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.
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.”
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.”
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.