SINGAPORE - A woman filed a police report on Friday (April 8) against Tampines 1 shopping mall, alleging that she was subjected to racial discrimination by an employee of the mall.
The mall had earlier issued a public apology to businesswoman Diana Hairul, and told The Straits Times it had counselled the employee about her actions.
Ms Diana, 36, who uploaded on Facebook on Thursday (April 7) evening a screenshot of an e-mail she received from the employee, wrote that she had felt discriminated by the reply.
The e-mail read: "Hi Dee, We are not so keen to run a Malay road show as our target audience are mainly Chinese. Thus, we regret to inform you that we are unable to rent a space to you."
The mother of four, who regularly rents spaces at malls like Sembawang Shopping Centre and Bedok Mall to sell clothes, said she was shocked and appalled by the mall's callous response to her enquiry about renting its atrium for a pre-Hari Raya fair next month.
"Even if they were to say no, at least do it graciously. Such an unprofessional and insensitive reply was totally not what I expected," she added.
Property management firm AsiaMalls Management, which owns the mall, said it was aware of the police report and was "fully co-operating and assisting with the matter".
Ms Diana's Facebook post subsequently went viral and resulted in some backlash from the local Malay community on social media, prompting a swift reply from Tampines 1 on its Facebook page the same evening.
"The management and staff of Tampines 1 would like to unreservedly apologise to Ms Diana Hairul and the Malay community for the manner in which the reply to her e-mail was undertaken," it said.
"Under no circumstances is Tampines 1 discriminating against any race and the management of the company would not tolerate such a position."
It added that the employee, who signed off as "Jen" in the e-mail, had been "dealt with appropriately".
Responding to queries, AsiaMalls said on Friday morning that it was taking the matter seriously. However, it later said all attempts to speak to Diana so far had been unreturned.
"We're still trying to reach her and hope that she'll give us the opportunity to speak to her directly."
AsiaMalls explained that Ms Diana had first e-mailed the mall about setting up a promotional space, but all the available spaces were not available until the middle of the year.
It said spaces around Tampines 1 are sometimes rented out on an ad hoc basis for stalls, and that her request was not in conjunction with any Tampines 1 events planned.
According to Ms Diana, she had sent an e-mail to the mall on Wednesday (April 6) afternoon to enquire about renting a space to host a fashion and apparel fair for one week in May.
In subsequent e-mail correspondences seen by The Straits Times, the employee had requested for Ms Diana to provide her with the fair's intended merchandise mix before rejecting her with an e-mail saying that the mall's target audience was Chinese.
It was only after Ms Diana requested for the employee to reconsider the application that she revealed that the mall's atrium was fully booked until August.
The employee also suggested that Ms Diana consider holding the fair at the nearby Century Square - also owned by AsiaMalls - instead.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who is an MP for Tampines GRC, weighed in with his take as he responded to a user who posted about the issue on his Facebook page.
"Insensitive and incompetent staff. Good that the mall has apologised," he wrote.
Mr Masagos also urged the public to "look for ways to repair faults and build on the goodwill that the majority has deposited with each other" when such incidents happen.