Vincent Wijeysingha on Amy Cheong: Letter from Reader
A reader wrote in requesting for this to be published:
I read Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha’s article with bemusement and yet at the same time, sadness. Bemusement for the blatant run-over of facts and sadness, for it represents how someone can be so focused on opposing, regardless of the truth.
First off, the facts.
The National Trades Union Congress was formed in 1961 after a split in the People’s Action Party led to a consequent split in the affiliated trade union movement. The PAP and the NTUC that emerged represented the core values of a Singaporean Singapore, one that puts Singapore’s future ahead of minority interests, and this is evidenced by the progress the country has made over the last 50 years.
It is therefore important to remember this backdrop in analysing the Amy Cheong case. She was an Assistant Director working for the unions. Any staff, let alone an Assistant Director, should understand and believe in the core values of the organisation he or she works for. In this case, the NTUC, given the unique circumstances of its birth, represents inclusivity and has no room for views like Amy Cheong’s. So her services were terminated.
That Amy Cheong’s services were terminated was widely reported, and it is clear that she was not sacked as alleged by Dr. Wijeysingha. The difference is that under the Employment Act, a sacking or dismissal as it is formally known, requires a due inquiry process, where an impartial panel is formed to accord the employee a fair hearing. Also, the staff is let go of immediately without compensation of annual leave and benefits, whereas in termination cases like Amy Cheong’s, there would most likely have been payment in lieu of notice. So the two are not interchangeable and should not be confused with each other.
Let us now turn to Dr. Wijeysingha’s views.
He states initially that he does not tolerate racism, citing personal examples. As his article progresses, he strangely takes the position that the NTUC was wrong to terminate Amy Cheong’s services even though he agrees that her Facebook postings were racist, something he clearly disapproves of.
He alleges that Malays do not do well in the military, forgetting about soldiers like BG Ishak Ismail, Commander 6th Division SAF and LTC Fahmi Aliman, Parade Commander of the 2011 National Day Parade. He alleges that signboards in Singapore are only in English and Mandarin, whilst a cursory glance at the airport and MRT stations will refute that. He claims the SAP system in schools represents racism, without coherent understanding of the reason why the SAP schools came into being in the first place. He for sure knows this, as his father was principal of one of the top schools in Singapore. Dr. Wijeysingha cites the example of Dr. Nirmala Purushotam “when she became the subject of discipline at a local university upon a complaint that she exposed young students to the ‘dangers’ of Little India” without explaining why there was a complaint and the result of the discipline inquiry, which is a fair and due process that should be accorded to employees (sounds familiar?).
What takes the cake was Dr. Wijeysingha’s flawed attempt to criticise the NTUC for taking a firm and decisive action to terminate Amy Cheong’s services. He argues that because Amy Cheong was a senior officer at the NTUC, and that since her Facebook profile was a public one, the NTUC must have a racist culture so much so that she feels it is the norm to post racist thoughts on a public forum. Even if we ignore the fact that Amy Cheong had publicly shared that she did not know how to privatise her Facebook account, Dr. Wijeysingha’s theory is mischievous at best, and academically desperate at its worst.
So to his claim that Amy Cheong was used as political football – I say, touché, good point, and perhaps Dr. Wijeysingha should indeed stop using her as the proverbial political football.
So what have we all learnt from the Amy Cheong incident? For Singapore, I think we have come off better for the wear. Whether one thinks she should have had her employment terminated or not, the more important point is that almost everybody agrees that racism has no place in our society. This is something Singaporeans can stand proud on, as we know many countries can hardly see such internalising of racial tolerance amongst its people.
On Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha, this incident sadly shows him as a politician who makes decisions based on his enemy rather than on his own fundamental values and beliefs. To him, it is always about the next election and not about Singapore and our common future.
Vincent Wijeysingha will hence always remain a troubled politician and not a statesman.