The following is the content of an email I sent to several ministers on 18 October 2013.
I write to express my deep concerns about the mainstream press promoting and stoking racism and xenophobia in their reports.
On 18 October, Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin, said, in reference to complaints about discriminatory job advertisements:
“It is important to not stoke up hate and ill will as some are doing. It does no one any good.”
Indeed, over the years, especially the last few, the government has taken pains to remind and urge Singaporeans not to fan the flames of hatred, in particular through racist or xenophobic expressions, among our people.
It is therefore with great concern that we are seeing such postings in the mainstream press which the government had described as “accurate, timely, and balanced” and “professional”.
On the same day that Mr Tan urged Singaporeans “to not stoke up hate and ill will”, The New Paper carried this on its front page: Read More…
What stood out for me with regards to the Fair Consideration Framework, announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on 23 September, were these two lines in the ministry’s press release, attributed to Mr Tan Chuan Jin:
“The framework is not about ‘Hire Singaporeans First, or Hire Singaporeans Only’. What the government is doing is to help them get a fair opportunity.”
The same minister had said, in May, that like TAFEP, he preferred to use the “moral suasion approach to tackle the issue of discrimination at the workplace.”
Mr Tan “was quick to add that for now, the Government prefers to stick to its approach of persuading companies to change. It “is working for us”, he said, as the root cause of discrimination in Singapore is employers’ mindsets.”
His latest about-turn seems to imply that the “moral suasion” route in fact is not working, but at the same time, he is reluctant to introduce legislation to protect Singaporean workers – and is only willing to pussyfoot around the matter by introducing instead a “framework”. One which he at the same time has to reiterate is not about “hire Singaporeans first”.
There are several things about the above two latest sentences in the MOM statement which are disturbing.
One, that the minister needed to clarify that the framework is not about hiring Singaporeans first. For all intent and purposes, the framework is indeed about hiring Singaporeans first, in fact. How else could it be? If it were not, then why even bother to go through this whole exercise?
Or is the minister saying that all he wants employers and businesses to do is for them to just “consider” Singaporeans first only? Like, you know, all you need do is to think this in your mind, the 2 weeks advert on the MOM Jobs Bank notwithstanding.
It is 4 days to Singapore’s 48th National Day. Unlike other years, however, this year’s occasion seems to be different. There is a palpable sense of … disinterest among Singaporeans. A walk around the neighbourhood and observations made elsewhere around Singapore show that fewer households have put up the national flag this year. Of course, this does not mean that Singaporeans do not feel anything for the country – but it does raise the question of whether they indeed do.
I recall earlier years when my block of flats, for example, was decked out in flags, and this was not because of any “coercion” by grassroots members. I know friends who personally went out to buy the flag to hang at their balcony. Besides, it was not only about hanging the flag which gave you the buzz that Singaporeans were excited by the nation’s birthday. It was also the chatter, the faces of the people you meet, the general atmosphere of the country.
Recently Singapore was ranked the most pessimistic country in the world. It is no surprise, although one person tried to rubbish the findings by saying that there is a difference between the Eastern and Western idea of happiness. A hilarious suggestion, of course. But I digress.
I myself am not surprised at the lesser sense of excitement about National Day this year. It is quite easy to understand. Life is not happy here. It is hard. And I am not just talking about the poor, the sick or the elderly. Even parents, especially single parents, are feeling the strain. Our PMETs workers, our SMEs. The erosion of our physical havens and heritage. Read More…
Besides the obvious campaign against the online community which the government (and the government mouthpiece, the mainstream media) is engaged in, there are several pressing matters which seem to have been given little attention by the authorities, the media and the public these last few weeks.
In the same period, we heard ministers extolling the virtues of “good politics”, of “integrity” in governance, of upholding public confidence and trust in our public institutions. The last of these has been a matter of great concern to the government, given how articles in its mouthpiece, the Straits Times, have urged the public to well, have trust in our public institutions.
The blame for the perceived erosion of this trust has been laid squarely – again – on the online community.
Kishore Mahbubani, for example, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, wrote in the Straits Times in April:
“I am extremely worried about the cynicism that the Singaporean blogosphere is developing towards…public institutions. Over time this cynicism could act like an acid that erodes the valuable social trust accumulated.”
2 months later, Straits Times “opinion editor” Chua Mui Hoong echoed Mahbubani’s sentiments.
“I understand the instinct to protect and uphold public institutions. I also agree with diplomat Kishore Mahbubani … that Singaporeans should support the nation’s public institutions.” Read More…