Thursday, 23 January 2014

Expat Anton Casey apologises for 'poor' remarks about commuters

By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2014

A BRITISH expat who referred to public transport commuters in Singapore as "poor people" in a Facebook post has apologised for his remarks.

Wealth manager Anton Casey, 39, said in a statement last night: "I deeply regret having offended and disrespected the people of Singapore.

"I wish for nothing more than to be forgiven for my poor judgment and given a second chance to rebuild the trust people have had in me as a resident of this wonderful country."



Two of his Facebook posts began circulating on the Internet on Monday, sparking fury among local netizens.

In one, a picture of his five-year-old son on an MRT train was accompanied by the caption: "Daddy where is your car & who are all these poor people?"

In the other post, his son is pictured in a silver Porsche with the comment: "...Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me..."

A YouTube video of Mr Casey was later posted in what seemed like a taunting response to his detractors, but he insisted in his statement that this was a "misuse of an old video by unknown sources".

He claimed the video was "not posted in response to any recent events".

Mr Casey, who is married to former Miss Singapore Universe Bernice Wong, 36, added that his family has suffered "extreme emotional and verbal abuse online" - and has even received death threats.

The Straits Times understands that he has filed a police report about the threats and that investigations are ongoing.








Briton's comments unacceptable: Shanmugam
Minister 'terribly upset' but urges Singaporeans not to flame family
By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 24 Jan 2014

LAW Minister K. Shanmugam said he was "terribly upset and offended" by Briton Anton Casey's comments which referred to public transport commuters here as "poor people".

But he urged Singaporeans not to flame the wealth manager's family - the 39-year-old is married to former Miss Singapore Universe Bernice Wong - as "Singaporeans can be bigger than that".

Mr Casey's comments were "deeply offensive, wrong and unacceptable", he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

"Those who have done well in life should always be looking out for others - especially the less well-off or needy. It is basic human decency. Instead Mr Casey showed contempt. Having money and a Porsche does not automatically mean that one is superior. Character is important," he wrote. "I am glad the community has come together to condemn what he has said."



Police have confirmed to The Straits Times that a police report against Mr Casey's comments was made on Wednesday.

Mr Shanmugam also noted how some netizens felt the apology issued by Mr Casey lacked sincerity. "I think there is some basis for thinking that," he wrote.

On Tuesday, Mr Casey issued an apology through a public relations firm to "the people of Singapore", saying that "my family, especially my Singaporean son, has suffered extreme emotional and verbal abuse online".

He alleged he received death threats and added that the police are investigating the matter.

"I wish for nothing more than to be forgiven for my poor judgment and given a second chance to rebuild the trust people had in me as a resident of this city."

The brouhaha began when two of his Facebook posts began circulating on the Internet on Monday.

In one, a picture of his five- year-old son on an MRT train was accompanied by the caption: "Daddy where is your car & who are all these poor people?"

In the other post, his son is seen in a silver Porsche with the comment: "Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me."

A YouTube video of Mr Casey appearing to taunt his detractors was later posted, but he insisted in his statement that it was a "misuse of an old video by unknown sources".

The issue has made waves internationally, with publications in Australia, Britain and Hong Kong, for instance, carrying reports.

"British banker receives death threats for anti-Singapore diatribe", read the headline on The Guardian's website, with the story attracting more than 100 comments by yesterday, most of which condemned Mr Casey's posts. Hong Kong's The Standard put up its report under "Banker feels stench of public invective".

Crossinvest, the wealth management firm where Mr Casey works as a senior relationship manager, issued a Facebook statement on Wednesday calling his comments "in poor taste".

The company, of Swiss origin and which set up its Singapore arm in 2005, is "currently investigating the comments... and will take appropriate action once we are in possession of all the facts".






Briton and family leave for Perth amid threats
He offers to do community work to atone for 'poor people' remarks
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2014

BRITON Anton Casey, who sparked a furore by calling public transport users "poor people", left Singapore for Perth yesterday because of threats made against his family.

The 39-year-old, who took along his wife - former Singapore beauty queen Bernice Wong - and five-year-old son to Western Australia state, also apologised again for his remarks, this time offering to do community work.

"I hope the people of Singapore will allow me to volunteer my time and resources to community projects in order to make amends for my mistakes," he wrote in an e-mail response last night to queries from The Straits Times.

"I also hope the people of Singapore, my adopted home, will forgive me over time."

They were spotted yesterday in the economy-class cabin by passengers on a 12.10am Singapore Airlines flight to Perth. Mr Casey was said to be wearing a cap and looking tired. The senior wealth manager, a Singapore permanent resident, explained that his decision to leave was "due to threats made towards my family".

"Singapore is our home, and we hope to return when we feel safe," said Mr Casey, pointing out that he has lived here for 12 years, and his wife and child are citizens.

His ordeal mirrors that of former NTUC employee Amy Cheong, who returned to Perth after her expletive-laden Facebook rant disparaging Malay weddings in October 2012 came under fire.

The Malaysian-born Australian was sacked by NTUC, a point highlighted by labour MP Zainal Sapari in a Facebook post on Thursday. "NTUC was decisive in sending a clear message when our staff crossed the line. Will Crossinvest Asia do the same?" he asked, referring to Mr Casey's employer in Singapore.

Crossinvest had earlier said in a statement that it was investigating the matter, which began when two of Mr Casey's Facebook posts began circulating on the Internet on Monday.

In one, a picture of his five- year-old son on an MRT train was accompanied by the caption: "Daddy where is your car & who are all these poor people?" In the other post, his son is seen in a silver Porsche with the comment: "Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me."

The Singapore public responded with indignation, with Law Minister K. Shanmugam saying on Thursday that he was "terribly upset and offended" by the posts.

The issue has also made waves overseas, with publications in Australia, Britain and Hong Kong carrying reports.

Mr Casey wrote in yesterday's e-mail: "This week, I have made the greatest mistake of my life."







Briton loses job amid furore over online remarks
Derisive comments about public transport users go against corporate values: Firm
By Jermyn Chow Rachel Au-yong, The Sunday Times, 26 Jan 2014

Briton Anton Casey has lost his job in Singapore, six days after posting derisive remarks about public transport users.

His employer, wealth management firm Crossinvest (Asia), announced on its Facebook site at 1am yesterday that it had "parted ways" with Mr Casey, a senior wealth manager.

It said: "Crossinvest (Asia) is deeply concerned by the recent comments made by Mr Anton Casey on social media which have caused great distress amongst Singaporeans. Those comments go against our core corporate and family values that are based on trust, mutual understanding and are respectful of diversity.

"Crossinvest (Asia) is a family business which has been built here in Singapore. The online comments made by Mr Casey do not represent the culture that we have built over many years. Accordingly, Crossinvest (Asia) and Mr Casey have parted ways with immediate effect."



The statement came a day after Mr Casey left Singapore for Perth with his Singaporean wife and son.

When contacted yesterday, a spokesman for the company insisted that Mr Casey had not been fired, but that his departure was a "mutually agreed upon separation".

It marked another low point for the 39-year-old, who went from being unknown just last Sunday to public enemy No.1 in six days after he called train commuters "poor people" and said he needed to "wash the stench of public transport off me".

His Facebook remarks went viral and created an online firestorm, with many offended Singaporeans criticising him for what he said. Uglier online attacks were of a personal nature and directed at him as well as his wife and young son.

Many thought his first apology last Tuesday was "insincere", having been issued through a public relations agency. Law Minister K. Shanmugam said he was "terribly upset and offended" by what Mr Casey said.

The Singapore permanent resident issued a second apology last Friday after taking his wife, former Miss Singapore Universe Bernice Wong, and their five-year-old son to Perth, claiming that there had been threats made against them.

He said in an e-mail to The Straits Times that he had "made the greatest mistake of my life", adding that he and his family would return to Singapore, and he was prepared to give his time and resources to community work to make amends.

The furore last week over what Mr Casey said caught the attention of the international media, and the story was picked up by news agencies and reported in Australia and Britain, among other places.

Yesterday's news that he no longer had a job took off rapidly online, garnering more than 5,400 likes and more than 1,200 shares on The Straits Times Facebook page.

Many in Singapore applauded the news and some wanted him barred from returning, but others felt it was time to move on.

"He is just someone who said a silly remark and now has to deal with the wreckage... He has had enough, leave him alone," said one netizen.

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, who himself came under attack for writing an article in The Straits Times last week calling for more empathy in the wake of the unceasing online rants, believes it is time to take a step back.

"It is right that we stepped up and reprimanded the wrong committed. But to continue to be angry and bitter is not helpful," he said. "He has already apologised and paid the price. We should be big-hearted enough to let people redeem themselves. That is what empathy is about."

But Labour MP Zainal Sapari took a harder line, saying the whole saga showed that Singaporeans do not tolerate "Singapore- bashing".

"When we open employment opportunities to foreigners and PRs, the least they can do is respect our people and our nation... You do not bite the hand that feeds you," he said.

"Empathy has its limits. Once you cross the line, you must be willing to face the full consequence of your words or actions."






What you say online can affect you: Indranee
By Jermyn Chow, Amelia Teng and Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 26 Jan 2014

Take care what you put online - that is one of the key lessons which can be drawn from the ongoing furore involving Mr Anton Casey's Facebook posts.

Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah said that with the spread of social media, people needed to be mindful of what they say on the Internet, which has a global audience.

"It impacts not just you, but your job because employers will look at something you said, and ask whether 'that is consistent with our values... our corporate profile'."

She was speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Queenstown yesterday, after Mr Casey's employer, Crossinvest Asia, announced that he was no longer its employee.

Ms Indranee is the latest politician to weigh in on the uproar, which was sparked after the senior wealth manager called the public transport here smelly and its users "poor people".

She said she was "appalled" by Mr Casey's comments, which she noted were "truly objectionable" because they showed "his complete lack of empathy or identification with other people living here".

"Wealth does not make you a better person," she added.

But referring to the online backlash which included threats against Mr Casey and his family, Ms Indranee said "the pendulum has kind of swung quite far".

"What we should avoid happening on the Internet is the cyber-equivalent of the old-fashioned lynch mob.

"People feel like they also want to pick up and throw a stone, because everybody else is throwing a stone, and the groundswell of emotions gets bigger, nastier, and even more negative."

She also called on netizens to avoid going to "the far end of the pendulum swing and becoming nasty, vicious and basically, have this herd instinct to attack", adding that anybody "should be given a second chance".

Communication experts such as Singapore Internet Research Centre director Ang Peng Hwa said the alleged death threats against Mr Casey and his family were also "far beyond the pale".

"He may have said something wrong but the response from some netizens is not acceptable... two wrongs don't make a right."

Professor Ang said that while Mr Casey's remarks were offensive, they were not considered racial and religious hate speech which could divide the country.

"In fact, the remarks unified Singaporeans to react against him."

He believes netizens still need to learn how to better handle offensive remarks posted online and calibrate the tone of the debate.

"People have to be careful about what they say in general. You never know when you will get re-posted or re-tweeted."

Netizens on The Straits Times Facebook page also weighed in on the issue, with Emaline Sze posting that the whole episode was "yet another reminder, that we have to be very mindful about what we say on social media".

Contributor Glenn Tan hopes that Singaporeans can be "united in a more civilised manner".

"Let's just say that if we don't condone cyber bullying, then we shouldn't become cyber bullies ourselves."








Instant infamy: How Anton Casey's life in Singapore unravelled in a week
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 26 Jan 2014


Monday, Jan 20
- Two posts by Briton Anton Casey on his Facebook page go viral. Screengrabs of those posts are also picked up by other websites, including citizen journalism portal Stomp.
- A YouTube video of Mr Casey appearing to taunt his detractors later surfaces.
- Personal details about Mr Casey and his wife, former Miss Singapore Universe Bernice Wong, are released online. These include their Gilstead Road address, mobile phone numbers and places of work.
Tuesday, Jan 21
- An older post dated last March, in which Mr Casey labelled a taxi driver a "retard", is circulated on the Internet.
- In an apology issued through public relations firm Fulford PR Consultancy, Mr Casey says his family has suffered "extreme emotional and verbal abuse online" and has even received death threats. The move backfires as many lambast his use of a PR firm to apologise as insincere.
Wednesday, Jan 22
- At least two police reports are filed against Mr Casey.
- His employer, Crossinvest (Asia), says on Facebook that it is investigating comments by an employee which were made in "poor taste".
- The story is picked up by news agencies around the world, including in the United Kingdom.
- Mr Casey's lawyer issues a legal letter to website TR Emeritus, demanding that it withdraws all photographs of him from its articles. The site complies.
- The Tuckshop, a bar in Guillemard Road, puts a humorous spin on the issue with a signboard saying it charges $120 for a pint of beer if you are Anton Casey, and $12 "for the rest of us poor Singaporeans".
Thursday, Jan 23
- Law Minister K. Shanmugam says on Facebook that he is "terribly upset and offended" by Mr Casey's comments, which "showed contempt" for the less well-off and the needy.
- MP Zainal Sapari compares Mr Casey's case to that of former NTUC employee Amy Cheong, who was fired after she posted an expletive-laden rant on Facebook disparaging Malay weddings in October 2012. He said: "NTUC was decisive in sending a clear message when our staff crossed the line. Will Crossinvest (Asia) do the same?"
- Local actor Tay Ping Hui tweets about the saga, telling Mr Casey to "please leave" the country.
Friday, Jan 24
- Mr Shanmugam, in an interview published in The New Paper, says
- Mr Casey is a guest in Singapore, yet "behaving so badly".
Responding to calls to revoke Mr Casey's PR status, the minister says: "If people have committed criminal offences, it's clear. There are certain things we can do. But if people haven't committed a criminal offence, do we break up the family every time they comment about something that is not an offence? Where do you draw the line on bad behaviour?"
- Mr Casey boards a 12.10am flight for Perth with wife and son in tow. He flies economy and says he is leaving Singapore because of threats made against his family.
- Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, publishes an article in The Straits Times' Opinion pages, asking people who condemned Mr Casey to show some empathy. The commentary goes viral, and the response is mixed - some praise Dr Wan for his "rational and compassionate" thought; others say he is "not a true Singaporean".
- Mr Casey e-mails The Straits Times, offering to atone for his mistake through community work and expressing his hope of returning to his adopted home "when we feel safe".
Saturday, Jan 25
Crossinvest (Asia) announces through Facebook that Mr Casey is no longer its employee. A spokesman later adds that it is a "mutually agreed" separation.



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