NTUC fires Assistant Director for racist comments

The Facebook post by NTUC membership assistant director Amy Cheong, a screencap of which went viral over the weekend. (Screencap: Facebook)

UPDATE at 12:38pm: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has sacked an assistant director from its membership division after she posted offensive comments on her personal Facebook account.

In a statement sent to the media, its secretary-general Lim Swee Say said the trade organisation has "terminated with immediate effect the services of Ms Amy Cheong, Assistant Director, Membership department after establishing with her that she did post offensive comments... on 7 October 2012".

"Regrettably and rightly so, her comments have upset members of the public, including many union members. We are sorry that this has happened. We have counselled the staff and impressed upon her the seriousness of her action. She is remorseful and has apologised for her grave lapse of judgement," he added.

He also reiterated in his statement that the NTUC "takes a serious view on racial harmony in Singapore", adding that it "will not accept and have zero tolerance towards any words used or actions taken by (its) staff that are racially offensive".

Earlier, Cheong made multiple apologies after her profanity-laced post slamming Malay void deck weddings on her Facebook account went viral on Monday morning, sparking a furious backlash on social media.

On Sunday evening, she put up a public status on her personal Facebook timeline, complaining about a Malay wedding that was being held at a void deck near her home.

Among other things, she related Malay weddings to high divorce rates, and asked how society could “allow people to get married for 50 bucks”, peppering her post with vulgarities.

In a separate post, she also allegedly wrote, “Void deck weddings should be banned. If you can’t afford a proper wedding then you shouldn’t be getting married. Full stop.”

According to screencaps of her Facebook timeline before it was taken down, Cheong is a graduate from the University of Western Australia.

Internet users bombarded NTUC’s UMembers Facebook page between Sunday evening and Monday morning, calling for her dismissal and seeking the trade organ’s response to her post.

Cheong’s Facebook account has since been deactivated, but at one point she published an apology on the UMembers Facebook page, which said, “Hi All, I sincerely apologize for my silly comment. It is in no way a reflection of NTUC and the good works it has done and is doing for its members. It was my own bad judgement of which I truly regret. I certainly do not mean to distress the Malay community with my comment, I was just upset with the noise. I truly do not mean to be judgmental or critical. I am truly sorry."

Her apology on the UMembers page disappeared together with her Facebook account, and resurfaced on a Twitter account she subsequently created, seemingly to address the issue.

On it, she started posting repeated apologies for her “silly comment” from early Monday morning, tweeting, “Hi All, It was a silly comment. It was not meant to be ‘racist’ comment [sic] and I do apologize for any distress it has caused.” She has also started responding to users tweeting about the incident with the same message.

Just before 4am on Monday, she tweeted again, “After this episode, i have realized how one generic post can create so many hurtful and cruel posts from strangers.”

Minister Lim Swee Say, chief of the labour movement, also said he was looking into the matter after being alerted about the incident on his Facebook page.

“We take serious view of such conduct and are taking action against her,” he posted in a terse reply on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page called "Fire Amy Cheong" sprung up just before 9am on Monday, capturing some 1,725 Facebook 'likes' on it within about two and a half hours.

A similar page called "Stop Racism in Singapore" started a petition on a status on its page calling for her removal from her post as Assistant Director in NTUC. It had since been liked by 11,700 Facebook users.

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