Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mediation Result Racist

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.

Happiness,
Dharmendra Yadav

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.

8 comments:

Hum Yee Fan Sang said...

http://humyeefansang.blogspot.com/2011/08/can-you-please-dont-cook-curry.html

Ng Eng Hou said...

Dahmendra,

There is nothing racial here. In Singapore, not only Indians love curry, other races do. What we have here is someone who refused to integrate with our society and expect us to adapt to him/her. Not only do we love curry, we also love durians. If these really smell too much to them, perhaps they should think or seriously think if this is the place for them.

Although Singapore is not America, we also have basic human rights too. Let's start a We Love Curry & Have The Right To Eat Curry movement ! Should we?

www.allaboutlovensex.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Maybe to make the foreigners happy... they might outlaw curry and durians in singapore??
They cannot risk the foreigners to be unhappy with them.. coz they are more important to then than us Singaporeans!!

Jaz said...

I love all kinds of curry. Indian, Japanese, Malay, Chinese styles.. :-D

Jaz said...

N Learning to accept my new PRC neighbours who talk loudly, bang e gates loudly, etc, even is midnite already..

Anonymous said...

I think not only does MOL need to look into this matter but all the decisions mediated by the mediator Marcellina Giam and she need to be replaced. She is obviously not someone in possession of enough common sense for the job. The fact that she had the misjudgement to bring this up as a successful mediation further befuddles me.

Anonymous said...

Two mitigating points -

1. What are the details of the settlement?

Let me venture a guess. Perhaps the Indian family agreed to prepare the curry dish before the other family is back from work. This is instead of after they are back. The Indian family can have their curry everyday, while the other family won't have to bear with the fumes of frying and cooking (have you guys sat close to a bbq stingray stall before?).

If that's the settlement, then what's the problem?

2. What's the spirit of mediation?

Mediation is facilitation of discussion. It is not judgement or assessment about the outcome.

The mediator must be a non-judgemental link/bridge between the parties. In fact, the parties may not even be on talking terms with each other except through the mediator. Plus, the mediator isn't endowed with much powers unlike the courts who can summon witnesses and defendents.

Under such conditions, isn't it too much to ask the mediator to be a defacto judge between the parties, so to say? What authority has he to bend the wills of one in favour of another? In fact, such an act will deconstruct the trust from the parties to be their middleman.

Mediation is a completely different ballgame from legal hearings both in terms of spirit and binding powers.

Anonymous said...

Two mitigating points -

1. What are the details of the settlement?

Let me venture a guess. Perhaps the Indian family agreed to prepare the curry dish before the other family is back from work. This is instead of after they are back. The Indian family can have their curry everyday, while the other family won't have to bear with the fumes of frying and cooking (have you guys sat close to a bbq stingray stall before?).

If that's the settlement, then what's the problem?

2. What's the spirit of mediation?

Mediation is facilitation of discussion. It is not judgement or assessment about the outcome.

The mediator must be a non-judgemental link/bridge between the parties. In fact, the parties may not even be on talking terms with each other except through the mediator. Plus, the mediator isn't endowed with much powers unlike the courts who can summon witnesses and defendents.

Under such conditions, isn't it too much to ask the mediator to be a defacto judge between the parties, so to say? What authority has he to bend the wills of one in favour of another? In fact, such an act will deconstruct the trust from the parties to be their middleman.

Mediation is a completely different ballgame from legal hearings both in terms of spirit and binding powers.