Random Thoughts On National Day

Many years ago when I signed my first book distribution contract for my first novel, Worlds Apart, I found an interesting clause in the contract. As author and publisher, I must indemnify the distributor against any litigation if the content of the book was found to be libelous. I’m no expert in legal matters, but I found the clause rather strange. In what way would a distributor be responsible for the content of the book?

“There was a case where somebody sued the author, the publisher, the book distributor and even the bookstores that carried a title which apparently defamed him.” replied the general manager.

I remember those words till this day. Back to the present.

EUDC / Shengwu Li

So what’s new? For calling the Singapore government “litigous”, the courts “pliant” and the ruling party MPs as “dogs” in a Facebook post, Li Shengwu raised some eyebrows among netizens. Of course, statements like that could have been written by any follower of alternative media, but Li Shengwu happens to be Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson. The PM Lee Hsien Loong was referred to as “my uncle”. The juciest part was probably “my uncle’s dogs”. Even the strongest critics are not qualified to use such words.

A screenshot of that message deserved a million shares. When the laughter had subsided, we were all curious. Will “suing my own brother and sister in court would further besmirch our parents’ names” apply here too? Apparently, not. An apology was demanded by the AGC and when that was not forthcoming or satisfactorily done, the AGC set out to defend itself.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed an application in the High Court on Friday (Aug 4), to start committal proceedings against Mr Li Shengwu for contempt of court.

This was after Mr Li failed to take down a Facebook post which he put up on Jul 15, criticising the Singapore court system.

In its press release, the AGC reproduced the full post by Mr Li, who is the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

The post, which was set to “friends only” in Facebook’s privacy settings, included a link to a 2010 editorial published by the New York Times, titled “Censored in Singapore.”

In the post, he wrote: “Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.”

Mr Li’s Facebook post was republished widely in Singapore after it was posted, the AGC said.

On Jul 21, the AGC issued a warning letter to Mr Li on Jul 21, asking him to “purge the contempt” by deleting the post from his Facebook page and other online platforms.

He was also asked to “issue and post prominently” on his Facebook page a written apology and undertaking drafted in the terms in the AGC’s letter.

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/agc-takes-action-against-li-shengwu-for-contempt-of-court-over-9094174

Li Shengwu, has told Reuters that he will not return to Singapore following a charge for contempt of court by the AGC. The 32-year-old grandson of Lee Kuan Yew is junior fellow academic at Harvard University and he will be commencing as an associate professor at Harvard by October 2018.

“I have no intention of going back to Singapore. I have a happy life and a fulfilling job in the U.S.”

The grandson of modern, authoritarian Singapore’s chief architect is now apparently in self-imposed exile in the US after a run-in with a system created by none other than his grandfather. Such an irony boggles the mind and I believe this is one of the ways that Buddhist karma can play out. But wait, there’s more.

James Bond - Thunderball poster

Ex-NUS Professor Huang Jing was uncovered as an agent for foreign intelligence. Huang Jing, 59, a former professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) has been declared a Prohibited Migrant by the Controller of Immigration after being exposed as an ‘agent of influence’, according to a media statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released today.

Huang is believed to have conspired with foreign intelligence agencies to influence the Singapore Government’s foreign policy and shape public opinion. Huang and his wife, Shirley Yang Xiuping, were deported on 4th August 2017.

How did Huang manage to influence the Singapore Government’s foreign policy? Why not me? had also engaged key opinion leaders and influential Singaporean public figures to shape public opinion through the dissemination of what he claimed ‘privileged information’.

There was no mention of which “foreign intelligence agency” Huang was working for, but in this case, silence may yield more answers than evasive statements. No prizes for guessing which country Huang Jing is really working for (other than the one our government thinks he has been working for all these years).

ASEF Outlook Report 2014/15 and Model ASEM Singapore 2015

Absurdly, many of our wise and learned MPs are shocked. Things that should not and ought not happen have happened. The responses from them are most interesting.

Sembawang MP Vikram Nair, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, described Prof Huang’s attempts to influence the Government as “very serious” and “worrying”.

“It may not be so much the effect he had, but the intentions … Whether or not he succeeded, that is a worrying fact … I mean, if he was successful, it could be similar to what Marxists used to do to try and influence governments. (They start) by influencing the population, then the leaders,” said Mr Nair.

Yao mo gao chor ah? These foreign scammers and conmen may be able to influence the leaders, but influence the “xenophobic” people who often had to be persuaded to desist “Singaporean first”?

How many of us are in favour of the government handing out citizenships and scholarships to undeserving foreigners on a silver platter? Don’t our MPs realise the common folks in the heartlands are more suspicious of foreigners than our very generous government? All this while, isn’t it the government who has been reassuring the “paranoid” folks out there to be more “inclusive” and trusting?

As more and more foreign experts find employment in high places, is it any wonder that our system is already infested with leaders and “influencers” who work for the benefit of themselves and their own countries? Am I shocked by this latest (and I mean very very late) discovery of something we’ve been suspecting all along? It’s really absurd to think that we are the more gullible ones. What took them so long to identify just one of these 吃里扒外 ingrates? Oh, and this one really takes the cake:

“Singaporeans must keep themselves informed of what’s happening in our country through reliable sources of information, such as government’s announcements,” said Teo Ho Pin.

A couple of weeks ago, I met an Indonesian professional who has lived in Singapore for 3 years. She is doing accounting work for some travel portal here. She told me she liked Singapore so much that she would never want to leave. She remarked that our country is so clean, so orderly, so safe and so convenient compared to her home in Bandung.

I told her she should have come earlier. Singapore was much better then. The whole machinery that runs the economy, the efficiency of the bureaucracy, the infrastructure and rule of law are certainly superior to what she had experienced and grown up with in Indonesia. It’s not surprising that she would love it here.

But those of us who grew up here are entitled to a different opinion because we are witness to the gradual loss and disappearance of the things we love and the things that made us happy.

There was a time when one could find seats on the MRT. There was a time when there were no delays and breakdowns. There was a time when working people had time for their families. There was a time when kids had happy childhoods and didn’t commit suicide because of poor grades. There was a time when better educated people had far higher purchasing power than their parents did. There was a time when upgrading one’s skills led to promotions and not to employability with lower expectations. There was a time when people could afford to be more trusting and forgiving and doctors didn’t have to practise so much “defensive” medicine. There was a time when char kway teow tasted like char kway teow. Foreign professionals did not experience all that.

Again, all this head-scratching would be totally unnecessary if leaders in doubt could lower themselves to the level of the common folks or listen to those they kicked out of their league for disagreeing with them. For all they know, their real friends may be in the other camp.

Happy National Day.

© Chan Joon Yee

Dewdrop Books