Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The day the Constitution died (again)

To begin with, we don't have much of a Constitution to speak of.  Ours is not a liberal Constitution peppered with extensive safeguards against the abuse of power.  Our Constitution does attempt to limit the exercise of power and there are many restrictions on what the respective organs of state may or may not do.  But, there are enough provisions that allow the state to claim expansive powers and enough provisions to allow for the restriction of citizens rights. 

But, whatever we might say about our (amendment-ravaged) Constitution, the fact remains that it is a document that is a starting point for any discussion in law about the extent of the state's power and the extent of the citizen's rights.   There are 'silences' in many provisions that enable legroom for a pro-citizen instead of a pro-state interpretation. (Just realised that 'pro-state' unhyphenated is prostate.  There is an accidental link between intellectual alignment with the powers that be and a part of the anatomy near the testicular region. Sorry about this unnecessary and irrelevant digression. :-) )

That brings me to the IMF loan case.  Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the leader of the Reform Party, brought an application to the High Court for the Court to rule on the legality of the Singapore government's decision to pledge a loan to the IMF.  I wasn't surprised by the decision of the Court.  The Court has ruled as follows:

"Art 144(1) was obviously intended to apply to the raising of loans and not the giving of loans. It follows that the approval of Parliament and the concurrence of the President are not required for the Loan. As such, the present application did not disclose a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion in favour of granting the remedies sought and it could not be said that there appeared to be a point which might, on further consideration, turn out to be an arguable case in favour of granting to the applicant the relief claimed. On this ground alone, the application for leave must be dismissed."

At issue in the case was the question of whether the government required Presidential/Parliamentary approval for the raising and giving of loans.  Kenneth contended that approval is needed for both.  The government contended that approval is only needed for the raising of a loan and not the giving of a loan.  The reason for the contention is the mode of interpretation to be employed.  Kenneth's Counsel argued for a literal interpretation of the Constitution relying on the ordinary dictionary meaning of the words employed.  The government relied on a purposive interpretation. (This is a technique of statutory interpretation where a law is interpreted on the basis of the objectives of Parliament in enacting the provision; i.e. looking at the 'purpose' behind the provision.)

The Court has obviously accepted the purposive interpretation.  The actual provision in question is:

"Article 144.
—(1) No guarantee or loan shall be given or raised by the Government —
(a)except under the authority of any resolution of Parliament with which the President concurs"

The Court is of the view that Article 144 prohibits the giving of a guarantee and the raising of a loan and not the other way around.  I have blogged about this earlier and have mentioned that this is a technical legal possibility.

So, no surprises as to the result.  If so, why do  I say that the Constitution has died.  Well, there is another concern that I have about the High Court decision.  This is a far more serious matter with far-reaching consequences.  The Court has decided that Kenneth Jeyaretnam does not have the locus standi to make a claim.  (locus standi - the standing of the party.  the question as to whether the person has the right to make a particular claim in court.)

Ordinarily, if the case is one involving a private interest, there is little difficulty in establishing locus standi.  But, if the issue is one of public interest, the law hasn't been clear in Singapore.  The English Courts (from whom we adopt this concept) have moved ahead to give a broad application for locus standi in public interest cases.  Tan Lee Meng J stated the following at paragraph 42 of the judgment:

"The English position on locus standi in relation to the enforcement of public rights has become more liberal. In Inland Revenue Commissioners v National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses Ltd [1982] 1 AC 617, Lord Diplock stated (at 644) as follows:

It is not, in my view, a sufficient answer to say that judicial review of the actions of officers or departments of central government is unnecessary because they are accountable to Parliament for the way in which they carry out their functions. They are accountable to Parliament for what they do so far as regards efficiency and policy, and of that Parliament is the only judge; they are responsible to a court of justice for the lawfulness of what they do, and of that the court is the only judge. "

The judge went on to look at the Malaysian position in Government of Malaysia v Lim Kit Siang.  In the end, the decision of the Court was to decide along the lines of the Malaysian case.  (In any event, the Malaysian case appears to have been given a nod to by our Court of Appeal in PP v Tan Eng Hong recently.)

On that basis, the High Court has now decided that Kenneth does not have the locus standi to pursue this case:

"an applicant in a case involving a public right should certainly be required to show that he had suffered special damage as a result of the public act being challenged and that he had a genuine private interest to protect or further."

The impact of this decision is that in future, any judicial review case involving a public interest will require special damage to be suffered by a citizen before it can be brought before the Court.  And so, one possible avenue of ensuring Constitutional governance is closed.  And so too, our Constitution has died. 

Of course, one might just as well cynically conclude that it was not a living document to begin with.  To be alive, the Constitution must not merely be a bunch of words on a piece of paper.  To be alive, the Constitution must be imbued with the spirit of a people and the values of a nation.  With so much to question about whether we have a coherent set of values or that there is a certain Singapore spirit and in fact, with so much to question as to whether we are even a coherent collection of individuals capable of being collectively referred to as a 'people' and even so much to question whether we are a 'nation', the question of a living Constitution probably doesn't arise.  If something is not alive, it can't die, can it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Minister spoke to Archbishop

In Parliament on Monday, 15 October 2012, DPM Teo confirmed that he had a meeting with Archbishop Nicolas Chia on 30 May 2012.  There had been some speculation over the past few weeks as to whether the Home Ministry or the ISD had visited the Archbishop and exericsed their persuasive skills on the latter. 

I have blogged on this issue before and the brief background can be found here:

We now know for a fact that after the Archbishop's first letter to Function 8 (presumably with sympathetic words for the Speakers' Corner event on the call for the abolition of the ISA), there was a meeting between the Archbishop and the DPM.  On the same day as the meeting, the Archbishop changed his mind and sent a letter to Function 8 retracting his earlier letter. 

I have reproduced the Minister's answer to the Supplementary question in Parliament:

Response to Supplementary Question on Keeping Politics and Religion Separate

Response by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security & Minister for Home Affairs to Mr Hri Kumar’s supplementary question in Parliament (15 October 2012) on whether there a meeting between the DPM and the Archbishop of the Catholic Church Nicholas Chia regarding a letter that the Archbishop had written to the organisers of the F8 function at Speakers’ Corner on 2 Jun 2012.

Mr Speaker, Sir, I’ll be happy to do so. As I have explained in my earlier reply to Mr Laurence Lien, Government leaders meet religious leaders regularly to build mutual understanding and trust. I have met Archbishop Nicholas Chia from time to time over the years, and several times since I was appointed as the Minister for Home Affairs last May.

2. Last year, I hosted him and a small group of Catholic leaders to lunch, so that I could understand better the issues that concern the Catholic community in Singapore. I also visited the Archbishop in hospital when he unfortunately fractured his leg last August. There was no publicity or fanfare for these meetings. The Archbishop knows that any time he needs to discuss any sensitive issue with me, he can see me in private. Likewise, I would have no hesitation to share my concerns honestly and openly with him if I felt the need to do so.

3. Sir, it was in this spirit that I asked to meet Archbishop Nicholas Chia on 30 May 2012 together with the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony (PCRH), Mr Goh Joon Seng. I wanted to understand better the context to the Archbishop’s letter to the organisers of an organisation which calls itself F8, which was going to stage a political event scheduled for 2 Jun at Speakers’ Corner. I was anxious to avoid any misunderstanding between the Government and the Catholic Church. When we met, I explained my concerns to Archbishop Chia. The Archbishop stated very clearly that the Catholic Church has always maintained the position that it does not wish to be involved in political activities, and that the Church wants to work closely with the Government and does not wish to set itself on a collision path with the Government.

4. I was greatly reassured by the Archbishop’s comments, as they were consistent with his record of service throughout his 11-year tenure as leader of the Catholic Church in Singapore. He has consistently shown that he values religious harmony and appreciates the importance of separating religion from politics in our local context.

He has also worked hard to forge inter-religious understanding and harmony, reflecting his strong belief in this fundamental basis of our social harmony.

5. It also became clear from the discussion that firstly, the Archbishop had intended the letter as a private communication to the F8 organisers; and secondly, on reflection, the Archbishop felt that the letter did not accurately reflect his views on the subject, and if used in a manner he did not intend, might inadvertently harm our social harmony. Archbishop Chia then decided on the same day to send a second letter to the F8 organisers to withdraw his earlier letter. The F8 organisers acknowledged the Archbishop’s request and according to the Archbishop, returned him his original letter.

6. Sir, those who know well Archbishop Chia, the type of person he is, and his contributions to Singapore over the decades, will certainly know that he is not one who would endanger social harmony in Singapore. The position he took, in withdrawing the letter, was consistent with his words and deeds throughout his leadership of the Catholic Church and as a respected religious leader in Singapore.

7. Mr Goh Joon Seng, who was at the meeting in his capacity as Chairman of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony, is a retired Supreme Court judge who knows the Archbishop professionally and personally. They have served together on the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony for the 10 years, and have been friends, I’m told, for some 50 years. Mr Goh is a Catholic himself, and he knew that it was not in character for Archbishop Chia to do anything that would entangle the Church in politics.

8. Although I may not know the Archbishop as well as Mr Goh, I have had interactions with him on several occasions. Through my conversations with the Archbishop, we have established mutual understanding and share the desire to respect the religious beliefs of the various communities in Singapore while upholding the wider interest of all Singaporeans and of Singapore.

The Minister states that the purpose of the meeting was for him to understand the context of the Archbishop's letter to Function 8.  So, the Minister had known about this private letter sent by the Archbishop to Function 8 before he arranged for the meeting.  If he had known about it, was his Ministry or the ISD in the first place conducting surveillance on Function 8?  If there was surveillance conducted on the activities of a civil society group, on what basis was such surveillance conducted?  What national security threat did Function 8 pose?  If the threat was merely one of political embarrassment for the ruling party, on what basis is the resources of the security services deployed for such purposes?

Of course, that is a lot of 'If's.  :-)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Race: In the words of Harry

In the wake of extensive online discussion of racist remarks, racial stereotypes and racial intolerance, I thought that it would be useful to highlight the perspective of our first Prime Minister on the issue of race. 

"It is in part the difference between the more intense and exacting Sinic cultures of East Asia and the less demanding values of Hindu culture of South and South-east Asia, that accounts for the difference in industrial progress between Eastern and Southern Asia. The softer and more benign Hindu civilisation spread through Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, meeting the Sinic civilisation on the borders of Vietnam.... Gunnar Myrdal, in his "Asian Drama" voluminously sets out the reasons for lower achievements amongst these peoples [of South and South-cast Asia]. He terms them "soft societies." Their expectations and desire for achievement are lower. Had he studied the Sinic civilisations of East Asia - Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam - he would have come to the opposite conclusions, that these were hard societies."
on the differences between the Malays and the Chinese in Malaysia: "One is the product of a civilisation which has gone through all its ups and downs, of floods and famine and pestilence, breeding a people with very intense culture, with a belief in high performance in sustained effort, in thrift and industry. And the other people. more fortunately endowed by nature, with warm sunshine and bananas and coconuts, and therefore not with the same need to strive so hard. Now, these two societies really move at two different speeds. It's like the difference between a high- revolution engine and a low-revolution engine. I'm not saying that one is better or less good than the other.
But I'm just stating a fact that one was the product of another environment another history, another civilisation, and the other is a product of another different climate, different history." 
"Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development."
"...these were not cultures which created societies capable of intense discipline, concentrated effort over sustained periods. Climate, the effects of relatively abundant society and the tropical conditions produced a people largely extrovert, easy-going and leisurely. They've got their wars, they have their periods of greatness when the Hindus came in the 7th and again in the l2th centuries in the Majapahit and the Srivijaya empires. But in between the ruins of Borobudur and what you have of Indonesia today, you see a people primarily self-indulgent."
"There is only one other civilization near the Equator that ever produced anything worthy of its name. That was the Yucatan peninsular of South America - the Mayan Civilization. There is no other place where human beings were able to surmount the problems of a soporific equatorial climate. You can go along the Equator or 2 degrees north of it, and they all sleep after half past two if they have had a good meal. They do! Otherwise they must die earlier. It is only in Singapore that they don't. And there were good reasons for this. First, good glands, and second, good purpose."

"In the older generations, economies and culture settled it. The pattern of procreation was settled by economics and culture. The richer you are, the more successful you are, the more wives you have, the more children you have. That's the way it was settled. I am the son of a successful chap. I myself am successful, so I marry young and I marry more wives and I have more children. You read Hong Lou Meng, A Dream of the Red Chamber, or you read Jin Ping Mei, and you'll find Chinese society in the 16th, 17th century described. So the successful merchant or the mandarin, he gets the pick of all the rich men's daughters and the prettiest village girls and has probably five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten different wives and concubines and many children. And the poor labourer who's dumb and slow, he's neutered. It's like the lion or the stag that's outside the flock. He has no harems, so he does not pass his genes down. So, in that way, a smarter population emerges."

All of the above quotes are taken from the following article entitled: "Lee Kuan Yew: Race, Culture and Genes" by Michael Barr of the University of Queensland.

The perspectives present themselves as not merely prejudices born out of ignorance.  They are couched as anthropologically sound and logically provable.  If these views were expressed by you and I (or Amy Cheong), what would have happened to us? 

And on a separate note, to what extent has the metanarrative of our society been influenced by these views? 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Race, Responsible Speech and a Hasty Response

If we desire freedom, we must take the verbal 'shit' that comes with it and be able to walk on unfazed, unbothered and unconcerned.  Remember this:  Sticks and stones may break my bones.  Words can never hurt me. 

Let me start this out with the following images.  I am a Hindu.  There'd be some expectation that I should be offended by the following images:
The image of a Hindu deity on a pair of shoes can be quite insulting.  Shoes are often accorded a 'lowly' status and taking out one's shoes and waving it at another is considered both an insult as well as a threat.  So, an image of Lord Vishnu on a pair of shoes would ordinarily (and should, objectively speaking) offend a Hindu.

If having an image of a deity on shoes is bad, this image of Lord Ganesha on slippers takes the cake.  Most Hindus are brought up to avoid stepping on any holy symbol or image.  In fact, most would scrupulously avoid stepping on books, newspapers and any other written material as well (as embodiments of the Goddess Saraswati).  If one accidentally steps on any of these, it is customary to touch the article with one's hand and to place the hand on one's closed eyes (as a mark of apologetic respect).  You can imagine how the slippers above would offend a Hindu.

This image shows some Hindus in India protesting against a swimsuit (or rather protesting against the designer of the swimsuit) containing the image of Goddess Lakshmi.  Hindus were clearly offended by the swimsuit.  No necessity here to explain why they would be. 

Where am I heading with this?  Well, there are 2 aspects to the issue of offensive acts or remarks.  There is the perpetrator and his/her act/remark.  There is then, the reaction of the group of persons maligned by the act/remark. 

The Perpetrator

The person that made the offensive remark or gesture could have done so privately with no intention for the remark or gesture to be communicated in public.  That person could have done so publicly with the intention to shock or offend.  Alternatively, although the person made the remark or gesture in public, he/she did so without realising that it is capable of offending/hurting someone. 

Whilst the perpetrator enjoys the freedom (or ought to be permitted to enjoy the freedom) to say what he wants, we do recognise that some types of speech can cause harm to society (not merely causing offense).  Incitement to commit acts of violence, incitement to commit murder and generally any form of incitement to commit criminal offences should rightly be prohibited.  The person making remarks or gestures must be prohibited by law from inciting crimes.  But, I believe that speech that is capable of offending groups or communities should not be banned. 

Whilst advocating freedom, I do not advocate irresponsibility.  It is axiomatic that the freedom enjoyed by a person must be used responsibly.  Whilst I might advocate the freedom of speech as a matter of law, I strongly believe that this freedom is one that comes with great responsibility.  My blog itself gets its name from Article 14 of Singapore's Constitution (Freedom of Speech and Expression).  I have repeatedly maintained the need for liberalisation of our laws insofar as freedom of speech is concerned. 

If the law permits me to speak freely, I would still not feel that I have a right to say anything I want.  If I may be permitted to do so, there is an ancient Tamil saying from Thirukkural: 

இனிய உளவாக இன்னாத கூறல்
கனிஇருப்பக் காய்கவர்ந் தற்று

Uttering insults whilst there are constructive words is
equivalent to eating unripe fruits when ripe ones are available. 

With a soft word, a kind utterance and a gentle smile, we generate goodwill and harmony around  us.  With harsh words, insults and derogatory comments we manifest sourness and spread hate and misunderstanding.  It is important to remember that the freedom to say what we want should be used responsibly to ideally create a positive environment around us all the time or at least to avoid creating sourness. 

Of course, sometimes when we state the truth, it can hurt.  I am not exhorting the idea of being untruthful.  But, even truth can be presented in a way that is less harsh.  One can be critical without being hurtful.  Sometimes, we have to state the truth forcefully in the face of state power or in the face of social injustice.  But, stating the truth forcefully can be done with compassion and understanding.  Even in the political context, leaders such as Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Bishop Desmond Tutu were capable of rendering forceful anti-establishment rhetoric without violence of thought, speech or action. 

The responsible use of free speech is an ideal.  However, irresponsible use of free speech is not uncommon in those societies that provide for legal protection of speech.  That a person says something irresponsible, however, should not be the basis of legally censoring him. 

That brings me to Amy Cheong.  She has made some facebook remarks that have been objectively acknowledged by many individuals (politicians, public figures and citizens) as being offensive.  In Singapore, her comments could be construed as falling within the definition of Sedition under the Sedition Act.  A seditious tendency is defined in s.3(1) of the Act as including a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

I am not a big fan of this provision in the Sedition Act although I understand the historical context of its origin.  In many Western democracies hurling racial and religious insults is not considered an offence even though it might be offensive to those that are the targets of those insults.  Having said that, one should not condone such behaviour.  The state has no business in proscribing such conduct.  But, the individuals in such a society must aspire to moderate their speech in way that would not be hurtful.   It is for this reason that I do not consider it proper for Amy Cheong to say the things that she said (though she should not be legally prevented from doing so).  

The perpetrators should examine themselves.  The ones that use hate speech and peddle hateful perspectives should question themselves and see where these views are coming from.  They should see for themselves the hurt that they cause to others.  Freedom of speech brings with it the need to express responsible views.  Those that put out their views for public consumption must consider how those views would impact the rest of the community. 

Whether it is Amy Cheong, Shimun Lai, the director of "Innocence of Muslims", Lisa Burke, Sun Xu or any other person engaging in objectively offensive activity, they have to reassess themselves and the hatred that they peddle.  Racist viewpoints and racial stereotypes are often a product of ignorance, limited exposure and re-inforcement of prejudiced perspectives through anecdotal evidence. 

The victims of the insult

Those that end up at the receiving at of the stick when it comes to offensive words/actions have to ask themselves how they want to react.  To begin with, some of us are easily offended as opposed to others.  Some of my fellow Hindus would be really riled up by the images above.  The bikini design would have been particularly offensive.  As the protest image indicates, enough people were upset in India to engage in demonstrations and even Court actions.  Some would react with anger and would then let it pass as not being uppermost on their agenda.  Some would feel offended and yet decide that there is no point in pursuing the perpetrators legally or otherwise.  Yet others like me would brush it aside as inconsequential and not really take offense. 

My own perspective is that the insults, malicious comments, racist views, sacreligious actions and other negative acts are incapable of defining the person that I am.  I don't construct my identity through the perception of others and I don't draw comfort from the high regard that others have of me.  I am comfortable with my own identity on the basis of who I am.  Objectively insulting words/actions have little impact on me.  Something offensive comes my way.  I read, I hear, I observe, I ponder upon it and then I release it.  I do not see the need to react to it.  I wasn't always like this and when I was younger i used to get riled up over quite a number of racist remarks and actions.  Perhaps, age has caused me to mellow down.  Perhaps, I have simply come to recognise that no amount of external attempts by others at constructing an image of me is going to change who I am. 

I believe that those of us that advocate the freedom to criticise the state and its policies should acknowledge the freedom of others to make comments, however negative.  We will not accept incitement to crime.  But surely we can live with the messiness of the rude and crude persons amongst us.  If a person is racist and denies us a job or school or university admission on account of our race, we should rightly make that an issue to be remedied even through the use of the law.  If it just a racist comment or insult, I am sure we can grow a layer of thick skin and not acknowledge or give credence to the racist's comments.

In response to some of the hateful stuff that has been posted, some people have thrown insults and strongly worded condemnations at the perpetrators.  The perpetrators should have expected it.  There is nothing to be shocked about the reaction of anger.  It doesn't lie in the mouth of the perpetrators to suggest that victims of the insult are overly sensitive.  After all, you are being spared the long arm of the law and you merely need to contend with vitriol. 

As for the victims of the insult, I would hope that everyone would exercise restraint.  Whilst anger is understandable, violence is not justifiable.  (Earlier this year I had blogged about my views on the Shimun Lai incident when she made remarks about Indians

The Amy Cheong Affair

In Singapore, in relation to the Amy Cheong affair, the online response has been to turn on Amy Cheong like a lynch mob.  I understand the angry reaction.  But, I fail to see the need for raising the matter up to Amy Cheong's employer (NTUC).  Someone has also filed a police report.  Did we really need to resort to such measures.  Amy Cheong might have made racist remarks (some would say classist as well) but should that be the reason for having her sacked?  Just imagine if every person that makes a racist remark were to be dismissed by the employer.  Where would that leave us as a country. 

I am sure that many of us will realistically acknowledge that racist views are pretty common in Singapore and it is merely a case that much of these views have not been publicly articulated (except when those views are peddled as 'hard truths' by a certain elderly gentleman) or there have been no real avenues for the articulation of these views till now.  Today, with the availability of social media, it is possible for one's narrow-minded views to go viral.  Should every company in Singapore sack its publicly racist employee?

From what I have seen online, some individuals that have in the past written pretty nasty stuff about 'PRC' individuals and FTs, have now turned holier-than-thou and are hurling brikbats at Amy Cheong. 

Some of our Ministers that had advised Singaporeans to be accomodating towards Sun Xu have now condemned Amy Cheong's FB post and even applauded NTUC's decision to fire her. 

Firstly, we have to recognise that no human being is perfect.  Everyone has some level of stereotypical views about other races, religions, communities, nationalities, etc.  Even the best amongst us would have at some point in time expressed racial/racist comments.  We have to have the wisdom to understand that the real racism that we want to fight is the kind that deprives communities of opportunities.  Insults cannot break our bones. 

Secondly, if we must respond to insults, it would be best to do so by pointing out to the person the error of his/her ways.  There is no necessity to descend into the gutter with that person. 

Thirdly, (and this is why I decided to blog on this matter) we have to ask ourselves whether an employee should be sacked on account of his/her facebook comments (however racist they may be)?

Was NTUC right in sacking Amy Cheong? 

On Sunday night when I saw Amy Cheong's FB post going viral, I thought to myself how sad it is that this nation is still finding it difficult to rise above race.  I then came across Amy Cheong's apology (which curiously was a PAP style apology that says, "I am sorry that my actions hurt you" as opposed to "I am sorry about what I did.").   I noticed that there were those calling on NTUC to take some action against her.  I expected NTUC to state that they do not approve of what Amy Cheong said and that they have asked her to deliver a public apology.  I was honestly caught off-guard on Monday when I saw the breaking news online that NTUC had fired Amy Cheong. 

There must be an unfair dismissal somewhere in there.  How did a comment on FB spiral out of control to a point where the very next day (being the 1st working day of the week), the employers sacked the writer on the spot.  Whatever happened to giving notice of termination?  Fine.  It is possible that the contract would have provided for some eventuality that would entitle the Employers' to terminate forthwith.  Assuming that the condition for immediate termination was pertaining to discipline or for bringing NTUC into disrepute, it is still shocking that within a period of less than 24 hours NTUC was able to arrive at a decision that the relevant contractual provision had been infringed.  No due process.  No attempt to notify the employee of the intention of NTUC to fire her on account of the allegation.  No attempt to afford the employee an opportunity to explain herself or to make amends. 

In its swiftness, NTUC probably estimated that it would seize this opportunity to perform a public relations coup.  I can imagine that the close association between the PAP leadership and the NTUC would have meant that criticism of Amy Cheong would have tainted the NTUC and that tainting would then have tainted the PAP as well.  There must have been a flurry of activity within the Cabinet and the decision must have been taken to sack Amy Cheong.  A calculation could have been made that this would portray Lim Swee Say (PAP Minister and Labour Chief) in a good light as a decisive individual willing to make the right decision.  It would have been calculated that this would add to  PAP's reputation for a no-nonsense approach to race related issues. 

Of course, I could be wrong.  Lim Swee Say could have acted on his own and felt that this was the right thing to do. 

Whatever the reason for the sacking, it is truly a step in the wrong direction and a very bad precedent to be set for all employers.  The National Trade Unions Congress, more than any other company, institution or organization should be intimately aware of and highly protective of the rights of employees.  Instead, NTUC (or Lim Swee Say) has acted in a high handed fashion in the manner of a large corporation willing to run roughshod over its employees. 

Apart from the question of whether NTUC conducted a proper investigation of the issues at hand before sacking Amy Cheong, there is the issue of whether a person's personal Facebook posting should be the basis of an employer's decision to sack that person.  It would have been a different matter if Amy Cheong had in the course of her employment insulted a customer by using a racist statement.  (Recently, a SMRT bus driver was disciplined (not sacked) for referring to a passenger as Ah Kua.)  Clearly, Amy Cheong's comment was not made in the course of employment. 

What could NTUC have done?  Since a police report had been made and assuming Amy Cheong was being investigated for sedition, NTUC could have suspended her pending the criminal proceedings.  If she was eventually convicted, NTUC could then have relied on an appropriate contractual clause to terminate her. 

Now that NTUC has decided to behave like a high handed employer, what kind of example does that set?  Well, I guess some of the more cynical amongst us would say that NTUC was never really a worker's union.  It was a body set up to manage workers' expectations whilst bending over backwards for business/corporate interests.   I am, therefore, not surprised, after some reflection, that NTUC sought to 'save face' and to avoid the ire of the lynch mob. 

The reaction against Amy Cheong was speedily and irrationally turning against NTUC and had the potential to turn against the PAP.  Perhaps, Amy Cheong was the sacrifical lamb.