Ministers wade into Sim Lim Square saga

Ministers wade into Sim Lim Square saga
Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran (from left) and Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin have weighed in on the Sim Lim Square saga surrounding retailer Jover Chew.

SINGAPORE - Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran weighed in on the Sim Lim Square saga on Saturday with a Facebook post that said that some people in Singapore "have gone too far" in trying to teach the errant retailer a lesson, and said that the police is looking into "a related report on harassment".

In his post on Saturday evening, Mr Iswaran said that "people have expressed deep concerns over the recent incident at Sim Lim Square", referring to reports of a retailer in Sim Lim Square refunding a customer $1,010 in coins and causing a Vietnamese tourist to kneel and beg for a refund.

Mr Iswaran said that he agreed that the sales tactics employed are unfair to buyers and that "we must not let such unethical practices tarnish Singapore's hard-earned reputation". He said that he was glad that many have spoken up against such behaviours, and that some have even come forward to help the victim, referring to a crowdfunding effort initiated by Mr Gabriel Kang to buy the Vietnamese tourist an iPhone 6.

However, Mr Iswaran went on to say that "some have gone too far", revealing that the police are looking into reports regarding the alleged cheating case as well as "a related report on harassment".

Enraged netizens had resorted to cyber "vigilantism" to shame the errant retailer, Jover Chew, by revealing details like his NRIC number, addresses, car registration plate, and even the business and NRIC number of his wife. It was reported previously that Chew's wife had made a police report about harassment.

Mr Iswaran urged the people to "exercise restraint and do not take matters into your own hands". "Let due process take its course," he wrote.

He also said that the Government is studying other measures to protect consumers, but that it would take time, "especially if we need to amend our laws". He said that the Government is working with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and other parties to educate consumers on their rights and how they can seek recourse when necessary.

However, some netizens have responded to the post by pointing out that Case has been powerless to stop these errant retailers for decades.

They also said that the police have turned up at these disputes previously, but have not been able to do anything for the victims.

One netizen pointed out that it was the perceived inaction of the authorities that prompted enraged citizens to engage in "vigilantism", while another asked what the "time frame" for the Government's action is.

Manpower Minister remains 'shocked'

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin had said on Thursday that he was "shocked" at the behaviour of Jover Chew.

However, some netizens responded to his post with even greater "shock", telling the minister that such incidents have been going on for years, and that it was really unthinkable that the authorities were not aware of it.

Mr Tan later posted another update on Facebook - in response to some people who apparently thought that he needed a new thesaurus so that he can come up with alternative words to "shocked" - saying that he remains "shocked", but that the point he made previously, about "disputes that may fall short of violating any laws or regulations" but "clearly assault our sensibilities", stands.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam was reported by The Straits Times to have said that Chew's actions were "completely unacceptable", and that "bad conduct should be dealt with strictly". He said: "My own view is that there are laws which can deal with that kind of conduct. I know the police are looking into it, and I know AGC (Attorney General's Chambers) is working with the police."

The report, however, did not mention if the minister explained why the police had not been able to deal with such cheats for years, if the laws to deal with that kind of conduct are already in place.

sinsh@sph.com.sg

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