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What I’d like from DBS

I found such a beautiful (rational, intelligent, calm) response to the DBS/FOTF mess up here that I almost feel bad for freaking out at DBS the way I did.

in particular these paragraphs:

Focus on the Family is a conservative Christian organisation that spreads disinformation about safe sex practices which has cost countless lives, that persecutes homosexuals and perpetrates homophobia, and that refuses the right for women to make their own choices concerning their own reproductive systems.

While Focus on the Family’s Singapore chapter does indeed help children, they do not represent the moral views held by all of your customers. I believe there are far more culturally sensitive organisations that do not just subscribe to — and represent the views of — one religion you could be presenting your donations to, particularly given the multicultural and inclusive nature of Singaporean society.

After many years as an extremely satisfied POSB and DBS customer, I will be advising my family and friends here in Singapore to use alternative forms of payment this holiday season if they choose to shop at the shopping centres designated by your promotion.

Because the truth is, I’ve also been very happy with POSB (& DBS) since my schooldays. Given a choice I wouldn’t leave them over this one slap in the face if it was truly unintended.

But how to tell if it was truly unintended?

Maybe another DBS card offer–for every $100 spent on DBS cards redeemed for a packet of pink ang pows (something easily produced last minute) they donate $3 (not too much, not to scare them off) up to a limit of $15,000 (same as offered for FOTF) to AFA… cards to be used over post-Christmas sale period, working up to CNY…

Most of all I wish DBS would come up with more of a response than the ‘nobody should see anything wrong with our choosing Focus On The Family’ line they have been handing out. Are they really not aware of what FOTF is & does??

Or at least won’t DBS have the guts to say ‘we support the views and actions of FOTF and don’t care how much this upsets our customers’.


Yes, I linked to an outdated Nov site for FOTF’s activities. (Sorry about that, shouldn’t write when I’m angry!)

FOTF events are EXPENSIVE:

$50/person, $89/couple for the ‘Parenting with Confidence’

$15 for Abstinence Program (aimed at teens. plus you get a ‘unique’ take-home journal)

$80 for Facilitator Training on handling Libido Lectures… and the list goes on and on here

looks like lots of money going in.

I couldn’t find anything on the FOTF website about the children’s programmes as described in the standard DBS reply from Daniel Sy, Daisy Ong and Rena Leong (so far):

The contribution from DBS will go towards supporting the children’s
programmes in Singapore.  This is part of our efforts at DBS to support
families and children during this festive period

Not during this festive period at least.

The last big activities mentioned on their events page covered stuff like the charity golf tournament at Laguna (Sep 3) with Platinum Sponsorships costing $25 000 (but you get 2 complimentary flights), Gold Sponsorships $10, 000 (but you only got 1 complimentary flight for this) and plain golf flights $2000 (but you get 4 tickets & tax exemption)… oh yes, other events were (paid) marriage retreats, flag day fund raisers, (paid) sandcastle & Narnia outings. (yes, 35 disadvantaged families were among the 250 families that participated in this South East CDC-FOTF event. Maybe they got a discount.)

Seen in persepective, DBS’ ceiling of $15K for its festive gift doesn’t even add up to one Platinum Sponsorship to the September FOTF golf outing.

And in a larger perspective, given the heartbreaking situation in India & Thailand right now we have so much to be thankful & grateful for in Singapore. Not being able to head to either Mysore or Koh Samui for practice is a small, small drawback when I think about all the people there who are caught up in violence or feel driven to violence because, desperate, they know no other way to interact with what they see as big, immovable forces.

Violence is never the solution. Anger is not the solution here (not saying I wasn’t spitting-blood enraged, just that that doesn’t solve anything). I am fine with FOTF being present in Singapore. I am only upset with DBS for stepping out of character & supporting them. If support for FOTF was in character for DBS I would have closed my account long ago. Now all I want is for DBS is acknowledge what FOTF is known for and tell us whether supporting them was an intentional action that will be repeated–or a regrettable one off gesture.


17 Responses

  1. […] card holders spend a designated amount of money during the current festive season, I had my post linked to and commented on with some very warm and generous adjectives by Ovidia at the Writing-Yoga-Living blog in Singapore: […]

  2. […] the ilk of Thio Su Mein are involved, alarm bells must ring. Then I read that the DBS tie-up with Focus on the Family was under the aupices of Josie Lau, new AWARE president in her capacity as DBS’ head of […]

  3. DBS is only leaving the name FotF off the advertisements, the money is still going to them. This is completely and utterly unacceptable to me and I feel it makes this situation even worse, as it seems as if they’re trying to deceive us just to placate us, with no intention to remedy the situation. So no, I won’t be giving them a break.

  4. DBS, as a profit-making organisation, will never expect such a uproar from the masses, especially the LGBT community at large.

    Honestly, judging from what I had seen in DBS campaign phamplets earlier, I had the impression that FotF is just another charity that focus mainly on the family… and nothing else. But I never expect FotF to be “intolerant” towards many aspects of life, which was only “made known” to me after seeing so many blog entries and web references. And as a layman like most of the other side of the percentile of the masses, I believe that this is purely an oversight that DBS may had made.

    Perhaps, DBS would only like to garner positive publicity by funding and sponsoring a “pro-family” charity and showing to the public that it has exercise responsibility, albeit corporate-wise or social-wise during this festive season, especially after it has recieved bad press from, no less, the Mini Bonds and retrenchment saga.

    Let’s put it in this manner. If another bank or corporation supports a charity in the name of corporate responsibility, but the charity also has the same ideology as FotF, would you go to the extend of boycotting the company? You may boycott, forsure. But yet again, I guess the company will try it’s best to do some form of damage control to reduce the “pain” inflicted.

    So guys, let’s give them, and yourselves a break, especially since DBS has already decided to drop the campaign.

    Nonetheless, after writing so many stuffs, I had still ended my 15 year banking relationship with the bank in the end.

  5. While I may have some strong views as many do about whether DBS was right to support FOTF, I am just a little concerned about the intolerance of many of us who are against those who are intolerant. While they may believe things we might not agree with ourselves, we must be careful not to be seen by others as being more intolerant of them than they are of us. That would make us hypocrites and I am not comfortable with that, no matter if we win or not.

    If we are truly tolerant and free, then the high ground for us should to live as we believe and say what we believe without the need to resort to threats of boycott, name calling or nit picking. Having walked this journey for a while now, I believe there is a need for a higher response than the usual indignation and cries of victimization. There is no victory in this case no matter the outcome for we have already placed ourselves under their accusation and are living under it’s weight.

    Let’s truly be tolerant or not claim to be. For we shall prevail if our cause is just. True joy and freedom to all 🙂

  6. I am dismayed that DBS is still supporting FOTF’s Learning Centre- no doubt, a breeding ground for intolerant closed minded bogots. I will have no part of this. I have cancelled by DBS treasures Amex card and will not hesitate to close down my Treasures Account should DBS continue to lean this way.

    Singapore, or the world for that matter has no room for intolerance and bigotry.

  7. Cheap T, If you’re talking to me, I was responding to Nick D implying AFA “focussed (sic) more on AIDS” to get “lots of credibility and traction”. He (or she) seems to believe that AFA is an organisation created with the aim of “pushing the gay agenda strongly”.

    And I was trying very very hard not to be rude to him so that may be why my answer came out prim & fuzzy!

  8. I didnt understand your point action for aids?

  9. Hi Nick, I don’t understand your point–‘Action For Aids’ is focused on AIDS efforts because that is why it exists, not for ‘credibility’ or ‘traction’. Gay men were considered ‘high risk’ so that was the primary focus but as you may be aware, a majority of AIDS patients are heterosexual men so that is the focus now.

    They were never ‘pushing the gay agenda’ strongly or otherwise.
    If you have that perception it’s probably due to the ‘government conditioning’ that thinks sex education is summed up by saying ‘abstinence’.

    Recent faults of FOTF Singapore? I can point them out.
    For a start, the school talks where they present false & misleading information? Where they get in disguised as ‘education’ but present their fundamentalist right wing Christian views?

    I personally believe they are doing more to harm than help Singapore families. The family-friendly initiatives you describe are designed to make every family fit into their ideal template no matter how different people are or how much it hurts individual family members or relationships.

    But I would not ‘take it out’ on them & their supporters–I’m all for allowing them to exist in peace as long as they stay away from me & my family.
    However I will not give my money or my support to any organisation that supports them because I would then be supporting the evil I believe they are perpetrating.

  10. I remember the days when AFA used to be an organisation very closely linked to the gay movement, and if you look at them these days, they are focussed more on AIDS efforts than anything else, and that has gotten them lots of credibility and traction. I think this is a result of the government conditoning one gets in Singapore. Imagine if they were still pushing the gay agenda strongly (not a wrong thing, by the way, but not their ‘core business’)….

    Similarly, I don’t think anyone can point out any recent faults of FOTF Singapore. The ‘sins of the father’ aside, FOTF SG itself looks like they’re more focussed on their ‘core business’ of building family-friendly initiatives these days. So if they’re doing charitable work, why are we taking it out on them and their supporters?

  11. Ok loh. My donations happen to have been vouched overseas.

  12. What do I expect?
    Well thing, as you said it’s Singapore. And as a Singaporean I expect myself to do what I can to create a Singapore I can live in.

  13. Pls lah, this is Singapore. And by creating a controversy, albeit a mini one, DBS is probably just trying to cover its arse for having job cuts.

    Thus it’s FOtF—the guise of “my dearest public, look, I do care about you”—the more conservative and thus, the more heartlander-right-winged-Christian the better.

    And you chimed in with “protests”: all the better; *definitely* chose the right charity.

    It’s Singapore. What did you expect?

  14. Hi Ruben S, thanks for visiting & posting! I like your attitude–both here & on your blog–of giving the benefit of doubt while keeping your expectations realistic.

    Hi AnMake, but that’s exactly it–if the sole purpose of a bank is to ‘make money any way it can’ it is up to us to decide whether we can make more difference by 1) closing our accounts (in which case they lose some clients, figure all the religious fundies still banking with them are happy with Focus On The Family & support them for easter as well) or 2) point out how unhappy & disillusioned many of us are with their decision. (they may consider it practical to change their policy)
    As you said, the move was probably a marketing tool–DBS may not have realised how strongly people feel against FOTF.

    What I want to know now is, is there anyway to get beyond their smooth talking customer service templates. Is anyone in DBS even aware of how angry we all are or is this being swept under the carpet by their hr department?

  15. Please get real. We’re talking about a bank here, not a church or charity. A bank is a wholly amoral organization, and it’s sole purpose is to make money any way it can.

    For DBS to align itself with a people-hating religious organization is phony and deceitful. Furthermore, the concept of so-called corporate responsibility is, in of itself, the peak of hypocrisy. It is merely a marketing tool to attract more customers.

    Don’t be fooled by their smooth-talking, customer-service templates. I say boycott DBS!

  16. […] card holders spend a designated amount of money during the current festive season, I had my post linked to and commented on with some very warm and generous adjectives by Ovidia at the Writing-Yoga-Living blog in Singapore: […]

  17. I’ve got to be honest with you, this is only one of a handful of times any of my blog posts have been referred to as, beautiful, rational, intelligent and/or calm without the words “definitely not” before them! 🙂

    To be serious though, I really am worried about this turn of events at DBS. When my family first moved to Singapore from Australia when I was still in primary school I got my first POSB account, and since then I’ve remained a loyal customer, even though I now live half the year in Adelaide. As you rightly say, if I had known that this was the attitude DBS wished to advertise with regards to social issues I would have jumped ship a while ago too.

    As a spiritual atheist coming from a family of agnostics, I just don’t feel comfortable having any of our money sent to such an organisation because as I said, they do not represent our moral values in the slightest.

    I try my best whenever writing complaint letters to always assume good intentions on the recipients part, perhaps even if deep down I fear they don’t have good intentions. I’m not sure whether or not this results in any more helpful responses than if I had the guts to send a more passionate message such as you did, but I guess I tend to be a soft touch!

    Here’s hoping DBS will give us a happy Yule for us non-Christians, and a happy Christmas for more moderate Christians who are upset that FOTF’s more radical views do not represent their own, by stopping their support for the FOTF organisation. I’m not holding my breath though unfortunately.


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