My college friend has written a letter below in relation to recent achievements that an agency of Singapore's Ministry of Law sought to trumpet. Their benchmark in the promotion of racist practices in secular Singapore is hardly something to be proud about. I support his views and I hope the Ministry apologises.
LETTER SENT TO THE MINISTRY OF LAW ON 10 AUGUST 2011
I'm writing in respect of the much publicised mediation on the Indian family cooking curry.
It is hard to believe that your centre turned up such a silly, and offensive result. As an Indian, I am personally offended at the gross insensitivity of the decision and its utter lack of good sense.
There is nothing laudable about it and much that is troubling:
- It shows your mediator's insensitivity to a local family's very acceptable practice (cooking in their own home, and that too a culturally identified cuisine).
- It shows appalling judgment in identifying something as a problem that anywhere else in the world would be laughed out of the room (REALLY.. and if you don't believe that, go ask around).
- It stokes the public disaffection on the overwhelming numbers of foreigners in Singapore by favouring a foreign family making an unreasonable request of a local one.
- The outcome is deeply unfair - to locals, to Indians, and to anyone enjoying the use of their property.
- The outcome has an explicit racial dimension (the whole Chinese/Indian, curry-issue overtones).
- Because of the racial overtones, you've put the mediation program at risk of being sucked into more such issues.
- Because of the racial overtones, you've opened up the possibility that this becomes a point of unhappiness between people of different communities. Did your mediator not know that there are other practices by the different races that can be fodder for similar complaints? Like burning of paper during the Seventh Month, for example? (incidentally a practice that I myself participate in with family and friends each year out of respect for their Buddhist tradition even though I'm Indian)
- The outcome threatens to make criminals out of ordinary people for doing something that does not break the law. ie, if they get into trouble for not observing the decision, it will only be because of your centre's decision, not because of any underlying wrongness (that is the the act would be "malum prohibitum", not "mala in se").
- It totally undermines what is essentially a very positive scheme to help people live happily in close proximity and deconflict / defuse situations when they arise. Your decision decreases the public acceptability of the scheme. Knowing now the silliness that can result from a session at your centres, it is likely that any right thinking person would doubt your mediators' ability to come up with better.
Please do not try and hide behind the fact that the Indian family agreed to the outcome in the mediation. You have a duty and a responsibility to exercise judgment and good sense (otherwise why are you mediating other people's disputes?).
Just because they may have gone along with your silliness does not absolve you of your responsibility to exercise common sense.
Thankfully all the commentary I've seen on the internet about this has been overwhelmingly critical (as is appropriate and necessary) and incredulous. I've my fingers crossed that it does not lead to other complaints that have racial undertones, to test or highlight the decision.
Your centre owes the public, Indians in Singapore, and the Indian family concerned in particular, an apology. Quick action may yet save the mediation program. Trying to make excuses about this or justify it (on any grounds) will only make your position more difficult.
Please, do the honourable thing and take responsibility. Singaporeans deserve at least that.
Harveen Singh Narulla
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Feel free to react below or leave a comment.