Two weeks after Singapore permanent resident Avijit Das Patnaik raised the ire of an entire country with a controversial post on Facebook, his employer DBS Bank has since let the man go following internal investigations by a disciplinary committee. A major conclusion to the saga that started on Aug 14, when Patnaik shared an image on social media of a black t-shirt with a graphic of the Singapore flag being ripped apart to reveal an Indian flag underneath.
On one hand, it’s a surprising move. The banking giant already issued a non-official statement (more of a reply to a Facebook complaint, really) that the man — a member of DBS Singapore’s Consumer Banking Operations Team — had been counseled and that was that. On the other, it should have been expected — the backlash against DBS for allegedly not taking the issue seriously was so overwhelming that higher-ups probably felt that the matter could not be left alone. Honestly, some folks were so upset about the whole thing that they threatened to withdraw all their savings in their DBS/POSB accounts and find another bank to utilize.
Today, DBS announced in a Facebook post that Patnaik is no longer with the bank as of Aug 24, but it’s unclear if he voluntarily left or was let go.
“DBS strongly disapproves of such actions by our employees. At the same time, it is fair and right that all employees are given the benefit of due process.”
Phir Bhi Dil Hai
It was the day before India’s Independence Day that Patnaik posted the image on the Singapore Indians and Expats Facebook page. The post obviously went viral, with netizens crying out that the man showed the utmost disrespect to his host country. Comments often veered into xenophobic and racist territory, while the harassment has been so overwhelming that Patnaik had to take down his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
The police even launched investigations into the case — under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act, it is an offense to apply the image of the flag as part of any costume or attire.
Patnaik clarified to The Straits Times that he was not the one who designed the image, stating that he came across the picture on various social media accounts first before sharing it. The man — a Singapore resident for a decade — also apologized, stating that he did not mean to cause offense.
But even after the man was assured to be “no longer with the bank”, some netizens continued to question DBS over other details. Classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.