40 S'pore writers issue sole joint statement calling for accountability from BooksActually founder

They welcomed Leck's decision to relinquish sole ownership of the store and Math Paper Press.

Ashley Tan | September 28, 2021, 06:22 PM

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Writers who make up Singapore's literary community have formulated a joint statement in response to revelations that BooksActually founder Kenny Leck allegedly harassed and pursued relationships with several female employees.

Details about Leck's simultaneous pursuit of professional and personal relationships were revealed by his ex-wife Renee Ting and other employees.

Group does not condone such behaviour

A total of 40 authors from BooksActually's publishing arm, Math Paper Press, have since signed a joint statement released on Sep. 27.

Six of them are unnamed.

Those named include familiar published names such as Alfian Sa'at, Ng Yi-Sheng, Cyril Wong, Daryl Qilin Yam and Felix Cheong.

In a separate post on his personal page, Alfian explained why some authors chose to remain anonymous;

He wrote:

"Some authors wanted to sign but unfortunately could not get clearance from their workplaces (either in time, or the process would have been too difficult). To show their support, they have signed but exercised the choice to remain anonymous."

The joint statement shared that the authors were "angry and disheartened" about the employees' accounts of what happened.

The authors said that they do not condone any behaviour that is non-consensual or exploitative, and acknowledged the courage it took for the employees to speak up.

They also called for BooksActually and Leck to be held accountable for past mistakes, and welcomed Leck's decision to relinquish sole ownership of the store and Math Paper Press.

Leck previously responded to the allegations on Sep. 26 with his own statement, saying that he will be removed from all decision-making processes from now on.

Alfian, on his own accord, released his own statement prior to the issuance of the joint statement.

Store needs to "fulfil its promises" of providing safe work environment

The authors highlighted how BooksActually has provided a space and haven for a diverse group of writers, and acknowledged the contributions the bookstore has made to the local literary scene.

However, the authors noted that the writing community "should do better", stating that "scarce resources should never be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour".

From now on, the group said it would commit to building a transparent, safe and inclusive community where none would have to "suffer in silence".

They also urged BooksActually to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for its employees.

The statement added that should the store wish to receive the support of the literary community, it needs to "fulfil their promises" of enforcing better workplace standard operating procedures, including an anti-harassment policy.

They said:

"We hope that BooksActually emerges from this controversy and becomes a bookstore we can depend on and love."

In a comment on their Facebook post, the group shared that they are unable to respond to questions as a collective.

They also shared that a town hall is in the works and being organised to respond to queries.


The group's joint statement comes after a former BooksActually employee wrote about complicity on the part of members of Singapore's literati, who were cognisant of Leck's antics for years now.

No names were named though.

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Top photo from Yeon / Google Maps, Alfian Sa'at / FB, Ng Yi-Sheng / FB, Cyril Wong wordpress, Felix Cheong / FB