Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Did EDB give too much to lure UNSW here? or "Ang Mo Tuah Liap"

Hi Friends,

The article below from represents what I think is a balanced view of the whole UNSW saga.

It seems to many that UNSW had been allowed to come and go as it pleases without a thought for responsibility of its actions.

It apparently decided that it had a good deal going and after signing some MOU’s amidst great fanfare embarked on UNSW Asia.

However, just as quickly, it decided to pull the plug after a new Vice-Chancellor had come on board.

Just like that. No different from going to the store and then changing one’s mind and returning home.

But the fallout is much more complex than that. Unlike flip-flopping about going to the store, there are real people who are hurt by UNSW's change of heart.

Who does UNSW think it is? What kind of institution makes major decisions over a 30 second period ( as mentioned in some news reports) and then at the whims and fancy of some head honcho, just decides to pack up and go as if nothing had happened?

And what kind of institution is EDB to allow UNSW to treat us like dirt?

Before signing on the dotted line, does EDB not have legal teams to pore over the minutiae in the MOU’s/contracts to ensure that this exact situation does not arise? So is someone from EDB going to take responsibility for this fiasco? I do not expect any official to commit Hara-kiri like the Japanese, but an apology would be nice.

Otherwise, what are we telling the whole world about Singapore?- that we will stoop as low as we need to get your business? Have we joined the world’s oldest profession- Whoring?

Is it still “ Ang moh tuah liap” Hokkien for “The white man’s is bigger”?

Suddenly, I feel very inadequate as a Singaporean.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

The faculty of accountability ( 30th May 07)
By Siew Kum Hong- I just found out that the article is by Siew ( no wonder it is SO GOOD!) 31.5.07

Anger, disbelief, fear, shock and tears. Those were just some of the reactions to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Asia's announcement that it was giving up after just one term.

Even as UNSW, the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Ministry of Education (MOE) and other educational institutions (including the three local universities) continue to try to help UNSW students deal with the aftermath, there are other issues that merit debate on a more macro level.

The first concerns the accountability of government agencies.

The MOE had reportedly played an important role in attracting UNSW to Singapore in the first place. Furthermore, all private schools must register with the MOE.

Yet, when students and parents wanted to meet with the latter after UNSW's decision, the MOE's response was that UNSW had ultimate responsibility.

As for the EDB, it had sealed the deal with UNSW and had invested heavily in the project. Yet, it has declined to reveal the losses resulting from UNSW's pullout.

While disclosing the figures could affect the EDB's bargaining position in future negotiations with other universities, the fact remains that this is taxpayers' money. The Financial Times has reported the amount to be as high as $80 million.

The EDB has also not provided information on how the deal was structured. What sort of guarantees and commitments were extracted from UNSW? How could UNSW simply quit after just one term, when construction work on the new campus was already underway, apparently without having to pay compensation?

Did we give away too much to lure UNSW here?

The onus is on the EDB to explain what had happened and give an indication of our losses, while not compromising its ability to negotiate future deals.

Its continued silence does not sit well with Singaporeans, particularly in light of the Public Accounts Committee's recent findings of significant lapses in the EDB's internal controls and governance.

Singaporeans expect greater accountability from ministers and civil servants, given the recent public service pay hike. The handling of this case may not have met the enhanced standards expected by the public.

A more fundamental question concerns the Singapore model, which relies heavily on foreign investments to drive the economy. UNSW's departure demonstrates the risks inherent in playing this game, especially in an increasingly globalised world where competitors are everywhere and funds come and go easily.

Investors are understandably fickle, coming to seek returns and leaving if there are none. As with UNSW and other multinational corporations, when they pull out, Singaporeans have to pick up the pieces, whether they be lost jobs, missed opportunities or dashed dreams.

This could come without warning, such as when there is a management change and hardnosed businessmen such as UNSW vice-chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer disagree with the previous decisions made.

So long as we persist with this economic model, the risk will remain. I am not saying we should abandon this model — it has served us well in the past, and it could continue to work for the future.

But we have to be aware of the inherent risks, make sure our eyes are open to what could happen if things go wrong, and do our best to mitigate the risks.

Just as foreign investments have a multiplier effect on the economy, the negative repercussions of capital outflows will similarly be amplified.

And that brings us back to the EDB's role in attracting investments. Yes, capital should be able to flow in and out of Singapore freely, and we cannot stop an investor from leaving.

But surely it is not too much to ask that where public funds are spent to entice foreign investments, we also extract some assurances and commitments to stay in Singapore. This not only minimises the wastage of taxpayers' money, but also mitigates the risk of lives being disrupted by premature departures.

Ultimately, our model of foreign investments requires us to keep foreign investors happy, to ensure that the business case presented is realistic and justifiable, and to ensure a long-term binding commitment.

But, at the same time, we must not lose sight of the need to grow indigenous players who can compete internationally while retaining local roots.

Otherwise, we will always remain hostage to the whims of foreign investors.
- /so

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aung San Suu Kyi: Yet another year in detention!

Hi Friends,

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Edmund Burke Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)

It is shameful that in this day and age, Myanmar continues to mistreat its own people with impunity and in total disregard to basic human rights.

Efforts to free Aung San Suu Kyi are made more difficult by countries like energy-hungry China who are eyeing her resources.

More should be done to get the Nobel Peace Prize winner freed!

I wrote this (Does Myanmar deserve ASEAN) in July 2006 and NOTHING has changed since then!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

1. Burma extends Suu Kyi's detention

Burma's military junta has extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by one year, officials say.

25 May 2007 BBC News

The move was swiftly condemned by the United States, which called for Ms Suu Kyi's immediate release.

The pro-democracy leader's latest period of detention, which began in May 2003, had been due to expire on Sunday.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent 11 of the last 18 years under house arrest. In 1990 her National League for Democracy won polls that were annulled by the army.

She has never been allowed to take power.

The extension order was widely expected, as under Burmese law Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest must be renewed every 12 months.

A US State Department spokesman described the decision as "unfortunate" and "condemnable", and urged other countries to put pressure on Burma to release Ms Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Last week, 59 world political leaders including former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, called for her release in a letter to Burma's military ruler, General Than Shwe.

In November 2006, Ms Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her house to meet UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari for one hour.

Burma's military junta took power in 1988.

2. China will stay out of Myanmar's affairs


23 May 2007

BEIJING -- China said Wednesday that the detention of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is an internal matter for the Southeast Asian country's government, declining to join other nations urging her release.

China's stance came a day after the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, broke with its core policy of noninterference and pointedly called on Myanmar's military-backed government to release Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "the Aung San Suu Kyi matter is Myanmar's internal affair. The Chinese side hopes to see Myanmar maintain political stability and continue to make progress in the process of national reconciliation."

The discord between ASEAN and Myanmar - one of its members - puts China in a bind.

China has worked hard to build close relations with the group's members, seeing their support as crucial to its economic and geopolitical rise, and is trying to portray itself as a responsible world player. But Beijing has also provided diplomatic support to Myanmar's junta and crucial investment, especially in oil, gas and minerals.

In a sign of this balancing act, China, along with Russia, vetoed a U.S.-backed resolution in the U.N. Security Council in January, calling on Myanmar to end political suppression. However, in doing so, China's U.N. ambassador said Beijing would support ASEAN in its policies toward Myanmar.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

UNSW exits before it enters: Shocking!

Hi Friends,

Shocking news!

UNSW is withdrawing from Singapore- even before it had actually started its campus!

It is not surprising to me.

1.The idea of an education in an overseas instutition must surely be the experience of tasting life overseas! Ask yourself, who would pay the same amount as another undergrad in Sydney, yet study in Singapore?


i. Singapore Kids still tied to mama’s apron string.

ii Those parents who think that Sydney is so dangerous that only safe sterile Singapore is good enough for their kids

iii Foreigners who fall for the spin about Singapore being the gateway to China.

If one wants a Australian degree in Singapore, there are already so many options now. Many Australian programs are already co-hosted by Singaporean partners eg APMI Kaplan for University of South Australia, and they cost a fraction of UNSW’s deal and their programs are quite well run . I know because I am doing the MBA by U of South Australia at APMI. ( I am assuming their undergrad program is as good as their post-grad one)

Anyway, options for tertiary education are so varied now!

1.Local universities : National University of Singapore; Nanyang Technological University; Singapore Management University. Although I was from NUS, I am really excited about what’s happening at SMU!

2.Singaporean polytechnics followed by local U’s or better still- overseas universities

3.Overseas U’s – either straight after O levels or A levels and for Singapore boys, after National Service.

Anyway, I am a freak for life-long education, so my eyes light up whenever I read anything related to education. Any other such freaks out there?

Regarding the UNSW retreat, University of Warwick must be feeling smug now and saying " I told you so!"


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

University of New South Wales Singapore campus to shut in June
By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 23 May 2007 1715 hrs

SINGAPORE: The University of New South Wales (UNSW) will close its campus in Singapore next month.

The announcement came less than two months after its grand opening.

The school said it was facing a financial shortfall of $15 million a year due to lower-than-anticipated student enrolment numbers. Its target was 300 students in its first semester.

But it only got 148 students, 100 of whom are Singaporeans.

If it were to continue building its campus in Changi, it would have to borrow $140 million.

The school said both factors led to an unsustainable financial burden and it decided to call it quits in Singapore.

Students have already paid their fees, which range between S$26,000 and S$29,000 a year.

UNSW says these students will be offered a place at its home campus in Sydney.

There will also be scholarships to help with the cost of travel and accommodation.

UNSW has already invested over S$22 million (A$17.5 million) in its Singapore campus.

It was invited by Singapore's Economic Development Board in 2004 to establish what would have been the first private comprehensive university in Singapore.

The EDB had said the school was expected to contribute at least $500 million a year to the economy in direct spending. The EDB refuses to reveal how much it invested in the school.

The episode is clearly damaging to Singapore's aim to be a global schoolhouse.

But the EDB, which drives the global schoolhouse initiatives, believes it will still reach its target of attracting 150,000 international students by 2015.

There are currently 80,000 foreign students in Singapore.

Aw Kah Peng, EDB's Assistant Managing Director, said: "The learning point is that we have to continue working very hard. Truly, with every institution, it will be different. With each one, we have to put everything we can to think about all these issues of whether we can make it work, how long it will take for us to make it work, what will it take for us to make it work. We will then have to step forward on that basis."

UNSW says it would have stayed on in Singapore if it has been allowed to scale down its student enrolment numbers to 2,000 students by 2012.

But this would be quite far from the original bargain with the EDB which had set a target of 15,000 UNSW students by 2020.

The UNSW closure does not mean that the EDB will no longer work with the school.

The EDB says there are many areas of cooperation between UNSW and Singapore which are mutually beneficial.

These include foundation schooling for university entry, research collaborations, University of New South Wales school competitions and joint programmes with Singapore institutions.

EDB says it will continue to pursue these areas and strengthen its relationship with UNSW. - CNA/ir

Monday, May 21, 2007

The indefatigable JBJ is back!

Hi friends,

JB Jeyaratnam, the one face that is most recognizable as being the icon of opposition politics in Singapore is back!

I have nothing but admiration for JBJ. No one doubts that he has given up much for what he believed in. His legal career, his material possessions and his whole life had been dedicated to the ideal of a multi-party politics of the Westminster model.

For him there is no compromise. Either the whole nine yards or nothing. Everything else is not worth considering. Only a completely free unfettered democratic system is the real McCoy.

Not for him the accommodating styles of LTK and CST. For him, the PAP are just wily predators taking all for a ride. The way the PAP has ridden roughshod over its opposition will forever be a stain on its legacy, notwithstanding the real benefits enjoyed by the people. In his usual unapologetic style he says, “I believe that it’s only confrontational politics that will get you anywhere.”

Believe in him or not, he will not be ignored, even if he is already 81 year-old!

What’s with all these 80 year old’s ?

For the pre-65’s who have lived through the roller-coaster highs and lows with JBJ, we can only wish this Lion of Anson well.

JBJ, Live Long and Prosper ( according to your own unique definition of prosperity)!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

JBJ plans to set up new political party

Today 21.5.07 Loh Chee Kong

AT AGE 81, when most people would be relaxing and spending time with their grandchildren, Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam is instead gearing up for a new challenge. One of Singapore’s most colourful Opposition figures, he announced his political comeback yesterday.

“I intend to form a new party to give Singaporeans a chance again ... I would like Singaporeans to say they want a complete, thorough change in the way this country is
being run. I want them to say, ‘Enough is enough’,” he said. Tentatively called the Reform
Party, Mr Jeyaretnam hopes it will be set up within three months.

“Singaporeans who are happy with the system shouldn’t come to us — they should go and see Chiam See Tong or Low Thia Khiang who are happy with the system,” said the former secretary-general of the Workers’ Party (WP), reflecting his dissatisfaction with the work of the two incumbent Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Singapore Democratic Alliance and the WP respectively.

Any new political party has to seek approval from the Registrar of Societies.

Mr Jeyaretnam, who was discharged from bankruptcy earlier this month, has recruited nine people for his new party, including long-time ally Mr Ng Teck Siong and current WP member James Teo, who has not yet told the WP that he plans to quit the party.

The other seven, who include several lawyers, are “in their 30s and 50s” and “new to politics”, Mr Jeyaretnam added.

Some opposition activists welcomed the news. While Mr Chiam declined comment, SPP chairman Sin Kek Tong told 938Live: “Look at the kind of political culture in Singapore, it is dominated by the PAP. Maybe there should be more parties to counter it.”

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Jeyaretnam, who has lived at his late sister’s home in Malaysia and in a Singapore hotel over the last seven years, said he would move back to strategise for the next General Election, due by 2011.

Disappointed that he could not be discharged in time for last year’s polls, he said he would contest the next election if health permitted — if not, he would build a team to do so. He said: “I’ve been accused of being confrontational. But I believe that it’s only confrontational politics that will get you anywhere.”

The veteran lawyer also said he hoped to renew his practising certificate in “a week or two”.
Asked if the sacrifices he had made during his 36 years in politics were worth it, Mr Jeyaretnam said: “A number of people have said that I’ve woken them up to the grim realities of Singapore — that in itself is an achievement.”

Surprised by Mr Jeyaretnam’s move, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed, who crossed swords with him in Cheng San GRC in 1997, said: “He might have his own reasons for it but he’s been through quite a lot, so I don’t know what else he wants to achieve.”

Mr Jeyaretnam made history in 1981 by becoming the first opposition candidate elected to the post-independence Parliament but lost his seat after a court conviction.In 2001, he fell out with the WP after being barred from contesting elections as he was a declared bankrupt.

That chapter came to close earlier this month, he revealed, when his two sons – one
of whom is Law Society president Philip Jeyaretnam — and “three or four Singaporeans”
helped him raise the $233,255.78 needed to pay off his creditors and have him discharged from bankruptcy.

True to form, Mr Jeyaretnam spent 90 minutes attacking the Government at the press conference.

He also had harsh words for current WP chief Mr Low. He accused Mr Low of having “served the PAP’s cause” in 2001, when the WP refused to contribute towards clearing Mr Jeyaretnam’s debts incurred in 1995 for defamation damages. Mr Low could not be reached for comment yesterday.

WP’s organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong did not think Mr Jeyaretnam was trying to belittle the efforts of opposition activists with his comments. “Diversity is good for the country,” he added. – LOH CHEE KONG

Friday, May 11, 2007

An active Law Society with its heart in the right place

Hi Friends,

It is nice to know that in materialistic Singapore, exemplified none other than by our political leaders, there are still pockets of professionals who have their hearts in the right places.

Kudos to Philip Jeyaratnam (son of JBJ) and the Law Society for speaking out for the silent majority. I am sure the political elite would not be happy with this “champs, chumps, chimps” message, even though it was supposedly meant for internal consumption only.

Just as significant was the salvo from the Law Society when they proposed the scrapping of the mandatory death penalty for such crimes as murder, drug trafficking and firearms-related offences. It proposed that judges be given the discretion in sentencing.

After all, what are our learned judges there for if not to use their God-given wisdom to decide the ultimate fate of the defendants? Why must parliament tie the hands of the judiciary ?

Hence, I totally agree with the sentiments of the report which was drafted by the Law Society committee and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in response to the MHA's proposed changes to the penal code. The report said that "Flexibility in sentencing humanizes the law and reflects the evolving standards of democracy in Singapore society".

In the same report the Law Society is also seeking to decriminalize homosexual acts among consenting men.

Now it just remains for other professions to take a more active stance with regards to their place in our society.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Read and enjoy the two articles

Friday May 11, 4:17 PM

Law Society on 'champs, chumps and chimps'

SINGAPORE: The recent debate over ministerial pay has left Law Society president Philip Jeyaretnam somewhat concerned whether private sector professionals, especially lawyers, will start viewing "national service" with disdain.
He’s not talking about the military kind, but the various unpaid posts that people take on for a public cause.

“Given the materialist spirit of the times, people urged to do their part by way of such ‘national service’ will be forgiven if they sometimes wonder whether they are being taken for chumps,” he wrote in his president’s message for the May edition of his society’s publication, the Law Gazette.

The principle of benchmarking ministers’ pay to what they would otherwise have earned in the public sector may be realistic and assists transparency by disassociating political office with hidden perks.

“But, it can hardly be doubted that one effect of the emphasis on money is to undercut volunteerism and the spirit of public service,” wrote Mr Jeyaretnam, who serves on three statutory boards.

Sharp words indeed from a man who once told this newspaper that he would “speak truth to power”.

In 1986, a certain Francis Seow — Law Society president then, Opposition figure in exile now — publicly opposed the Government on laws curbing foreign publications, a move which led to legislation limiting the Law Society’s ambit to comment.

However, as Mr Jeyaretnam told TODAY, his message “was very much for lawyers to reflect on and was not intended for the general public”.

He established how the ministerial pay issue has a bearing on the profession in his message, Of Champs, Chumps and Chimps, which can be found on the society’s website.

“The public is told that top lawyers earn astronomical amounts. And that top engineers to the image and standing of the two professions?

For sure, the law faculties at (the local universities) will be even more oversubscribed than they are at present,” he wrote. “It is unfortunate that the public may be getting a rather skewed idea of the two professions - there is much less of a gap once one looks below the rung of top earners.”

Given the hype generated, clients would be left wondering “how to square lawyers’ complaints about the very real squeeze on legal fees with the apparent exuberance of top lawyers’ pay”.

He added: “Will they understand that the headline numbers don’t tell the whole story?”

The only way to redress the “misleading glimpse of what it really means to be a lawyer (or doctor or accountant or engineer)”, he said, would be for the Inland

Revenue Authority of Singapore to reveal the average income levels at different stages of a legal, medical, accounting and engineering career.

Lawyer Gopalan Raman applauded Mr Jeyaretnam for “walking the tightrope” between two groups in the profession: “The big-time lawyers who work for corporate clients that can be money machines … the group that harkens after money, and smaller firms doddering between survival and failure.

“Philip has treated the latter kindly because he’s saying money isn’t the be all and end all.”

Lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low, who was Law Society president when a salary benchmark for ministers was first established in 1994, shared Mr Jeyaretnam’s concerns.

“I don’t want the kind of lawyers who come out of law school thinking: ‘Now, I want to make money’,” said Mr Low. “We have a long, proud tradition of public spiritedness.”

In his message, Mr Jeyaretnam also shared a lesson he learnt during an overseas trip.

“When I was in India last year, I asked the daughter of a former Supreme Court Judge whether there was any difficulty posed by the gap that exists there between judicial salaries and private sector salaries.

“She looked at me as if I was mad, and patiently, as if to a small child, explained the tremendous respect in which she and her family had been held.

“As far as she knew, no one turned down a higher court appointment, as the opportunity to make and interpret law authoritatively was of incalculable reward for anyone who loved the law.” - /fa

Law Society urges end to mandatory death penalty in Singapore
dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday April 4, 2007

Singapore- The Law Society has called for the scrapping of
the mandatory death penalty in Singapore for such crimes as murder,
drug trafficking and firearms-related offences, a report posted on
the organization's website said on Thursday.

Instead, it proposed that judges be given the discretion to
sentence offenders either to death or to a prison term.

The death penalty is mandatory in capital punishment cases in the
city-state. Judges have no alternative if a person is found guilty.

"Flexibility in sentencing humanizes the law and reflects the
evolving standards of democracy in Singapore society," said a 55-page
report drafted by a committee of lawyers and academics.

The Law Society is also seeking to decriminalize homosexual acts
among consenting men.

Retaining homosexuality as an offence "cannot be justified," the
report said, noting it is "out of step with legal norms in modern

The proposals were endorsed by the Law Society's council and
submitted to the ministry of home affairs in response to the MHA's
proposed changes to the penal code which left the mandatory death
penalty unchanged as well as the illegality of homosexual acts.

The city-state's widespread use of the death penalty has been
criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International,
which claims Singapore has the highest rate of executions per capita
in the world.

The harsh drug laws caused an outcry in January when a 21-year-old
Nigerian convicted of drug trafficking was hanged and international
pleas for clemency were ignored.

The Law Society's report said that changing the mandatory death
penalty will not reduce the deterrent element.
© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency

Sunday, May 06, 2007

TAFEP: Good step taken against discrimination but more needed

Not fair form to ask these questions?By Lee U-Wen, TODAY
Posted: 02 May 2007 1140 hrs

THE next time you pick up a job application form, it could look different.

Certain fields — such as those asking for your gender, religion or marital status, even the space where you attach your photograph — could be absent.

As part of a national push to fight discrimination at the workplace, a new set of guidelines for fair employment practices will be launched on Thursday.

These are expected to address, among other things, some of the biggest bugbears among job-seekers here — the interview questions and application forms.

Giving TODAY a foretaste of what might be announced, Madam Halimah Yacob, co-chairperson of the one-year-old Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, said existing guidelines were not so "specific" about what the forms could or could not ask.

"Now we are saying that questions such as religion, gender, marital status — even photographs — unless absolutely necessary should be cut out," said the assistant secretary-general of the NTUC. (read full article)

From MOM's website on TAFEP (read full guidelines here)

Dr.Huang: I have appended salient parts of guidelines below.

"IV. Recruitment
6. Consistent and fair selection criteria should be applied at all stages of the recruitment process. This will help ensure that the best candidate, assessed based on the candidate’s ability to perform the job, is recruited to fill the post. Staff involved in recruitment should be trained to recognise and avoid discriminatory practices.

Job Advertisements
7. Employers should abide by the “Tripartite Guidelines on Non-Discriminatory Job Advertisements (2006)” when advertising job vacancies. Selection criteria should be stated clearly in the job advertisements, and should principally be related to qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience. Employers who advertise a position requiring a specific attribute which may be viewed as discriminatory should ensure it is indeed a requirement of the job and state the reason for the requirement in the advertisement. This will ensure that the job requirements are well understood, expand the range of eligible candidates, and avoid negative perceptions of the employer concerned.

Criteria which should NOT be in Job Advertisements
8. Employers should not stipulate age as a requirement for employment. Words or phrases that suggest preference for job candidates of a particular age group should also not be used in job advertisements. Examples include “young”, “youthful working environment” or “fresh school leaver/ fresh graduate”.

9. If the nature of the job is physically demanding such as the handling of heavy cargo, the required physical attributes or other job-related criteria should be clearly described in the job advertisements, rather than indicating an age cut-off. Examples:

a. Candidates are required to load and unload sacks of rice of at least 10 kg each.

b. Candidates are required to handle heavy equipment.

10. Race should not be a criterion for the selection of job candidates as multi-racialism is a fundamental principle in Singapore. Selection based on race is unacceptable and job advertisements should not feature statements like “Chinese preferred” or “Malay preferred”.

11. If a job entails proficiency in a particular language, employers should justify the need for the requirement. This would reduce ambiguity and minimise incidence of misunderstanding between the job seekers and the recruiting party. Examples:

a. Chinese-language teacher for pre-school centre, good credit in ‘O’-Level Chinese.

b. Translator for a leading Malay sports magazine. Proficiency in Malay is a must.

c. Tour Guides to take Chinese/ Japanese/ Indian tourist groups. Knowledge of Mandarin/ Japanese/ Indian dialects is essential.

12. Where the practical requirements of a job dictate the need for employees of a particular sex, the reason should be clearly stated.

Women’s Fashion Boutique requires salesgirl to model clothes while on the job.
Words or phrases that suggest preference for job candidates of a particular gender such as “female working environment” or “waitress” should not be used in job advertisements.
Marital Status
13. Marital status is generally an irrelevant criterion in employment, as jobs can be performed equally well by either married or single persons.

14. Religion is unacceptable as a criterion for recruitment except in cases where employees have to perform religious functions as part of the job requirement. In such cases, the requirements should be clearly and objectively presented.

Job Applications
Job Application Forms
15. After having made clear the job requirements in the job advertisements, employers should not ask for information in job application forms which are not relevant to determining the applicant’s suitability for the job. This includes:

a. Age;
b. Race;
c. Gender;
d. Religion;
e. Photograph;
f. Marital status; and
g. Whether a female applicant is pregnant

16. Requesting such information may give rise to the perception that the employer is making preliminary assessments about the candidate based on these attributes.

17. If it is necessary to require such information (e.g. for security screening), employers should explain the need for such information. This additional information should then be made available only to the person who needs to use it for security screening etc., and not to persons involved in the selection process. Such a procedural safeguard should be made known to applicants.

18. If a standard application form is used which requests information which may not be relevant to a specific position, employers should explain in the form that it is a standard form and require the applicant to fill in only relevant parts of the form.

19. After the selection has been made, the employer may elicit personal data from the candidate for administrative purposes.

Job Interviews
20. Interviewers should be conscious not to stereotype candidates on the basis of their age, race, gender, religion or family status. Questions related to these areas should not be asked, including questions such as whether the applicant intends to have children or any more children. Such questions may be perceived as discriminatory even though there may be no intention to discriminate, and may lead to complaints of unfair treatment."

My comments

Hi Friends,

This news item had been largely ignored by our blogosphere.

To me, this is a significant step taken towards combating discrimination of racial minorities and ageism (discrimination based on age) etc.

Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) correct step forward

The guideline is comprehensive and includes all steps of the recruitment process.

It may not interest bloggers and netizens as these tend to be of the younger set, but older job applicants have trouble even getting an interview for job vacancies, and many end up jobless or as taxi-drivers. This is a nice respite for them. It will however mean that Human Resource departments will have more work to do as they would not be able to sieve out unsuitable applicants at the job application stage and more interviews will be required to find the right candidate. Nevertheless, this is a small price to pay.

Although this is only a guideline and not legally binding, there will be much pressure on employers to conform to these best practices. If the “Classified ads” sections of major papers will accept only correctly phrased ads, companies cannot help but to comply.

Other discriminating practices I like to see removed

1. Removal of “race” from NRIC (National Registry Identity Cards)

In this day and age, it must an anachronism to be sub-classified as separate racial groups and to have this reflected in our identity cards. Remember the ruckus that the James Gomez Saga caused all of us during the last GE? Even though he was classified as “Indian” or is it “Eurasian”?, he still needed to apply to the election authorities to be vetted and confirmed as Indian/Eurasian!

I say remove this item to make a gesture that we are united as Singaporeans and it matters not where our forebears originate from.

2. Discrimination of Singaporeans according to political choice

The HDB should upgrade homes of citizens (85% Singaporeans live in HDB) according to priorities based on objective criteria and not whether the Member of Parliament is from PAP or not. Hougang and Potong Pasir who have opposition MP’s are victims of discrimination and have no realistic chance of getting government help for their estate upgrading.

An independent body comprising competent and non-politically affiliated members should be allowed to decide in a transparent manner which estates need upgrading. Public monies should not be used as political tools to get votes for any party.

Read an old post on this evergreen subject:
Click here :Shocking yet not unexpected ( about upgrading for PAP wards only

3. Domestic maids need more protection from MOM

MOM should take similar proactive steps to ensure that maids, who are amongst the more vulnerable sub-groups in Singapore, are accorded minimum working conditions that other Singaporeans take for granted.

How can we deny them at least one day off a week?

The present “guideline” is one day a month and even this is not compulsory and can be waived if the employer can prove that the maid has “voluntarily” surrendered this “day-off” in lieu of privately agreed compensation. MOM should do the right thing although politically this may not be popular with many Singaporeans.
Read an old post about "Maids not human? Click here

All said, I will give credit where it is due and say, "MOM, well done for the TAFEP".


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan