Crematorium workers who take red packets from grieving families and funeral directors who pass them on to workers are now in trouble with the authorities for this practice at the government-run Mandai Crematorium.
Last week, more than 20 employees from private funeral businesses and crematorium workers have reportedly been questioned by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), said Shin Min Daily on Friday (1 February).
If that is not all, checks by The Straits Times (ST) also found that at least three workers from different companies were called in for questioning by the CPIB last week, while another two were brought in as witnesses of the practice. The three were later released on a bail of S$20,000 each.
The CPIB and National Environment Agency (NEA), which runs the Mandai Crematorium, acknowledged that investigations are being carried out.
NEA revealed that it received news late last year that some Mandai Crematorium staff had allegedly been accepting red packets from funeral directors while at work. “NEA takes a serious view of these allegations and immediately reported the matter to the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB) for their follow-up,” said a spokesman.
However, some industry insiders wondered why investigations are happening now, as the illegal practice has been rising discreetly for decades, and the funeral directors merely pass the red packets to workers on behalf of families.
Chinese and Indian families voluntarily give such packets, as it is seen as an auspicious gesture to “bless” the workers with good luck, funeral directors told ST. Generally, families give sum ranging from S$2 to S$50, although they are expected to give about S$20 or S$24, which is the “market rate” for such red packets, they added.
The funeral directors emphasised that they do not prompt the families to give the red packets, and some of them give packets without even asking. In addition, funeral directors do not receive any benefits from passing these packets to the crematorium workers, and there is no preferential treatment given to those who do so, they claimed.
“The whole process of cremation is very systematic. It’s not as though by giving them an “ang pow”, we will get better times (for cremation) or better treatment,” said a funeral director.
President of the Association of Funeral Directors Ang Zi Sheng, claimed that he found out about the investigation only from the Chinese papers.
“We encourage members and public to comply with regulations set out by NEA of not giving any gifts of any nature to crematorium staff,” said Mr Ang.
Upon reading this news, many netizens have expressed their disagreement towards this matter. They all felt that it was the families' way of appreciating the workers and they're giving out red packets out of goodwill.
However, Facebook user Chen Hwey Fang feels that this practice is not right and the workers should not accept bribes as they're paid a salary for the job that they're doing.