Foreign entities banned from sponsoring ‘sensitive’ events

From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum

(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.

LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.

Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn.  Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.

And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.

The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?

MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.

MDA censoring two men kissing in Les Miserables

From ‘Same-sex kiss cut from Singapore staging of Les Miserables’, 11 June 2016, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

A kissing scene between two male performers has been removed from the staging of Les Miserables after complaints from the public. The Media Development Authority (MDA) confirmed that action was taken upon “receiving feedback from members of the public”.

The show, now on at the Esplanade, was given a ‘General’ rating as the same-sex kiss was not highlighted in the script when it was submitted for classification, MDA said. The Straits Times understands that kiss did not appear in performances from June 3.

The scene involved a brief peck during the song Beggars at the Feast. It was not in many other productions of the long-running classic. MDA said it reviewed the performance after receiving feedback from members of the public.

After being advised that the scene exceeded its ‘General’ rating, the producers decided to remove it, MDA said. Earlier, Facebook user Alvin Ng posted in a Facebook group that he wrote to MDA to complain about the scene.

He wrote in a June 1 post that he saw the kiss in the second last scene during the opening performance of Les Miserables.

“This was never in the original production but now it’s been included here,” Mr Ng pointed out. He also appealed for others to lodge complaints too, if they saw the scene in other Les Miserables performances. On June 10, he posted that MDA has liaised with the producers of the show to remove the scene.

Do you hear the people complain?

The Facebook group in question is ‘We are Against Pink Dot Singapore’, and the exact words used by Alvin Ng was ‘gay kiss’. Though the play is set around 1832, I’m pretty sure ‘gay’ isn’t used here in the same context as ‘happy’. Also, clearly we’re not comfortable with people pushing boundaries. Sometimes we cut them off completely, like the boundary between Government email and the Internet. Am I right, IDA?

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.03.07 PM

Maybe MDA should ban the entire Beggars at the Feast song too, for it contains some lyrics that would offend morality ‘watchmen’ (as some commenters have praised) like Alvin Ng, such as:

Here comes a prince/There goes a Jew/This one’s a QUEER/But what can you do

It also contains the words ‘buggers’ and ‘blowing’. Yep. Just ban it, MDA, and while you’re at it, you could collaborate with IDA to ban the segment videos from Youtube too. After all, you stopped Ah Mei from singing a song about rainbows.

Personally not a fan of Les Miz, though I did catch the film version starring Borat, Wolverine and Catwoman, but there was no hint of homoeroticism in there at all, just a lot of shouty chest-thumping singing and people raising muskets. Wait a minute, isn’t this whole French revolution thing about ‘pushing boundaries’?

MDA did not elaborate on the context of the ‘brief peck’, whether it was on the lips, forehead or on the cheeks, but label it as a ‘same-sex kiss’ and it becomes grossly distorted from something cheeky, even ‘bromantic’, to a full-blown pro-family, anti-LGBT, pink-dotty issue likely to rile both camps into another futile war. There was also a controversial, impromptu ‘same-sex’ kiss between two actresses during a Star Awards some years back. Not sure if Alvin Ng was complaining then. Those two ladies still have their jobs, and I don’t see the Star Awards producers making sure that men only sit next to women to minimise the risk of any gay kissing whatsoever.

The whole point of a ‘General’ rating then, is that the show is suitable for children, though I don’t see how Les Miz would appeal to young impressionable minds.  What MDA, and the anti-Pink Dot people, should be worried about, really, is same-sex gratuitousness in CARTOONS.

Spongebob kisses Squidward on his nob. DISGUSTING.

Tom and Jerry same-sex slow dancing? UNACCEPTABLE

Who would have thought Bugs Bunny would be a serial sex-sex kisser as well. JUST LOOK AT THIS WASCALLY WABBIT DOING QUEER SHIT!

Smooching Yosemite Sam

Marrying Elmer Fudd. Oh the humanity!

Perhaps in their next run the Les Miz producers should not only ensure they comply with the licensing conditions by removing suggestively gay scenes, or better still rename their play to ‘Miserables’ without the suggestive ‘Les’ in it too. You can push your boundaries elsewhere.

Madonna performing for the first time in Singapore

From ‘Madonna could perform in Singapore for the first time’, 29 Nov 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

Queen of pop Madonna, who was banned from performing her controversial Girlie Show World Tour here in 1993, seems set to strut her stuff in Singapore for the very first time.

Home-grown concert promoter IMC Live told The Sunday Times it is in talks to bring the 57-year-old American star’s ongoing Rebel Heart tour here for a one-night concert for 30,000 at the National Stadium.

…For the Singapore gig to be given the go-ahead this time, The Sunday Times understands some songs may have to be dropped from the setlist.

Bitch, it’s Madonna, the only singer to continue chart-topping since the Michael Jackson ‘King of Pop’ era. I was a casual fan in the 80’s, when she brought the world timeless ballads like ‘Live to Tell’, ‘Crazy for you’ and sugary pop gems like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Open Your Heart’. She was Material Girl, Madge, Maddie, sex kitten, goddess, Kaballah practitioner all at once. When you look up ‘raunchy’ in the dictionary, you will find Madonna in a bustier.

She has come a long way since the days of the conical bra and Vogue. Things spiralled downhill after she remade American Pie. Today, she struggles to keep up with the Youtube and Spotify generation, sometimes ending up like the Auntie in denial gatecrashing a dubstep party when she should really should be line-dancing. Her ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ collaboration with Nicky Minaj is a case in point. Most singers her age would be more comfortable dueting with the Bee Gees instead.

Despite attempts to stay edgy and relevant, Madonna remains revered among the Pop Princess sorority, from the Britney Spearses to the Arianna Grandes. No one denies her accomplishments, but as iconic as she is, the fate of the Rebel Heart Tour remains at the mercy of the MDA, and a certain lot of Singaporeans among our midst who will stop at nothing to ban her from these shores,  the very same people who signed petitions against openly gay Adam Lambert from performing at the Jubilee Year End concert.

Other than being an active promoter of the LGBT cause, there are several more reasons why Madonna may find herself ‘Swept Away’ by the prudish powers that be.

  1. Hentai Demon Rape

In 2002, the ‘Drowned World Tour 2001′ DVD was banned for sale here as it featured an animation sequence of a monster raping an ‘Asian looking girl’. You can, of course, find the link to the video on Youtube.

2. Insulting Christianity

Another DVD ban. In the ‘Confessions’ tour, Madonna sang ‘Live to Tell’ while strung up on a cross.  This coming from the same woman who brought us the blasphemous ‘Like a Prayer’ video, where the cross was sexualised as a cleavage accessory to black lacy lingerie. And that was in 1989, way before Lady Gaga bugged the Christian community with less spicy stuff like ‘Judas’.

3. Random violence against men

The Guy Ritchie-directed video ‘What it Feels like For a Girl‘ was banned in 2001 because it depicted Madonna going on a misandrist rampage. An advisory warning by MDA alone would not be enough to protect our local men from being castrated on site if all the ladies in the house transform into Amazonian cannibals.

4. Lesbian kissing

This.

5. Drug references

One of Madonna’s more recent albums was titled MDNA, which is one letter away from controlled drug MDMA. You may know it as Ecstasy.

6. Kinky BDSM and Androgyny

Till today, the steamy Justify My Love video continues to stir loins. 20 years later we would have Fifty Shades of Grey. How many more reasons do we need to justify her ban?

If all goes well, we could have the first almost-sexagenarian to perform to a sold-out crowd in Singapore. Toned down or not, Madonna could earn more from this single show than all the Air Supply concerts combined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore not ready for gay marriage

From ‘S’pore not ready for same-sex marriage: PM Lee’, 5 June 2015, article in Today

The Republic is not ready for same-sex marriage as the society is still “basically a conservative one”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. While he noted the developments in developed countries, he pointed out the “considerable resistance” from these places too.

“There is a trend in developed countries. In America, they have gay marriage. It is state by state. Not all states have agreed. In Europe, some countries have done it … but there was big considerable resistance,” said Mr Lee. “Even in America, there is a very strong pushback from conservative groups against the idea.”

… “No, I do not think Singapore is ready … In Singapore, there is a range of views. There are gay groups in Singapore, there are gay people in Singapore and they have a place to stay here and we let them live their own lives. And we do not harass them or discriminate against them.

He added: “But neither, I think, if you ask most Singaporeans, do we want the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community to set the tone for Singapore society. The society is basically a conservative one. It is changing, but it is changing gradually and there are different views, including views especially from the religious groups who push back … It is completely understandable.”

The Government’s view is that “where we are … is not a bad place to be”, Mr Lee said. “There is space for the gay community, but they should not push the agenda too hard because if they (do), there will be a very strong pushback,” he added.

“And this is not an issue where there is a possibility that the two sides can discuss and eventually come to a consensus. Now, these are very entrenched views and the more you discuss, the angrier people get.”

If two camps can’t argue over a hot button issue without getting into juvenile fistfights, it speaks volumes about the level of ‘maturity’ of our society and the quality of intellectual debate. It also effectively spells ‘end of discussion’ for marriage equality, as other developed nations prefer to call it, because our Government is afraid of how people would react, tiptoeing gingerly over the issue like someone avoiding a roadside offering to a random deity.

No such worries about the casinos, though. Despite the obvious ‘resistance’, our leaders decided to take a calculated risk and subject people to misery and broken families for the sake of glamour and profit, without caring about what the ‘conservative’ folks think. For a while, we didn’t think we were ‘ready’ to get into the vice industry either. Today we’re one of the world’s most popular gambling destinations. The existence of a Higher Power is also an ancient ‘entrenched view’, and religious people get angry all the time whenever someone denies proof of their God, but that doesn’t mean we need to punish people for being atheists. Unless they’re Amos Yee.

Maybe there is an ethical or philosophical way about arguing for or against gay marriage without bringing our despairingly polarised emotions into it, if only our view of it wasn’t clouded by pedantic doctrine, an aversion towards ‘Western influences’ and an irrational ‘yuck factor’ that critics try to disguise when they defend the sanctity and ‘naturalness’ of one man-one woman. I wonder what they have to say about human-animal marriages, though.

We haven’t been ‘ready’ since 2009, when our law minister brushed off calls to repeal 377A. 10 years from now, we’ll still be that same ‘conservative’ society that doesn’t accept same-sex unions, penalises men for having sex with men and bans Jolin Tsai music videos, while referring to everything else that changes as the ‘new normal’ and self-congratulating ourselves for being an ‘inclusive’ society. MPs who are gays will forever refrain from ‘coming out’, and people like Ivan Heng will still get married anyway, with or without the Government, or Pastor Lawrence Khong’s, blessings. No, not even powerful, Ikea- sponsored Christian magic can make the gay go away.

Today, the government is basically repeating the same mantra that they prefer to maintain its old-fogey status quo, that ‘if it ain’t ‘broke(back), don’t fix it’. That you can do whatever you wish without imposing your agenda on others, and everyone is on balance satisfied without following the rest of the world. But one oft-used assumption that deserves to be challenged is why our leaders constantly presume that the ‘majority’ of Singaporeans are not in favour of gay marriage, without conducting islandwide surveys, or, ideally, a referendum (which I doubt they’d want to spend money on). That is perhaps the only reasonable, though costly, way to settle the ‘majority’ assumption once and for all. The Irish did exactly that, approving gay marriage by popular vote. Whether married gays there are henceforth condemned to be haunted by creepy leprechauns summoned by God for this dastardly betrayal remains to be seen.

Jolin Tsai’s gay wedding video banned by MDA

From ‘Singapore bans Jolin Tsai’s MV’, 24 May 2015, article by Heidi Hsia, Yahoo News.

Taiwanese media reported that Jolin Tsai’s song and music video, “We’re All Different, Yet The Same”, has been banned in Singapore. According to Mingpao News, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has sent ban notices to television and radio stations in the country so as not to air the song or the music video.

It was reported that the song has been banned because of the lyrics that encourage the pursuit of equal rights of marriage for the LGBTI community, which conflicts with the laws in Singapore.

…The music video for “We’re All Different, Yet The Same” was inspired by the story of a lesbian couple who has been together for 30 years. It features a wedding scene between Jolin and featured Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin.

UPDATE 25 May 2015: MDA has clarified that the song is not ‘banned’ here, but rather ‘allowed with the requisite age rating and consumer advice’, yet it has also advised broadcasters not to play the track or the video on channels that are ‘freely assessed’ by younger viewers due to ‘mature content’. I wonder what it does mean, however, when an actual ban is in force. I suppose it means you can’t download it from the internet, order the album/single online, sing it as karaoke or do a cover of it and upload your version. Youtube doesn’t even seek an age verification from you before streaming it, though. And you can still listen to F-bomb loaded rap songs about random raping in Forever 21. ‘Allowed with age rating and advice’ begs the basic question of, well, allowed WHERE exactly.

Jolin’s video raises an interesting question about the gay stigma and the institution of marriage: If you do not have family or relatives to make a critical life-or-death medical directive on your behalf, can your partner do it instead? Also, it has two women kissing. Beautiful women kissing, may I add.

Alas, MDA doesn’t care about ethical debates and only axes stuff if it gets them hot under the collar and breaches their own guidelines. They somehow decided on the sly that a video depicting gay marriage is not quite the ‘right thing’ that our population should be viewing. The fact that it was not released as a media statement like how they shut down A-Mei’s Rainbow suggests that they had intended to contain their act of censorship before it turned viral, knowing full well that one, people won’t be too happy about it, and two, anything banned by MDA will be inevitably the most searched and shared item on Youtube and Google.

If it does eventually blow up, they’d be forced to issue a press release giving the same old same old, and by that time hordes of K-box enthusiasts would have already put Jolin’s song at the top of their weekend singalong playlist, crying at the end of it because it tells such a touching story about love in a short few minutes, and also in shame because Singapore’s probably the only country to ban it. And sneakily too.

As a media ‘development’ authority, however, they continue to severely underestimate how the ‘media’ works. Some years back, a couple of Mediacorp actresses sprung a kinky surprise on the broadcaster by kissing each other on the mouths during a live telecast of the Star Awards. The re-run was censored, but everyone who went nuts over the girl-on-girl action just wanted to replay the kiss in slow motion on Youtube. Who cares who got into Top 10 list of Most Popular Actresses? Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ was also reportedly banned from airwaves, but she JUST PERFORMED the damn song here earlier this month during her Prismatic tour.

In fact, some of the kisses that we DO allow in M18 movies are hotter and wetter than the chaste wedding peck between Ruby Lin and Jolin Tsai. Some movies that do not involve lesbian sex at all get severely restricted because they feature gay families doing stuff that normal families do. At least NLB got more proactive after the penguin debacle. MDA can’t make up its mind if lesbians french-kissing or a loving couple in matching wedding outfits is more objectionable.

MDA also doesn’t care that Singaporeans read widely enough to know that marriage equality is happening in developed countries all over the globe, that we don’t need a controversial touchy-feely video to tell us why it’s worth supporting, even if the government maintains its ‘conservative’ stance. Even the ST has no qualms about publishing an article about Ivan Heng being a happily, married man, notwithstanding that it was a gay marriage. Moral of that story? Find happiness, screw the haters. Apparently MDA thinks this message is as dangerous as someone teaching you how to rig a drone with explosives and fly it into a government building.

So there is a ‘light touch’ after all when it comes to banning LGBT anthems, so light in fact it hardly made a sound, like a tip-toeing ninja assassin in the night, but soon caught out like a cowardly rabbit in the headlights.

‘Bishan gay’ molesting boy in J8 toilet

From ‘Man gets 12 months for molesting boy in toilet at Bishan Junction 8, appealing’, 8 May 2015, article by Elena Chong, ST

A part-time tutor who sometimes refers to himself as “the Bishan gay” was sentenced to 12 months’ jail on Friday for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a mall toilet. Cheng Hoe Huat was found guilty after a two-day trial of touching the student’s private parts in the male toilet of Bishan Junction 8 shopping centre on Nov 13, 2013.

The 52-year-old, who was unrepresented, is appealing. Bail of $30,000 was allowed. During the trial, the prosecution called 13 witnesses, including the victim, his four friends, a child psychologist and teacher.

Cheng had approached a group of boys, including the victim, to “conduct a survey on sex education“. The victim accompanied him to the toilet as he thought Cheng, who was using a walking stick, needed help.

…The maximum penalty for molesting any person under 14 years old is five years’ jail, fine and caning.

Daniel Cheng, or known to wary schoolboys as ‘the creepy Bishan uncle’ or ‘Bishan gay’, was actually interviewed by the ST in 2008, when he was found snapping photos and stealing looks at boys in fast food joints and flashing them his ‘signature smile’. He claimed that RI was his ‘alma mater’ then, and his activities were out of ‘love’ for his Bishan hometown and that he felt ‘responsible’ for the well-being of the kids.

Then regarded as nothing more than a middle-aged, otherwise harmless weirdo and something of an ‘urban legend’ in the area,  the RI deputy headmaster called for students to refrain from ‘calling him names‘, so it’s unlikely that Cheng would “refer to himself as ‘The Bishan Gay'” as the ST reported. It’s like admitting to the police that you’re the Serangoon Slasher or the Punggol Peeping Tom.

For years Cheng has been ridiculed and villainised on social media as a potential sex fiend, like a resident village ogre that townsfolk hurl stones at to keep him away from their livestock. No self-respecting teenager from RI, Catholic High or SJI could step into Coffee Bean in J8 or take bus 156 without looking out for some leery-eyed uncle snapping photos of him as a personal keepsake, or giving him a ‘scary, gay’ smile that sends chills down the spine. Parents may even have taken advantage of the situation, telling their boys to come home by 9pm, otherwise they may get kidnapped and made to be some basement sex slave by the ‘boo-gay-man’ of Bishan.

Some kids tempt fate by getting up close and personal with the icon himself. The photo below would be just as creepy if you replaced Cheng with the silhouette of a ghost. Note that he was facing THE BACK of the bus.

Others, like this ‘thegreenyellow’ blogger, chatted with the man out of curiosity in 2007, and discovered that he was actually a ‘nice dude’ who speaks ‘good English’.

Just last year, a man was caught on Stomp ‘ruffling’ boys’ hair in McDonald’s at J8. Speculations were rife that this was THE Bishan Gay taking his antics a step further, or perhaps this was just a ‘Phase 1 experiment’ of his ‘sex education survey’. It appears that Cheng exhibits more of paedophiliac tendencies rather than scientific inquisitiveness,  so calling a stalker obsessed with schoolboys as a ‘Gay’ may be considered derogatory by the LGBT community. You can say a shirt ‘looks gay’ or a song ‘sounds gay’ without offending most homosexuals, but not if you use it in reference to a child predator. The correct term should be ‘Bishan Paedophile’. Unfortunately, ‘Bishan Paedo’ just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Bishan Gay’ does.

Now that he’s facing jail time and all is peaceful in Bishan once more, maybe it is indeed time for some sex education for our schoolboys, so that any uncle who happens to be lounging around swimming pools staring at boys in tight trunks isn’t automatically labelled as a dangerous, creepy ‘gay’.

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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