IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
In the matter of Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
WEE KIM SAN LAWRENCE BERNARD
(NRIC No. SXXXXXXXX)
I, WEE KIM SAN LAWRENCE BERNARD, NRIC No. SXXXXXXXX, care of Messrs L. F. Violet Netto Advocates and Solicitors, 101 Upper Cross Street, #05-13 People's Park Centre, Singapore 058357, do solemnly affirm and say as follows:
1. I am the Plaintiff herein. I make this affidavit in support of my application to seek a declaration from the Court, clarifying and guaranteeing my right to equal protection of the law under Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (the "Constitution").
2. Insofar as the matters herein are within my personal knowledge, they are true. Insofar as they are not within my personal knowledge, they are based on documents in the possession of my Counsel and true to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief.
3. I commenced my employment with Robinson & Company (Singapore) Pte Ltd ("Robinsons"), the Defendant in Suit No. 1036 of 2012 / }, as Senior Manager of Card Services on 9 October 2006.
After nearly four years of service, I was eventually promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager, Cards and Corporate Sales on 1 June 2010, a position I held until the end of my employment with Robinsons.
Under this appointment, I was managing in excess of $280 million (or approximately 45% of the overall group revenue) and was a key member of the management team, responsible for one of the biggest and most important portfolios.
From the period between October 2006 and April/May 2010, I reported primarily to Mr. Shia Yew Peck ("Yew Peck"), General Manager for Finance and Administration, and Mr. John Cheston, then Chief Executive of Robinsons. During this time, I experienced no unreasonable treatment from either person.
However, from April 2011, Mr. Jim McCallum ("Jim") was designated Acting Chief Executive Officer of Robinsons and during this period up until my resignation, I was subject to an adverse climate at work created by Jim's unfounded and unreasonable discrimination against myself. It is my firm belief that this biasness was due to my sexual orientation as a homosexual man.
On 24 August 2012,1 tendered my resignation from Robinsons, post-dated to 31 August 2012, in response to the increasingly inequitable and discriminatory treatment I faced at the workplace - this matter being the subject of the abovementioned suit (Suit No. 1036 of 2012), of which I was the Plaintiff and Robinsons was the Defendant. This suit has since been dismissed on purely contractual grounds.
To this end, I make this affidavit seeking a declaration from the Court, clarifying and guaranteeing my right to equal treatment before and equal protection of the law under Article 12 of the Constitution, regardless of my sexual orientation.
Working at Robinsons, pre-April 2011
During the initial part of my career at Robinsons, I was grateful to have been given opportunities to prove my worth and to succeed. I have always worked hard to achieve the goals I had set for myself, and I felt that my achievements in the workplace were adequately recognized by my employers.
Some key achievements I contributed towards during my time at Robinsons include:
The successful conversion of the Robinsons Co-Brand card from a Classic Card to a Platinum Card in 2007, together with a re-negotiation of a new Co-Brand card agreement with more favourable terms such as greater marketing support from OCBC Bank from S$200,000 to S$650,000 per year and revenue share of over S$l,500,000 per year.
The successful development of a Loyalty Card Programme for Robinsons Malaysia in 2008, which now contributes over 70% of Robinsons Malaysia sales.
The bringing on board of key strategic accounts such as Starhub and Great Eastern Life Assurance which led to a growth of Corporate Sales from S$20 million a year to over S$32 million a year.
The improvement in the way Robinsons engaged with cardmembers through the employment of SPSS datamining software to increase cardmember hit rate and the development of targeted promotions for cardmembers.
Most notably, I played a key role in helping Robinsons foil a $200,000 shopping voucher scam in November 2011. This incident was reported in The Straits Times on 24 November 2011.
Annexed herewith and marked 11WKS-1" is a copy of the said article.
17. In essence, prior to April 2011, I felt truly in love with my job and felt appreciated as a valued member of the company.
C. Discriminatory Environment at Work
18. However, since April 2011, I had been informed during numerous private conversations between myself and Yew Peck that Jim possessed a strong dislike of me. In addition, there were numerous instances where Jim publicly belittled my work and disrespected me in front of my colleagues.
19. On 7 March 2011, while on a business trip in Sydney, Yew Peck shared with me the need to work with him to undo Jim's prejudice. His plan then was to support me in proving to Jim that despite his partiality, "we need him to appreciate you at least for your work and expertise". He also stated that he "can dislike you as a person but that should not bother you as long as you perform in your job".
20. In November 2011,1 was featured in an article in The Straits Times (dated 24 November 2011) for my involvement in helping Robinsons avert a vouchers scam of S$200,000. I had received approval from Yew Peck prior to being interviewed but when the article went to press, Yew Peck then informed me that "Jim does not seem happy that you have been featured in the press. You should stay low for now".
21. In March/April 2012, a cardmember wrote to Jim to compliment me for my customer centric disposition and for assisting her at Robinsons Centrepoint. Instead of being appreciative, he remarked sarcastically in front of Yew Peck and some of my staff, "I received a compliment from a cardmember on you, did you orchestrate this?" Even after I replied that I had not, he continued in this insulting manner by asking me, "Are you sure she's not your aunty?"
22. In March/April 2012, whilst having coffee with me at Starbucks Marina Square, Yew Peck asked me, "Lawrence, have you ever considered turning straight?" I was very taken aback by the question and replied, "No, why would I? I am comfortable with my sexuality and I see no reason to change and pretend to be someone else". Yew Peck then went on to explain that he thinks it would be "more acceptable at work and makes life easier".
On 28 May 2012, Yew Peck informed me that Jim's biasness against me seemed deep-rooted and hasn't changed, and advised me to keep a lookout for other employment opportunities.
On 18 June 2012, Yew Peck informed me that his efforts to persuade Jim to correct his prejudice against me had come to no avail, and went on to state that there would be no future for me at the Robinsons Group as long as Jim was around. He expressed his sadness to "see your career terminate prematurely despite your good performance" and said that "[y]ou have so much to offer, but as long as Jim is.around, you will not have a future and he wants you to leave".
On 19 June 2012, Yew Peck shared with me that sometime in April/May 2012 after a presentation by a CRM Vendor, Jim had picked on the email I had sent to recap the salient matters of the presentation, saying that I was out to show off and demonstrate how smart I was. To this end, Yew Peck claimed that he objected and asked Jim why he was always picking on me, to which the latter replied, "That's because it's from Lawrence, and anything from Lawrence cannot be right as to begin with, Lawrence is wrong already as a person".
Additionally, after I informed him that I would tender my resignation in light of the intolerable discrimination I faced at work and the advice that Yew Peck had given me regarding my career prospects at Robinsons, he shared with me that he was saddened to see my otherwise promising career prematurely terminated due to Jim's personal prejudice against my homosexual orientation.
When I emailed Yew Peck the next day (20 June 2012), I stated that:-
"This decision of mine is definitely a right one. It's definitely the right decision for all of us, especially myself given that I can't possibly change the personal biasness of big boss - something which saddens me a little given that I had always thought that a person's inclination should not be a gauge of his ability to deliver at the workplace..." [Emphasis Added]
Yew Peck, by his omission to contradict or contest this sentiment, clearly showed that he agreed with, or was at the very least aware of, the prejudice to which I referred in that email.
My Personal Background
Born into a low-income family, I have always been keenly aware of the fact that nobody owes me a living and that success is something that I would have to build with my own two hands.
In 1983, my father lost his clerical job and with it, our family's main source of income. Fights would break out frequently at home as domestic pressures of not having enough money to even pay for basic necessities like groceries and utility bills took its toll on our family.
During that time, as a result of being belittled and looked down upon by friends and relatives, I grew determined to apply myself and make a difference in my life for the sake of my family and loved ones. I wanted to prove to myself and my family that with hard work and perseverance, I had the same chance of succeeding as anyone else.
Since the age of 9, I have taken up all sorts of odd jobs in order to help my family's financial situation. From distributing flyers to cashiering to working in the laundry department at Imperial Hotel, I have always worked hard to achieve the goals that I set for myself.
33. This attitude and work ethic has served me well throughout my life and I have also cherished and appreciated that in meritocratic society like Singapore, hard work and diligence is vital to achieving your own success.
E. Why I Seek This Declaration
34. I have been advised by my Counsel that Art 12(1) of the Singapore Constitution assures all individuals the right to equal treatment with other individuals in similar circumstances.
35. Additionally, the Government has acknowledged in the international human rights fora that the aforementioned rights apply to all persons regardless of sexual orientation. In its official response to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) Committee, the government stated that:
"The principle of equality of all persons before the law is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. All persons in Singapore are entitled to the equal protection of the law...."
36. On a personal note, the prejudice and discrimination with which Jim treated me during our working relationship at Robinsons also left me feeling very aggrieved, and flew in the face of everything I believed in about Singapore being a fair and meritocratic society.
37. On January 5 2013, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed in a speech at an Edusave award ceremony that "everyone here - regardless of background -has a shot at success". He also said that, "We make sure that whatever your family background, whatever your circumstances... if you work hard, you can succeed". This was reported by The Sunday Times on 6 January 2013, in an article headlined "PM: Meritocracy goes beyond grades".
38. Furthermore, in November 2007 during the Parliamentary debate on the proposed repeal of s 377a of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed Sing), Prime Minister Lee said that homosexuals "include people who are responsible and valuable, highly respected contributing members of society" and reiterated that regardless of their minority status, they "must have a place in this society" and that "[w]e should not make it harder than it already is for them to grow up and to live in a society where they are more different".
39. In this respect, I am heartened by our Prime Minister's commitment to accord a decent level of respect for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and I am encouraged by his acknowledgment of homosexuals are "valuable" and "contributing" members of society.
40. As such, I am convinced that the adverse and prejudiced treatment I received under Jim's leadership is an attitude neither encouraged nor countenanced in this society. My sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on my job and performance at Robinsons as Assistant General Manager of Card and Corporate Sales, and to see me through jaundiced eyes because of my private life is clearly unfair and discriminatory.
41. I have been advised that Art 12(2) of the Constitution prohibits "discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in... carrying on of any... employment". My Counsel advised that although sexual orientation is not an enumerated ground of prohibited discrimination under Art 12(2), it is analogous to the enumerated grounds because there is a real and credible risk of discrimination as homosexuality is an immutable condition. This Court should therefore hold that Art 12(2) also prohibits discrimination in the carrying on of employment on the basis of sexual orientation. Furthermore, I have been advised that Art 12(1) guarantees that " [a] 11 persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law".
I have been treated arbitrarily at work only on account of my sexual orientation. I verily believe that such arbitrary treatment by my employer is in breach of Art 12 of the Constitution. Unfortunately, I was not able to seek any form of recourse from my employer at all because Singapore does not have any legislation prohibiting employment discrimination against male homosexuals. This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the fact that Singapore has signed both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ("UNCRPD") and the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ("CEDAW").
I am not looking to advance any rights or to demand more than I deserve. All I ask is that I be allowed to prove my worth at work, without fear that an immutable characteristic of mine becomes a millstone around my neck.
This lack of guarantee affects all gay men. Hence, as a gay man, I am directly affected by the lack of guarantee of equal treatment and protection and humbly seek the assistance of this Court to clarify that all male homosexuals have equal rights in employment and that the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Therefore, I trust that the Honourable Court will uphold the principles of fairness, equality, and justice that our society is founded upon and humbly pray for the Court's declaration that Art 12 of the Constitution applies to provide all citizens with equal protection of the law, regardless of sexual orientation.
AFFIRMED by the abovenamed }
WEE KIM SAN LAWRENCE BERNARD }
On this 22nd day of AUGUST 2013 }
A COMMISSIONER FOR OATHS
THE STRAITS TIMES THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24 2011 PAGE B4
Robinsons foils possible voucher scam
Bid to buy $200k worth of vouchers; likely link to FairPrice incident
By Kimberly Spykerman
POLICE are looking into a report filed by-department store chain Robinsons on Monday about a man who tried to buy $200,000 worth of shopping vouchers from its Raffles Boulevard office two weeks ago.
The retailer reported the matter to the police because it believes the incident may be related to an alleged bad cheque scam at FairPrice which was reported .in the rlews that same day.
In that case, two suspects were arrested last Saturday for allegedly cheating the supermarket chain by using a bad cheque to pay for $500,000 worth of FairPrice shopping vouchers.
Tan Tuan-Lue, 22, and Hakim Leong, 19, are accused of committing the offence at the FairPrice cooperative head office in Upper Thomson Road last Thursday.
Both men were charged Avith cheating in court on Monday, but have since been released on $15,000 bail each, pending further investigations by the police.
In the latest report, Robinsons said that a man - who identified himself as Jason, from an events company called MiraclEvents - submitted an order by e-mail on Nov 11 for $200,000 worth of vouchers.
Robinsons assistant general manager Lawrence Wee told The Straits Times that the man said he wanted the vouchers immediately for an event - even though he was told over the phone that they c'ould be released only after the cheque had cleared, which would require three days.
Mr Wee said alarm bells started ringing when Jason insisted that another staff member had agreed to let him have the vouchers immediately.
“I felt that it was dubious because none of the staff would have had the audacity to make such a call, especially when it involved such a large sum. of money,’’ he said.
Mr Wee added that Jason also behaved strangely, refusing to consider the other options that Robinsons suggested, such as issuing a cashier’s order or getting a bank undertaking, which would have allowed him to buy the vouchers.
Suspicious, Mr Wee checked with the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB) and found that MiraclEvents was set up only on Nov 9 - two days before Jason called Robin 7 sons to place the order for the vouchers. Tan is listed as the owner of the company.
The SCCB - a unit of credit-rating firm Dun & Bradstreet Singapore - provides business information on individuals and companies about their credit risk, credit rating and even bankruptcy records.
When staff from Robinsons contacted MiraclEvents at its listed address, they found that no such company occupied the premises there.
Although Robinsons did not suffer any losses, Mr Wee said it filed a report as the management thought it was a possible scam.
FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng confirmed yesterday that the two accused men also said they were representing a registered company when they purchased its shopping vouchers.
The identity of Jason has not been established by Robinsons as he contacted the retailer only by telephone and e-mail.
Dun & Bradstreet Singapore chief executive Yun Kok Siong said yesterday that consumer scams can be widespread, especially during harder economic times.
“As such, awareness of such scams and how to combat them should be raised," he said.
"Retailers will be better positioned to safeguard their interests if proper pre-emptive credit assessment facilities are in place to prevent themselves from being victimised by similar incidents.”
FairPrice said it will review its prtice-dures to guard against a repeat of the mistake. Its staff have also been reminded of the proper procedures.
Mr Wee added that Robinsons is doing the same to decide if more can be done to tighten its safeguards.
“Even though our processes are very tight, we were nearly hit,” he said.
Tan and Leong will next appear in court over the alleged FairPrice scam on Dec 12. If found guilty, they could each be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
Mr Wee (left) of Robinsons said the alleged culprit insisted that another staff member had agreed to let him have the vouchers immediately, which was not the case. Mr Yun, CEO of credit-rating firm Dun & Bradstreet Singapore, said awareness of such scams should be raised.
ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG
IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
Originating Summons No.
In the matter of Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
WEE KIM SAN LAWRENCE BERNARD
(NRIC No. SXXXXXXXXX)
LET ALL PARTIES concerned attend before the Judge on the ___ day of ___ 2013 at ___ am/pm on the hearing of an application by the Plaintiff for the following orders: -
1) For a declaration that Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore prohibits discrimination against gay men on account of their sexual orientation in the course of employment.
The grounds of this application are set out in the affidavit of WEE KIM SAN LAWRENCE BERNARD filed herein.
Dated this 23 day of August 2013
This Summons is taken out by M/s L F Violet Netto, solicitors for the abovenamed Plaintiff whose address is 101 Upper Cross Street #05-13 People's Park Centre Singapore 058357.
Note: Unless otherwise provided in any written law, the applicant must file in a supporting affidavit or affidavits at the time of filing of the Originating Summons.
Solicitors for the Plaintiff M. Ravi
M/s L F Violet Netto
To: The Attorney General's Chambers
1 Upper Pickering Street Singapore 058288
Tel: 6908 9000
Fax: 6538 9000