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#26: Hawkers—we say we love them, but we hurt them

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Stop ripping off the hawkers

The details that KF Seetoh has been revealing about the Social Enterprise Hawker Centres have been pretty outrageous. Here’s one example: in this contract, the hawkers are expected to open 24 hours a day, with only two days off. If they shut without prior notice and approval, they have to pay a penalty.

KF Seetoh’s efforts have borne fruit in that the Jurong West Hawker Centre has now said that customers will pay a 20-cent deposit that they’ll get back once they’ve returned their trays. Previously, this 20-cent cost came out of the hawkers’ pockets.

The Online Citizen had previously reported that the hawker management company (owned by Koufu) had signed a contract with a company providing cleaning services (and the fees are pretty high), and that the directors of the two companies are brothers. As it turns out, another company that provides electrical services to Koufu’s F&B outlets is part-owned by a third brother. But NEA says they were up-front about it.

Beyond this, there’s also a wider mindset problem here: the perception and expectation of hawker food to be cheap is a real problem when we don’t think about how much it costs to do, well, anything in this country. It’s just not sustainable, nor is it fair, to demand that hawkers keep their prices low when everything else is going up, and when they’re being subjected to high rents and other overheads.

As a teaser: New Naratif will be releasing our latest episode of Political Agenda on Monday—in this episode, PJ Thum talks to three hawkers about the challenges they face and what they think needs to be done. We brought all our recording equipment and recorded it at a table in Chinatown Food Complex, so tune in to the discussion with the epic sound of a wok in the background! You’ll find the episode on New Naratif on Monday.

The town council trial

I confess I haven’t been following the whole town council thing very closely, because I really find it quite boring, with moments of infuriating pettiness. There are soooo many unspoken things going on here about the political context and the power and influence that the ruling PAP wields; I think Bertha Henson sums it up quite well.

Reports this past week that I’ve seen have been about hauling WP members Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim over the coals over how they’ve managed the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. Senior Counsel Davinder Singh has accused Sylvia Lim of lying—which she of course denies—as well as suggesting that Low Thia Khiang wanted an interpreter so he could have more time to think about his answers to questions. In fact, it was actually Low’s lawyer who suggested getting him an interpreter so he could answer in Mandarin, which is the language he’s more comfortable in. It also seems quite petty to me to deny Low, who is Chinese-educated, the right to testify in Mandarin, even if he can speak in English. Also, Mandarin is an official language of Singapore—why does any Singaporean have to justify speaking in another official language instead of English?

Got some more…

The debate over 377A is an important one to have, but the current focus on LGBT rights has also led to what Ken Kwek refers to as a “barely disguised politics of disgust”. It’s also had an impact on the mental health of LGBT people in Singapore—please remember to check in on your friends, and see below for more information on a drop-in session at Oogachaga.

The government has announced that they are cutting down on exams in schools, so we can move away from being so obsessed with grades. But changes in societal mindset don’t come easy: this feature in TODAYonline finds that anxious parents are now turning to tuition centres (again). These centres are also rolling out more assessments for parents who are concerned about gauging their children’s progress.

And now for a visual break

An overview of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the US-Saudi Arabia relationship that has probably emboldened the oppressive Saudi regime.

Events and announcements

Doctor Drop-In with Oogachaga
The next Doctor Drop-In session organised by Oogachaga will be taking place on 26 October from 8pm. It’s a free, anonymous and confidential session with a doctor for the LGBT community. You can make an appointment for this session here.

Support the Freedom Film Fest!
Function 8 is raising funds for this year’s Freedom Film Festival. This is their seventh year organising it—there’s a great line-up every year so do support them if you can.

In-kind donations needed
AWARE is supporting some low-income families who have identified items that they need. If you have items that you’re looking to let go of, please check out this list to see if there’s anything you can contribute.

About the neighbours

This week’s story from Southeast Asia is from R.AGE, looking at the dilemma faced by the ethnic Chin community in Malaysia. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the situation in Chin State in Myanmar has improved, and so the Chin community are no longer recognised as refugees in Malaysia. This leaves the community in a tight spot: they’re at risk of arrest and deportation in Malaysia, but say they can’t return to Myanmar, as they’re not convinced that it’s really safe.