SINGAPORE: Prominent food critic and hawker champion KF Seetoh appears to have reached the end of his tether regarding the harsh realities hawkers face, with little respite.

He pledged on social media this weekend (1 June) that he will not hesitate to publicly name food centre operators who “bully” hapless hawkers who have no choice but to abide by what he has characterised as draconian contractual obligations.

Thanking an ST reporter for covering the “egregious” contractual clauses imposed upon hawkers, Mr Seetoh said: “It’s informative quite detailed BUT, it does not question the authorities or the socially conscious operators (WTH is that?).”

He promised: “I will name names from here on and hold them accountable yet protect the hawkers cowering under their bully contracts.”

Mr Seetoh asked provocatively, in a comment: “We just need the Ministry in charge to answer.. Is (this) their approved vision n plan all along?”

The founder of the long-running Makansutra food network, which has produced heritage street food guides, international culinary TV shows and food markets for over two decades, Mr Seetoh, is widely considered Singapore’s Food Ambassador and – more recently – a fierce advocate for Singapore hawkers.

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He has a reputation for speaking his mind and has repeatedly urged the authorities to do more to preserve Singapore’s hawker culture.

He has also spoken out against schemes like the government’s social enterprise hawker centre network and corporations he feels are trying to profit from Singapore’s hawkers.

In one of his most recent public appeals, on Friday (31 May), Mr Seetoh called attention to the plight hawkers face when the food centres they operate in are closed for renovations. He questioned:

“So really, what do you want them to do ah? You shut the place down for 3, 4, 5 months, hold their rents and livelihoods and you exit stage left.

Have them live off fresh air and handouts yet continue their home mortgage and family expenses? Alot of these hawkers cannot survive 3 months of revenue zero to make their ends meet.”

Calling such closure styles “heartless,” he added: “Did you think of spreading the work out, a few weeks or a month at a time instead of this one stretch, 5 months sentence.”