Level playing field? Favourable treatment to “Foreign Talents” – The Amy Cheong incident

“Racial and religious harmony cannot be meaningfully fostered when the State is required to insulate its people from anything and everything remotely harmful.”Source


Sun Xu, A China-born MOE scholarship holder, for lambasting all Singaporeans by calling us “”there are more dogs than humans in Singapore”, only get a slap in the wrist and was fined S$3,000 and had to fulfil three months of community service before he was allowed to graduate.

Amy Cheong, a true blue locally bred Singaporean Singapore PR[updated 10/10/2012: according to this source, she is a Malaysian Chinese turned Australian citizen but working here in Singapore]  and NTUC Membership Assistant Director, ranted about the noise generated by the Malay wedding at the void deck, the FB’s comments hurt the feeling of the Malay community, faced a much harsher punishment. Not only was she sacked from her job, she also got chasticised from the Government’s big guns from PM Lee, DPM Tharman, Minister K Shanmugam, Tan Chuan Jin and a few others. In contrast, in Sun Xu’s incident Singaproeans were asked to reflect on our behaviours instead.

At the highest level, while PM Lee did disapprove Sun Xu’s action, compare and contrast the tone vis-a-vis that of Amy Cheong:

 “You look at the Sun Xu incident, he shouldn’t have made that blog post. He did. He has been chastised. He has been disciplined. He has expressed his contrition. He’s sorry about it. And I think we should accept that. We should have been able to move on from that and deal with it as one person who mis-spoke.” (Source)

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Lee said he was “shocked to hear about this (Amy Choeng incident). The comments were just wrong and totally unacceptable,” he said. “while Ms Cheong has promptly apologised for her grievous mistake, the damage had been done. NTUC did the right thing in terminating her services”. (Source)

While it is beyond doubt that Amy Cheong was wrong about the rant and is highly inappropriate and unprofessional, the harsh treatment she received makes me why are we harsher on our own kind and looser to the so-called “Foreign Talents”. It certainly propagates and reinforces the impression that many among us that we are treated like a second class citizens by our own Government in our own country [read more:The SHAMEFUL politicization of the AMY CHEONG Incident].

As a netizen said, a more appropriate punishment for her should be community services (to reflect on her shortsightedness on religious sensitivities) and perhaps an investigation by the police and the ensuing punishment meted by the Police rather than NTUC. Amy Cheong has since deleted the post and sincerely apologise for her mistake.

We are all a little racist in everyone of us, I am sure some Indians or Malays themselves may have ranted about racists remarks in their private spaces as well [further reading:The problem of a racialised mind (Todayonline 11 Oct 2012)]. I leave you with a quote from publichouse.sg:

“Our reactions baying for blood is not justice, nor is it merciful, and hardly humble at all. After all, like what some have pointed out (and quoted from Avenue Q which is just in town) – everyone is a little bit racist. We have to remember justice and legality do not mean the same thing. I personally think that the law is unhelpful – punishing someone for making a racist remark only drives racism into hiding. Some people have commented that Amy Cheong was stupid in making those remarks of Facebook. Does that mean that if she made those remarks offline, in front of people who agreed with her, that makes her remarks ok? We need to have open conversations about how racism if we are to deal with these deep seated ideas.”

[Extract Todayonline’s 9 Oct 2012] National University of Singapore new media and communications lecturer Aaron Ng noted that there was “no real benefit from sacking” Ms Cheong. “Strong condemnation does not equal to a witch hunt. An inclusive society does not exclude; we should try to understand and correct racist ideas after condemning them,” he said.  Still, he stressed that “racially insensitive remarks can never be justified, and no organisation would risk their image being tarnished by being associated with a person perceived as being racist”


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