Education is like buying equipment from a mall

From ‘Education just like a retail transaction now?’18 April 2015, ST Forum

(Grace Yong Fui Han): THURSDAY’S report fills me with disappointment (“Former RGS student claims she was bullied, sues school”). I was a Raffles Girls’ School student, from the class of 1979. Somewhere between then and now, we lost something, not just for the school, but also for Singapore. The report highlights the symptom of a serious malaise in our society, if left unchecked.

One might argue that in taking out a lawsuit against her alma mater, Ms Cheryl Tan is exercising her right to be compensated for the suffering she allegedly endured. However, gratitude for what the school and teachers have done, and respect and deference for the office of the educators seem to have gone out the window.

In their place is a sense of entitlement. Going to school is no different from going to the mall to buy a piece of equipment: “I paid a price (worked hard to get the right grades) to get into my school of choice, so it must meet my expectations. If it does not deliver, like the item I bought at the mall, I will sue the school in the same way I sue the manufacturer.”

Is there a mindset now that relationships are valued by what one can get out of them, rather than what one can contribute? If the alleged bullying is true, then, were compassion and empathy absent, in that the students were unable to put themselves in Ms Tan’s shoes to see how she might have felt as a result of their actions?

If education were a product, it would be a defective one from the start, judging by the existence of a billion-dollar tuition industry. Frivolous suits have been filed in the past, though not by students themselves. A teacher once tried to sue MOE for FALSE IMPRISONMENT after she got locked out of school and injured herself during escape. A divorcee sued both a principal and MOE when he found out that his son wasn’t using his surname during primary school registration. Come to think of it, when my Chinese teacher threw my pencil box out of the window because I was playing with it, destroying it in the process, I could have easily sued her for damage to personal property.

Cheryl Tan is demanding $220 K to continue her studies at Wells Cathedral School in England, in addition to the ‘pain and suffering’ including an outbreak of eczema when she was involved in some CCA Chinese Orchestra kerfuffle. My guess is Cheryl is also a rabid Harry Potter fan, because her current school looks like goddamn Hogwarts. If her suit turns out unsuccessful (most likely to be the case), perhaps she can come back from Wells in a sorcerer’s robe and cast a hex on RGS resulting in them dropping a few notches down the schools ranking. Being a cathedral doesn’t mean she won’t get into trouble there either. If bullied by twats again she could jolly well sue not just Wells, but the Archibishop and Queen of England if she wants to.

The first 2 words that come to mind is ‘spoilt brat’, and you don’t find them just in elite schools. Parents have filed police reports for alleged abuse of their precious ones, whether teachers are giving their kids horrible haircuts or verbal lashings. Cheryl’s case may well set an ugly precedent for overprotective parents with the money to take their case from the police post to the lawyer’s office. Bullying is no laughing matter of course, but being disliked, back-stabbed and ganged up in school also serves as a precursor for what you’ll get in the workplace. Unlike school, you can’t just run crying to your teacher, principal or mummy and daddy when a jealous colleague shreds your documents in the printer room before you get a chance to retrieve them. As stressed out as Cheryl may be, it didn’t torment her as much as actual studies did for others. Students have committed suicide by jumping from buildings in the past. Cheryl jumped ship, and landed herself on a luxury liner.

Well if that’s the kind of parenting that Cheryl’s parents subscribe to, encouraging the mentality that it’s everybody else’s fault that you are unpopular in school and you deserve to be compensated for every little insult to your ego, then so be it at their own ruin. You could send your daughter to a centuries old prestigious castle but she’ll come out a chronic damsel in distress rather than a jouster armed and ready to tackle life’s challenges. Even if the bullying were seriously damaging to your academic prospects and you are the religiously litigious type who doesn’t want to engage school counselors or professional help, there’s something called the Harassment Act, which you can file against the offender directly rather than try to embarrass a bedrock institution known for producing some of the greatest minds the country has ever known. One less rotten apple to mar its reputation then.

Duo arrested outside Istana for illegal assembly

From ‘Duo arrested for organising public assembly without permit’, 4 April 2015, Today

Two men between the age of 24 and 25 were arrested by the police this afternoon (Apr 4).

According to the police, the duo had turned up in front of the Istana with placards at about 4pm. Channel NewsAsia understands that duo were holding signs that read “You can’t silence the people” and “Injustice” for about half an hour. They were clad in red hoodies and dark-blue jeans.

Police also said that both of them had refused to stop the activity despite requests from the officers. As such, they were arrested for organising a public assembly without permit, under Section 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, Chapter 257A.

In 1986, a lone man was arrested by the police for carrying a placard outside the Istana asking Israeli President Chaim Herzog to go home.  His charge? Public obstruction. So is TWO the minimum number to organise an ‘assembly’, illegal or otherwise? One district judge debunked the general perception that you needed FIVE or more troublemakers to form an unlawful assembly, that the ‘intention’ was more important than the numbers. For example, it’s not illegal if you have at least 5 people gathering to sing Christian songs of worship without a permit, but a different matter altogether if you’re members of Falungong distributing leaflets or wearing shirts with slogans. Unless of course, the cell group gathering is causing ‘public obstruction’ by sitting on a busy MRT staircase, or singing in the void deck at midnight, thereby rightfully considered a public nuisance.

The ‘unlawful assembly’ law is more than a century old, and its original target was secret society ‘samsengs’  who got themselves into gang fights and riots killing each other. Today, in addition to any form of mob violence, the charge is extended to ‘peaceful demonstrations’, whether it’s expressing your disapproval of visiting foreign leaders, complaining about the CPF or demanding the release of people rounded up by the ISD without trial. You could go in front of the Istana gates, mouth gagged with masking tape and not utter a single word and still be escorted into a police car because of your symbolic act of defiance, whether or not you’re obstructing public property. You could even get charged in the designated protest venue Speakers’ Corner, for ‘public nuisance with common intention’, as Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui were when they gatecrashed a charity event last year.

It appears that the subject of your protest makes a difference. The police didn’t arrest anyone when THIRTY people turned up in brown outfits at City Hall station to protest the suspension of Mr Brown’s weekly satirical columns. Likewise, if I brought 4 friends to Bishan Park wearing pig noses to protest against the culling of wild boars, it’s likely that we’ll get off with nothing more than a stern warning. Or that once fashionable craze known as the ‘flash mob’, where you spontaneously ‘assemble’ in a public area and do goofy things like dance or propose to your girlfriend. How heartless must a cop be to handcuff you while you’re on your knees with a ring in your hand because you didn’t have a permit to conduct some mass orgy in public.

I wonder what the sign ‘You cannot silence the people’ refers to, because Singaporeans have been a god-awful noisy bunch, with the exception of any form of speech that may undermine the Supreme Court, race or religion, or dead dictators. Granted, the two hoodie guys defied police orders and asked for it, but I would imagine an entirely different outcome if the signs had read ‘Free Hugs for Everyone!’ or ‘SG50 is AWESOME!’ instead.

Amos Yee charged under the Protection from Harassment Act

From ‘Youtube Amos Yee charged, bail set at $20,000′, 1 April 2015, article in CNA

Amos Yee Pang Sang was on Tuesday (Mar 31) charged in the State Courts with multiple charges. The 16-year-old, who was arrested on Sunday, had his charges read out to him in Court, and asked for a lawyer to represent him. The three charges were under Section 298 and Section 292(1)(a) of the Penal Code, as well as Section 4(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act.

For the first charge under Section 298, the charge sheet stated that the YouTube video created by Yee “contained remarks against Christianity, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians in general”.

As for the Protection from Harassment Act charge, Yee’s video “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed” by the clip, according to the charge sheet.

The Court also granted him a bail amount set at S$20,000, under the condition that he will not post, upload or otherwise distribute any comment or content, whether directly or indirectly, to any social media or online service or website, while the current case against him is ongoing. The amount has been posted, and Yee is out on bail.

According to section 298, it is an offence to insult someone else with the intention of wounding the religious feelings of that person, meaning if I tell you in the face that I do not think it’s physically possible for Jesus Christ to walk on water and the Bible is a silly pack of lies, and you’re offended by the remark, it means that your ‘religious feelings’ have been hurt, and I’m liable to get charged under the Penal Code although I’m merely presenting an argument based on current scientific knowledge. It’s a different story, though, if I decided to put a pig on the Kaaba. That would be an act of sedition, meaning I’m promoting ‘feelings of ill will and hostility’ among the races.  How does the law draw the line here? Has FHM been charged for depicting Jesus with a shotgun? What does Christianity say about ‘turning the other cheek’?

The more intriguing charge, however, is the one under the protection from harassment act. My idea of harassment is an obsessed fan stalking me outside my doorstep, and sending death threats to my spouse out of jealousy. The victim of the act here is, specifically, ME. Who, exactly, was Amos Yee ‘harassing’? Did he send his link to specific people and force them to watch it? Was he causing trouble to a dead man by loitering around his casket threatening to jump on it? Did he go up to the Lee family and prance around with a party hat and a trumpet going ‘Hooray your dad is dead!’?

If the harassment charge is equivalent to ‘insulting’ a fellow human because you have the ‘intention’ of doing so and it causes them ‘distress’, then we’ll have to round up a whole bunch of attention-seeking netizens and bloggers who so much as declare that a minister’s wife looks like a sack of shit, or influencers attacking other influencers with obscenities or death threats. Hell, I’ll charge the Pizza Hut guy for calling me a pink fat person because he hurt my feelings and I can’t sleep because I’m crying all night long. Amos’ parents have been called ‘useless’ by Facebookers because they can’t control their kid. Maybe they should take action against such unfair accusations as well.

Since when have we become so fragile to, for lack of a better word, MEAN things people say about us, or our dead parents? Come on, give our police a break. They just spent an entire week securing the biggest funeral of all time. Now we expect them to drag a naughty boy to court who hasn’t yet learnt how to toss a grenade or shoot a rifle. (Soon, Amos, soon). It’ll be less taxing on our psychological well-being if we just brushed off such insults, and not go ballistic on a kid like how the Thais would punish people for mocking their almighty King. Like, chill, people. Are we serving justice, or appeasement?

Amos’ crime here is being pathologically ‘insensitive’ to the occasion, and for that I personally think a jail term is too harsh. To be fair, he makes observations, one-sided as they may be, about the country and its leadership at an age when most adolescents are hopelessly apathetic about the state of the nation, spending more time at tuition or playing video games than downloading charts and statistics about how miserable Singaporeans are under LKY’s so-called ‘dictatorship’. Some uncles 3 times his age don’t even bother with the research and continue hating on the Lee legacy because their friends are into it too.

He’s 16. He’s barely growing hair on his balls, and what he needs now is learning from this and grow some ‘perspective’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘tact’, and hopefully he may mature into a formidable political commentator, channeling the eloquence and fury into something beyond acting like a spoilt brat in a Jack Neo movie.  The seeds of discontent have been planted, all he needs is some pruning. That includes the hair.

MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.50.45 PM

In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Xiaxue taking out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)

From ‘Xiaxue takes out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’, 6 Feb 2015, article in CNA

Controversial blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue, has taken out a Protection Order against satirical group, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) for repeated harassment.  The Protection Order, which comes under the Protection from Harassment Act enacted in November last year, is meant to prevent the satirical group from publishing or continuing to publish offensive comments about Ms Cheng and her family.

Making the announcement in a blog post today (Feb 6), Ms Cheng, 30, claimed that she has been harassed by the anonymous entity since 2012, ranging from snide comments on her looks and height to disparaging her character. Her family has not been spared from harassment as well, she wrote.

Speaking to TODAY, she said that the circulation of her home address online was among the reasons leading to her decision to take out the Protection Order. It was published by a netizen on the SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’s Facebook page.

…Should they flout the court order and persist in making insulting or abusive comments against Ms Cheng and her family, they could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

There is one man out there who would be following this saga keenly, a man who scams Vietnamese tourists for a living and was forced to close shop because of online harassment. In fact, Xiaxue may be ‘influencing’ him to do the same to the self-proclaimed vigilante group as we speak. Jover Chew, time to unleash your own Protection Order bro. It costs about $300-500 to lodge a magistrate’s complaint, which is the amount you earn from a crappy second-hand iPhone sale. I don’t think they accept payment in bags of coins, though.

It wasn’t long after the legislation against cyberbullying was enacted last year before a Frenchman summoned a PO against a certain Dr Param, who uploaded a Youtube video with what I’d assume to be offensive and scathing captions about the foreigner after a spat in a petrol kiosk. Param was ordered to remove the captions, the contents of which remain a mystery. There was a time when PPOs or personal protection orders were filed against drunk, abusive wife-beating husbands. Today, if you have the money and the time, you could immunise yourself against disparaging insults and death threats by issuing orders against trolls who don’t physically camp outside your home stalking your ass, but talk trash about you behind a screen. The duress you suffer at the hands of these jerks may not even be a fraction of the trauma that Xiaxue professes to have gone through, and you can still get your PO filed.

It’s like defamation suit ‘lite’, for ordinary people who don’t expect to be awarded $29,000 for being flamed online.  In the no-holds-barred universe of social media, the intention of POs against online hooliganism is to make the Internet a place for shiny, happy people holding virtual hands, though it would certainly also make the web much less, well, FUN. There are ways around the viciousness without going to the courts. You could choose to block comments or followers, delete all your social media accounts, change your email and start your online life on a fresh slate, like how an abused wife would change the locks of her house to prevent a monster husband from barging in demanding for sex, money, or both. Seeking protection also doesn’t stop people from bitching about you openly in public, or sticking pins in a voodoo doll designed in your image. No legal summons in the world can do anything about the centuries-old force of human nature that is gossip.

Most people who aren’t celebrity bloggers, or rather INFLUENCERS,  may choose to simply ignore the bashing as long as nobody’s lurking outside their doorstep and their address and contacts remain secure. After all, haters gonna hate hate hate hate.  Alas, much of our gratification from social media is derived from people making fun of other people, and if today the victims of our collective Schadenfreude have at their disposal a legal tool to shut people up, well, there goes the entertainment. It’s the modern equivalent of pitting a gladiator with a sword vs another with a balloon sabre. No argument, no one-upmanship, no fight to the death, just one person using the code of law against the other over a reputation-slaying insult. That’s it. You can’t defame politicians without going bankrupt and now you have to think twice before telling Steven Lim that you’d rather stuff a used dildo in your ear than hear him sing.

Xiaxue is no angel by her own admission. Some years back she launched her own vendetta campaign against people who dissed her on Facebook, some who probably deserved it, but were deprived of the opportunity to file POs against the Tyre Queen herself. Mean blog posts aside, her Twitter feed is a candid resource of violent, vulgar insults against her critics, blog rivals and innocent human beings who happen to be brought here to take up jobs that Singaporeans spit upon. Even her neighbours’ babies are not spared.

To those who have been hurt or shamed by her before, or had their families unwittingly implicated over a ‘geylang chicken’ remark, SMRT Ltd’s antics are just a sweet case of ‘what goes around comes around’. After all, legal proceedings aside, Xiaxue has a loyal army of fans (at least 40,000 daily readers) ready to defend her honour. A good time to be a lawyer, nonetheless, now being open season for ‘hater’ hunting. Tyre Queen 1, SMRT Ltd Feedback 0.

Public consumption of alcohol to be banned after 10.30pm

From ‘Stricter laws on public alcohol consumption proposed’, 19 Jan 2015, article in CNA

The public will not be able to purchase alcohol for take-away or consume alcohol in public places from 10.30pm to 7am daily when liquor control laws proposed in Parliament on Monday (Jan 19) kick in. The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill was introduced on Monday.

The start time of 10.30pm is aligned with the closing time of most businesses in residential areas, and it is the time by which most community events, including getai, end, said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a media statement. The restriction will apply to all public places to avoid displacement of problems from one area to another, MHA said.

People will continue to be allowed to drink at home, at approved events and in licensed establishments such as bars and coffee shops outside of these hours, the MHA said.

Under the proposed law, Little India and Geylang will be designated Liquor Control Zones and come under stricter restrictions on alcohol consumption and retail hours of take-away alcohol, based on the police’s operational assessment. Such zones are where there is significant risk of public disorder associated with excessive drinking.

Under the new restrictions, you can’t bring booze to a BBQ in East Coast Park at night without applying for a ‘liquor consumption permit’. Likewise if you and your significant other intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day with champagne over a moonlit picnic. The punishment for your midnight revelry is a fine of up to $1000, and if you happen to be intoxicated within the Liquor Control Zone, the police have the right to tell you to ‘leave and DISPOSE of your liquor’, failure of which is a 6 months jail-time. All this doesn’t, however, address the problem of drunk-driving, which accumulated over any festive period may cause more deaths, injuries and blocked roads than your occasional Little India Riot, whether you drink in the day or night. You don’t even need a drop of alcohol to trigger disorderly behaviour. SMRT bans ALL forms of drinks on the train but people still fight over priority seats anyway.

To single out Geylang is no surprise, it being called a ‘powder keg’ and all, but this zonal extension is a ominous sign of ‘nanny-creep’, where you may have LCZs being slowly formed elsewhere for our ‘protection’, from Joo Chiat to goddamn Joo Koon.  Tekka hawker centre near Little India has already suffered from the migration of the drunken blight, with police banning beer bottles in the premises. So what’s a midnight outdoor drinker to do? Stock up your fridge, invite your friends over, get pissed drunk, and get into an indoor brawl over cricket. Well, at least it’s not a PUBLIC disgrace- that is until someone gets thrown out of the 8th storey window in the heat of battle.

What about those Robertson Quay teens, who now deprived of their fun beverage, decide to turn to another drug of choice, nicotine, or something more illicit perhaps? They sure as hell ain’t converting to detox juices. Worse, they may even drink MORE than their usual fill before the curfew clock strikes 10.30pm, after which the police won’t just be stalking people holding onto beer cans, but fishing out bodies from the river into which the intoxicated kids plunged to their deaths.

If the Government is serious about the alcohol scourge, they should ban outdoor consumption 24/7, or risk having public buses impeded by suicidal drunks in broad daylight. It seems like the only thing stopping us from banning alcohol altogether is sin taxes. But as if increasing the tax isn’t enough, now you’ll need to pay for a permit to bring a chiller stocked with Tiger beer to a beach party. Might as well make full use of that hard-earned permit by binging and destroying your livers too. Good luck with that, though, if you intend to hold a party for some Bangladeshi guest workers. You may have to pay the authorities extra for the chaperone riot police.

In fact, with the ban in place and you can no longer buy cheap beer from 7/11 in the middle of the night, alcoholics are being nudged towards the ‘licensed retailers’, meaning bars and kopitiams benefit, so hooray for more sin taxes, and if you have to drive just to get your fix, then you’re giving the traffic police, or the Grim Reaper, more work to do. If the objective is the maintenance of public order and safety, then a supplement Bill should be tabled along with the alcohol curbs. How about the banning of picking and throwing of projectiles, lighting fires, or use of makeshift bamboo poles as spears in public? Hell, even walking around with your face glued to your phone is a safety hazard. Why not ban public texting or watching Korean drama videos on phones too?

Ironically, the tagline for Singapore’s own Tiger beer is ‘UnCAGE’, but what we’re creating here, because we don’t trust people to behave responsibly in the presence of alcohol, are depressing cages of sobriety.

Llao llao discriminating against non-Mandarin speaking woman

From ‘Yogurt chain to raise hiring standards after shunning woman for not speaking Mandarin’, 15 Jan 2015, article by Joanna Seow, ST

Frozen yogurt chain llaollao has promised to improve its hiring guidelines after a local woman was allegedly turned away from a job interview because she could not speak Mandarin.

Indian undergraduate Karishma Kaur, 22, applied for a part-time role at the company’s West Mall branch on Jan 7 but said she was not given an interview as the manager spoke only Mandarin and could not interview her in English.

After she posted about the matter on Facebook, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) received a complaint about it on Jan 12 and is looking into the issue.

Llaollao Singapore’s country manager Edwin Ferroa said he has been in talks with Tafep “to look into how we can better the way we employ”, and added: “We don’t condone such discriminatory behaviour based on race, language or religion.”

He said that the company had already begun probing the incident on Jan 10 and found that the woman who had spoken with Ms Kaur was the wife of the store’s owner who had been helping out. She was not an actual employee.

To date, there are no anti-discriminatory laws in Singapore. The Tafep, launched by Minister Tan Chuan Jin, makes ‘guidelines’, organises workshops to teach employers about ‘fair’ hiring and if necessary, slaps ‘demerit points’ on recalcitrant companies. Since then, the agency has shamed companies for wanting directors ‘aged around 30 years’, ‘Filipinos only’, ‘Malaysian PRs’ and ‘preferred Female Chinese’. Some companies are more specific on who would make ideal employees – people who recoil at the ‘thought of having kids’. Others, while not guilty of discriminatory advertising, may drop you during the interview if you have a barely noticeable baby bump, stutter, or are openly gay.

According to the Tripartite guidelines, you are discouraged from employing people based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability unless exempted by the nature of work. For obvious reasons, you need someone who’s fluent in Mandarin in order to be a tour guide for PRCs, or you’ll have to exclude Muslims if you’re dealing with Bee Cheng Hiang bakkwa. If you’re hiring masseurs, you’d have to say sorry to the guy missing both thumbs.

However, the guidelines do not say anything against hiring people based on their LOOKS. Which means Abercrombie and Fitch can get away with hiring ‘attractive’ people, Hooters can pick and choose employees with a ‘GREAT SMILE’, and our very own SIA can reject any lady below 1.58m tall. A ‘pleasant’ look, as everyone knows, is euphemism for ‘good-looking’. In my experience patronising hip ice-cream or yogurt joints, you’re more likely to be served by young women in shorts than, well, 40-ish uncles in khakis and crocs. Just look at this FB post, which claims that the company hires ‘Singaporeans or PRs only’. Apparently they missed out the ‘Speak no English OK’ requirement. According to Ms Kaur, she was told that the manager of the West Mall stall was ‘from China’. Well well, you’ve got some explaining to do, Llaollao!

LMAO

LMAO!

Another notable absence from the guide is discrimination against one’s ‘sexual orientation’. You’re unlikely to get a job as a Sunday school teacher if you’re a transgender, nor have we heard of openly gay colonels in the SAF. Goldman Sachs, however, has a team dedicated to hiring LGBT staff, which one could counter-argue to be discriminatory against heterosexuals. What about ‘political beliefs’? Just ask Cherian George. Or ‘dietary habits’, like say I only hire vegetarians for my Animal Rescue company because of my belief that anyone who loves animals shouldn’t be eating them as well?

As an employer, it’s easy to slide from ‘discerning’ to ‘discriminatory’. The harsh truth is no one who cares about the survival of their business is just going to hire any Tom, Dick or Harry willy-nilly for the sake of universal equality. If you want to publish a politically correct ad for a beer server in a kopitiam, for example, following the guidelines strictly would mean something like ‘Wanted: A human being (nope, even ‘waitress’ is frowned upon). With a working brain’. Which is a waste of not just your candidate’s time, but yours as well. As for the hugely popular frozen yogurt chain, I doubt this series of events would turn the business cold, though you may want to familiarise yourself with yogurt flavours in Chinese the next time you order.

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