In conjunction with the Say Sorry Day on 5th Sep, 2010, a public forum was held to discuss and share views about governments, corporations, community leaders and individuals saying sorry.
4 distinguished guest speakers, Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan, Edry Faizal Edry Yusof, Sreedhar Subramaniam and Leow Puay Tin each shared their views on why, when and how governments, corporations, community leaders and individuals should say sorry.
The forum started off with Mr Sreedhar giving his take on corporations saying sorry. Armed with 25 years of experience in consultancy and management, he observed that most corporations have blind spots, especially when it comes to customer service.
When communications breakdown between the frontliners and the decision-makers, corporations often fail to see their customers’ point of view. This often leads to the erosion of customer satisfaction, ultimately affecting the company’s bottom line adversely.
He also said that the starting point of corruption is from corporations pursuing huge government projects. As such, corporations should start focusing more on corporate governance and social responsibilities by saying sorry to their customers and also the government.
Mr Edry Faizal then took over the floor, stressing the importance of compassion and empathy for others, regardless of culture, skin colour or religion. He said that many of us were often caught up with what happened in the past, which prevented us from moving forward. He is a research fellow at Islamic Renaissance Front, an NGO that engages in social debates and the promotion of freedom of expression, religion, democracy and liberty.
He explained that sometimes a whole community could carry on with their lives with misdirected anger against another community due to historical events such as war. With so much negativity and distrust, it is difficult to empathize for all they can see are the wrongs of the other community.
“Instead of waiting for others to make the first move, why don’t we do it?” he said. He then ended his session by encouraging everyone to ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’, quoting the teachings of Confucius.
Next was Ms Leow, a famous theatre practitioner both locally and overseas, giving her thoughts on basic human behaviour. She explained that theatre has always been about depicting life experience in times of crisis, albeit in a shorter time frame of less than 2 hours all neatly packaged into a play or a movie.
Although individuals are unique in their own ways in every day life, it is not uncommon for most to act or react in a similar manner under stress. The desire to succeed, to excel or just self-preservation will drive people to make decisions that may cause harm to others.
She believes that we can all choose to do the right thing for everyone, so as to do no harm unto others in our life long journey before us. Regrets are there to teach us a lesson. People should have a better realization of the situation before making a decision that they will regret later on in life. In conclusion, she encouraged everyone to think rather than rely on emotions to influence their actions.
Dato Ambiga, former Bar Council President was the last guest speaker of the night where she shared her views on governments saying sorry. She was particularly concerned about how governments often deny or ignore the repercussions of their previous actions. Even when a government finally addresses an issue, remedial actions are often not enough to ease the pain of victims.
Citing the example of Japan’s comfort women issues with China and South Korea, it was a case of too little too late. Closer to home, she made references to the plight of orang asli and orang asal who had been patronized by the government.
Nevertheless, she mentioned that the government had at long last recognized the significance of the 1988 judicial crisis and had at least made repatriations to the judges in the form of ex-gratia payments.
She stressed on the importance of governments accepting responsibility of their past wrongful actions before apologizing to the citizens so that reconciliation can take place. She ended her session with a question to all, government and citizens alike, “Have we done enough to prevent such things from happening again?”
She reminded all those who were present on the importance of both the government and the citizens doing their part for their country for the sake of the next generation whom will be taking over in the future.