidity.
    I do not agree that she should be sacked summarily. It is a bad culture to sack a person for saying the wrong things. There should be due process where such mishap is heard and the guilty allowed to defend herself before a decision is reached.
    Amy’s case show that our effort in integrating the races is still work in progress. If we cannot integrate the component races in our community, how sucessful can we be at integrating the influx of foreigners now flooding our shores?

    • That is serious question facing the rulers and us vs them! Pertinent question that need to be addressed!

    • ang sar lee says:

      I second that NTUC should not sacked the poor girl. A more appropriate punishment will be for her to do community services (just like Sun Xu) to reflect on her shortsightedness on religious sensitivities and an investigation by the police and whatever punishment meted by the Police. Why ruin someone’s (and her future) rice bowl for a silly remark. Dun even our immortals made lots of silly remarks including LKY in his Hard Truth’s proclamation on one race? Also dun everyone of us has a little racism in us including our Malay and Indian compatriots? What she said is very wrong, but the punishment is not appropriate.

      • This is Anfield says:

        People of her ilk don’t do community service! She’ll probably get her poor maid to go do it. This are the kind of people whom everyone in waiting for the big chance for them to screw up mongo-time. Her rice bowl ruined? Hardly. People like her will easily find another job, maybe in some PR agency, or some MNC, where a friend of hers, ie, a fellow beech, will take her in. No need to pity her.

        • ang sar lee says:

          first I assume we both dun know this girl, so why pre-judge her? this is singapore, with a black mark like this your official career is ruined forever. second why the double standard just because she is not powerful and not connected to the rich and powerful?

          • It depends on what mistakes. If you are caught with tons of heroin or other deadly drugs, you will be hanged. Any 2nd chance. If you hit a pedestrian walking on zebra crossing, any 2nd chance? A person is dead and thousands will also die of drug addiction.

            If NTUC and govt leaders didn’t do damage control fast, it could escalate into ugly racial riots. Look at the recent example quoted in Blangladesh which is true and not fiction. Just a picture. No words spoken.

            Maybe, you are too young to understand the pain and destruction of communal violence? Did I hear correctly second chance? Wake up to the real world.

          • This is Anfield says:

            Yes, I don’t know her. But I know her type. As I wrote somewhere, you will meet this type of people either in your current or former workplace. You know these are the people who cannot control their emotions, have no leadership quality, display no EQ, but for some stupid numskull reason, the senior management see fit to accord this type of person a management position in the company! She is the type of person who, after you have spent one whole night or your weekend doing up a presentation, only to thrash it, and say you are incompetent. No, I don’t know Amy Cheong, but I know of many Amy Cheongs, and when they are down, I will dance merrily!

  6. Fallacy says:

    This is a sad episode. Yes Amy did a grave mistake, however the netizens, grassroot leaders and even Ministers have made or should I say “hijacked” the events to serve their own agenda. Besides blow jobs and racist comments by a ignorant fools, we have a lot more critical issues on hand to worry about. I for one am concerned about the valid questions raised on the reserves. In particular I am concerned about conflict-of-interest issues in our political system. Most of all I am really concerned about the indepence of the public institution to protect the interest of the people and not the interest of the political leaders. Come on people this is a isolated event which even so called Mentors are guilty of committing

  7. This is Anfield says:

    From her photo, you can tell that she is one of those brash young Gen Y types who don’t have the bloody maturity to handle their emotions, let alone, handle a senior position in the organisation. There must be something seriously crap about the HR appraisal system in NTUC to allow a person of this character to join.

    Imagine what it would be like, working under such a person! Oh yes, I’ve met people of her type in my current and former workplaces, the smug, atas type, who uses every opportunity to denigrate your work, your personality, your everything, and, worse still, claim credit for the work you do! I’m betting her former slaves must be putting out the champagne to celebrate the departure of the wicked witch!

    Good riddance, and remember to return the office stationery you swiped on your way out.

    • No empathy and lacking in EQ. Educated but not smart. Simple commonsense tells you that it’s going to get you into trouble if you play with racial or religious fires especially in our multi-racial context. You call yourself a Singaporean? Obviously something must be wrong with our education system to produce such an individual. If she is a foreigner, we could understand. But a local Singaporean, really no excuse at all.

  8. Expensive price says:

    Two wrongs will not right anything – if we are trying to build a better tomorrow perhaps it would have been wiser deducting her a portion of her salary and make her work with less privileged amongst ethnic minorities for 12 months – feel this wud modify her perspective making her a better future citizen or we extract our pound of flesh and get instant emotional gratification from the hurt caused by her comment. IMHO intolerance will encourage more of the same whilst tolerance and vice versatile. We have a choice – compliance by fear or consideration by tolerance and grace. We will decide the tenor of our future with our present actions.

  9. Francis says:

    Amy is a racist before the post and most likely be a racist thereafter. So what i am trying to say is that there are many people in Singapore who are privately racist. To solve this is not more racial harmony day, rather people mixing around with people of other race; learning about each other quirks and accepting it.

    • “The key priority now is to continue our peaceful coexistence in the spirit of mutual acceptance and tolerance.”

      We definitely have our own race, religion and language differences but we have to live and let live. Don’t forget that Sg has the highest population density in the world having overtaken HK at more than 7,000 ppl per sq km! Add to that is that ours is a fragile Multi-racial compact society unlike other high density cities like HK or Shanghai etc

  10. agongkia says:

    Possibly and likely she use to Mayin Mayin and make comments in others blog and forgotten that she is making the posting in her face book at that time.I dun think she will be in such trouble if the comment is made elsewhere or in Gintai’s blog as she may be moderated .

    Benefit of doubt should be given.Maybe she is having her period,maybe having pre natal blue or hormone change .She had apologised and lost her job.I feel sad for her and I believe she is harmless.

    Please leave her alone and continue to concentrate on how to make SINgapore a better place to stay.

    • For your info, she is in Perth enjoying herself! Taking a nice long vacation there whilst we cowpeh cowbu here.

      • agongkia says:

        Forget to add that some are saying this is a Wayang .Unusual for one to be terminated within 24 hours without investigation.

        • patriot says:

          Wayang does fits in nicely.

          patriot

          • Azizan says:

            Patriot

            You have a better idea how this should be handled? So far you have been sarcastic and rather non constructive. Just on the sidelines making snide comments while hiding behind a pseudonym. Is this how you show your patriotism? Let’s get something solid from you for a change, ok?

      • WTF says:

        She is an Malaysian turned Australian. Hence she is not on vacation but back home in Australia! Another foreign trash causing trouble here and then run home!

        • You are correct. Malaysian Chinese turned Australian citizen but working here in Sg! Good riddance. She is back to Perth with her ang moh hubby!

          • The says:

            ///Like you, my feelings are also hurt by those stupid remarks made by a senseless Chinese Singaporean lady. ///
            Since she is Australian, you should amend your above sentence. BTW, she is no lady.

  11. agongkia says:

    @Azizan
    Like other netizen in other blogs,nothing unusual for Patriot to think its a Wayang and I understand why they thought so.I dun see him as being sarcastic.
    Personally me,too, think the case can be handle in a more proper way to avoid suspicion and speculation.
    Patriot has contributed many good ideas on other subjects.My reading is that Patriot has better idea but as further discussion by normal citizen or netizen will not help in this sensitive issue and will make matter worse ,he chose not to contribute which I also agree.Me too hope that the case is close soon.

    Amy Cheong had face the consequences.She had apologised.Lets learn a lesson from here and move forward.Let us live in harmony.

  12. Azizan says:

    agonkia

    Why are you speaking up for Patriot? So he now “chose not to contribute”? Don’t forget he was among the very first to make a mockery out of the whole episode, even calling Singapoerans “Sinkies”. To refresh your memory this is what he said:

    “Hahaha… .. ….

    “Talk about divide and conquer

    “Gintai, who do You think is the
    Winner of all tis squabble among
    the Sinkies?

    “The good men win all playing
    peacemakers.

    “Great strategy, i must say.

    patriot”

  13. agongkia says:

    @Azizan
    I can read Patriot’s mind after reading much of his contribution in blogs.To say I speak up for him,you might as well say I speak up for Amy Cheong .This Patriot here that I know use to give his view in different ways and not everyone can understand if you dun read him well .He mean no harm.Saying he chose not to contribute is just my guessing.I believe he haven’t read your challenge to get something solid from him .Even if he does read,he may not necessary need to reply .
    The word Sinkies is commonly use in blogs and I dun find it offensive to be called a Sinky.
    If calling Sinkies can make one happier,you may call me Sinky agongkia and I would be happy.Lets be here not for the purpose of challenging one another.

    Dun let Amy Cheong affect us.

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