Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Standing Up For Freedom Of Expression

Everybody knows the identity of the writer who is "director of the National Neuroscience Institute", but has anyone wondered about what exactly is the theme of her Sunday Times contributions? That is, other than painting a portrait of her father as more Mandela than Marcos. If she was airing the lamentations of singlehood, surely Sumiko Tan's reflections, before her recent rekindling of an old flame, were more refreshing reading.

From the title of last Sunday's piece "Why Is Giving So Hard", one would have thought that the elitist rich in Singapore, conscience stricken, had finally decided that philantropy is not a dirty word after all. As in Microsoft co-founder Steve Paul Allen preparing to give away his billions to charity after being diagnosed with cancer. But somewhere, in the morass of her writing, was this bit about an American columnist getting the sack for writing something favourable about Singapore. "So much for the US standing up for freedom of expression," so she wrote.

But when TODAY, 3 Nov 2003, reported on Lee Kuan Yew's recounting of his wife's stroke during a European holiday in 2003, and the outfitting of a Singapore Airlines jet into a flying hospital to ferry her back from London, the paper's Shaun Seow, Mano Sabnani, Rahul Singh, Bachchan Singh and Val Chua were summoned to the Istana for a dressing down. Not exactly the tea party any of them had in mind.

Chief editor Mano Sabnani was demoted. The deputy editor Rahul was demoted to night desk together with the other night editor Bachchan Singh. Val Chua had her press pass withdrawn, and relegated to writing advertising features for DBS and other banks. Only Shaun Seow, being a scholar, was bullet-proofed.

TODAY was told it had crossed the line and its media license will be withdrawn if it writes in such a way as to provoke bad feelings which may lead to public unhappiness. All they did was to quote extensively from Lee's speech at the Jalan Bukit Merah community event and the press release issued by his press secretary, since none were invited onboard the exclusive jet. Or accompanying the family in taking in the sights of London and Europe.

And you thought the Lianhe Wanbao photojournalist was shabbily treated for reporting on the Saturday floods.


  1. "More Mandela than Marcos", unquote. Beautifully said. And may I add much more capable than Suharto. The Latter failed to bring Indonesia into Second World. SIN was brought from Third to First and back down to earth soon........

  2. Thank you for bringing up the LWL column. I have always wondered why she would write about compassion etc when there is none coming from her own father. I stopped reading her column some time ago. I began to detest the first family even more after her column appeared.

  3. Your blog is extremely insightful. And it is extremely well-written. Thank you.

  4. Paul (not Steve) Allen is Microsoft co-founder, and his philanthropy foundation started way before he was diagnosed with cancer.

  5. Why is it that she never touched on the topic of our local charities having to resort to a relentless pursuing of top charity dollar whereas her father's Govt prefers to fold their arms in silence and only pay lip service to our local charities.

    They rather instead see to it that they pay themselves top dollar first.

    It is so easy for any elite to write and comment on others in order to glorify themselves. But the sincerity can only be skin deep because it is only action that speaks louder than words.

  6. Her failure to highlight the money spent by NKF to secure donations was quite astonishing. Instead her example was one French man who had to spend money going around the world and performing certain tasks and subjecting himself to pain to get donations. Why not use NKF which is the perfect example? For NKF, how much of the donation went to charity? Less than 50%?

  7. Amongst LKY's 3 children, LWL is probably the least dumb with just a slight touch more EQ. She ought to know by now public sentiments are against her familee.
    Unfortunately the more LWL writes about the familee, the more it shows her to be a chip of the old block, no sense of shame and honour.

  8. noticed that you hardly reply to comments. but heck.

    your writing is startlingly similarly to one todayinsingapore blog, always interesting and acute analysis.

    ur fellow RJ pal

  9. RJ alumni here too, not the pro-establishment kind though.