Red packets often given as a show of thanks

One of the signs put up at Mandai Crematorium to remind the public not to offer money or gifts to the employees. Workers at the government-run Mandai Crematorium are not allowed to receive cash or gifts, but some industry insiders said the illegal pr
One of the signs put up at Mandai Crematorium to remind the public not to offer money or gifts to the employees. LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTOS

It is puzzling why workers who accept gifts in cash or red packets from bereaved families at the Mandai Crematorium warrant investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (Workers at crematorium in trouble over red packets; Feb 2).

Handling funerals and cremation services is not something many would like to do, and such jobs are of the lowest preference for many people. Some consider such jobs inauspicious.

So it is natural and culturally acceptable for families to express their thanks - and some believe as a gesture to dispel any bad luck - to the workers by giving them gifts of cash or red packets. It is a common practice that has gone on for awhile - equivalent to giving a tip for good service.

After all, how much do these workers earn? How many funerals can they handle a day? Can giving them such gifts really lead to favours of faster cremation or better funeral services in the future for the same family? What kind of inappropriate or illegal benefits can these workers get out of a few dollars in gifts?

To assume acceptance of such gifts as corrupt or criminal does not make sense.

In our society, many are struggling to earn a living. There are many more in the community doing lowly jobs. Many elderly folk are cleaning tables, washing toilets, working in the sun and rain for enough money to feed themselves and their families. Is it wrong for them to accept tips? Will the public get into trouble with the law for giving such tips and gifts?

Let us not misinterpret actions that are merely gestures of thanks and appreciation. Such actions happen daily and in many places because people have a sense of gratitude and compassion towards those who provide needed services and do a job that many others would rather not do.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'Red packets often given as a show of thanks'. Print Edition | Subscribe