Recently, Amy Cheong, assistant director at the National Trades Union Congress, posted an offensive rant on her Facebook about Malay weddings, using explicit language to claim that cheap weddings on void decks (the first floor of many Singaporean apartment buildings) are responsible for the high divorce rate among Malays.
Just as Facebook was used by Cheong to create this media frenzy, the same social media site was used by angry netizens to insist on punishment for her actions. A “Fire Amy Cheong” Facebook page was created and received over 4,000 “likes” before the next morning. Cheong was in fact fired that morning and has since offered a public apology, insisting that her remarks were not intended to be racist or hurtful. She claims that at the time she posted the infamous rant she was trying to go to sleep but was kept awake by a void deck wedding near her home. She expressed that she realizes this is no reason to have made these remarks.
Such a mistake however, could cost Cheong dearly. Lawyers claim that one of three possible outcomes may follow: Either no “further action is taken against her; she is given a warning; or she is hauled to court” and tried for violation of Section 298 or 298A. If such legal action is taken, she could face a fine, up to three years in jail, or both if found guilty of intending to hurt the racial or religious feelings of any person.
Many Singaporeans have weighed in on the attention surrounding Cheong’s Facebook post, some claiming that she should not be penalized for a remark made on her personal Facebook, while others, like Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, insist that “The person’s comments were offensive not only to Malay-Muslims, but all the rest of us who value Singapore’s multiracial spirit and who want to take it further.”
Such racial and religious sensitivity by Singaporeans is understandable, given their volatile relationship with Malays in their history since independence.