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Who uses an awards ceremony for kids to kpkb about their rival? 😒

This week: Teo Chee Hean "hijacks" the Edusave Awards, questions are asked about senior leadership at SPH Media, and MOM sticks to mediation-first approach against workplace discrimination.

I was going to cover the latest development in the Lee family feud — Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern going into exile — this weekend, but ended up writing a special issue that was sent to Milo Peng Funders yesterday morning. I’ve taken the paywall down on the article so you can read it online here. Feel free to share it around!

Hijacking student events and misrepresenting the Workers’ Party

The Edusave Awards are given out to Singaporean students to reward their character, conduct, and academic performance. It’s a time to celebrate the hard work put in by kids. There’s something a little sad and desperate about using it as an opportunity to denigrate one’s political opponents. It’s even more facepalm when this involves misrepresenting their proposals.

According to a parent who attended the Edusave Awards ceremony, Teo Chee Hean, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, “hijacked” the event to talk about the Workers’ Party, repeating the PAP’s assertion that the opposition party had made recommendations in 2019 to reduce the supply of new HDB flats. The PAP’s narrative seems to be: if you think the situation is bad now, it would have been lagi worse if we’d listened to the Workers’ Party back then!

As Jom has pointed out, this isn’t an accurate representation of what the WP said in its working paper on HDB resale prices. The mischaracterisation began with a parliamentary speech made by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee (good luck getting him to POFMA himself), and was repeated by other PAP members in different forums, from the mainstream media to Teo’s appearance at an awards ceremony for children who studied hard. When Leon Perera took issue with the PAP’s inaccurate assertions in Parliament, PAP MPs laughed. (I was one of those who argued for a long time that Parliament needs to be live-streamed. I still think it’s better to have it than not, but wow, what a source of aggravation.)

Housing affordability is always on Singaporeans’ minds, but it’s especially worrying at the moment, as property prices are eye-popping at the moment. It was reported in January this year that housing and the cost of living are top concerns that Singaporeans want the government to better address. It’s not just about buying property. Rental costs for both condominiums and HDB flats have gone up too; some tenants have reported that their landlords want to hike the rent by over 70%. 😱

What’s going on at SPH?

We don’t know when the SPH Media Trust committee is going to be done with its probe into inflated circulation figures, but now there’s something else. Even former SPH journalists buay tahan, pointing out that the senior management team of SPH Media Trust is packed with former Accenture (a “global professional services company”) people.

Instead of addressing this openly and letting journalists ask questions in a press conference, SPH Media put out an internal memo that it circulated to staff… which then got reported by SPH media outlets like The Straits Times. Considering the media culture in Singapore, I’m going to assume that this wasn’t an unauthorised leak, but that management okayed SPH reporters writing about the internal memo. Aiyah, if liddat then it’s basically a press release lah. 🙄

SPH Media said that they’ve hired 21 people in senior leadership positions: three directly from Accenture, three who had worked for Accenture at some point before working elsewhere and coming to SPH Media, 15 from other organisations. As far as we can tell from the Straits Times report, the memo doesn’t contain very substantial information, but does have pointless and hand-wavy statements about how everyone in the SPH Media family is valuable. Pfft.

Why is a company like this getting so much public money? The government says it’s because they believe in supporting the media and high quality journalism. I’ve been meaning to write a special issue about this, because I don’t think my thoughts on this topic will fit in one section of a weekly wrap —  I guess this is a sign that I should find some time to actually get that done soon.

Dealing with workplace discrimination

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has made some key recommendations for upcoming legislation on workplace fairness. They say that the proposed law needs to, among other things:

  1. Explicitly define discrimination,
  2. Cover sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,
  3. Protect all workers (including gig and contract workers) against harassment and bullying in the workplace, and
  4. Exempt victims of discrimination and harassment from having to give mediation a try before filing claims with the Employment Claims Tribunal

You can read their position paper here: “Beyond Fairness: A legal framework for anti-discrimination in the workplace”

That last recommendation has already been rejected by the Ministry of Manpower, who say that they’re going to stick to the mediation-first approach.

It’s worth paying attention to why AWARE argues that mediation isn’t always the best way forward, though. Some people who have had bad experiences with harassment and discrimination at work might find mediation to be traumatising and distressing — imagine filing a claim about being bullied by your employer, only to be told that you have to sit down for mediation with them before it can actually go to the Employment Claims Tribunal.

“In short, when the facts are good, a spin dictator trumpets them and takes credit. When they are bad, he co-opts the media to obscure them if possible or redirect blame if not. When his popularity dips, he preserves a relative advantage by casting the choice as between himself and an unappealing pseudo-alternative, while working hard to discredit any genuine rival. Throughout, his aides manage the public agenda to his advantage.”
Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century, by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman

Checking in on the neighbours

🇲🇾 Muhyiddin Yassin, the former prime minister of Malaysia, has been arrested and charged with corruption. He’s accused of receiving bribes and money laundering. He’s pleaded not guilty to everything and claims that this is all “political persecution”.

My first issue of Mekong Review is now stocked at Thambi Magazine Store in Holland Village! 🤩🤩🤩

Thank you for reading this week! As always, please help me spread the word about this newsletter by sharing it widely.