Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dear Liang,

There's a flurry of letters to the media, especially from the minority groups of Singaporeans, calling for the law to protect them from recruitment discrimination. The authorities are not keen to include in the penal code laws to eliminate discrimination in employment, but instead came out with guidelines to prevent such discrimination from taking place.

Now, this move surprised many people. Isn't Singapore, or rather the Singapore Government always keen to erect laws to correct behaviours deemed unacceptable in the society? many examples here, ban of chewing gum, littering fine, no smoking in public places etc etc. So why the authorities choose not to use law to solve the problem in this instance?

America, a truly diverse society, has such laws known as Affirmative Action to protect the minorities from unfair treatment by the employers. But we do know that discrimination is still rampant in the supposedly most democratic democracy. This is a good case of law will not help if mindset wouldn't change.

What is the main reason for not introducing laws is that once there's law means that we are admiting that something is happening. We all know discrimination is employment exists in Singapore, to what degree I'm not sure. But to keep the good clean image of a multi racial society(how we sell ourselves to tourists), how can the government admit that we are facing this problem of discrimination of minority?

Therefore by introducing a guideline, they are looking to kill two birds with a stone. First by letting the minority knows that they are aware of the problem and the guideline is there to help prevent such things from happening. Secondly by having guidelines and not laws means that they are not saying that discrimination is taking place, but are instead taking actions to prevent it from happening.

But we all know, a guideline can never be as effective as a law. Comprehend the two statements:

The university advises students not to bring handphone into the examination halls.
The university states that students caught bring hp into exams halls will be expelled.

So which is more effective in curbing unwanted behaviors? Not to mention about the difference in levels of punishment that can be used in guidelines and rules.


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