Saturday, May 07, 2005

TODAYonline: To Speak Up or not to Speak Up

Hmmm...the paper's formatting has seem to have gone a little haywired but the letter you see in the link above is actually two letters. The first is by Mr. Mark Lim Choon Lye "Confused over where the boundaries lie" and ends at "Frankly I don't know and it is the government's task to convince me otherwise. The other letter is by Mr. Lim Boon Hee's letter "If you lash out, expect the bachlash". Disturbing smug letter with loads of ad hominem attacks.

Anyway, the following was my reply.

Dear Sir,

I write with some regret having read Mr. Lim Boon Hee's letter "If you lash out, expect the bachlash" because as a strong advocate of free speech, I think the manner in which one ought to respond to a criticism is by a strong refutation rather than simply legal recourse.

Apparently Mr. Chen still has no idea as to what Mr. Philip Yeo or A*Star felt was defamatory amongst the 400 odd postings he made on the blog. Coupled with the legal threat in the midst of his exams, he decided to take the 'easy way out' with an unreserved apology (which A*Star has refused to accept) and to shut down his blog. As a result, our society is the poorer for his lack of contribution.

While accepting that Today will be unable to publish the actual comments due to the possibility of being in turn sued for defamation, the truth in one manner or other needs to come out. If anything Mr. Chen said was untrue, a strong statement in refutation and establishing that truth would serve the greater public interest and establish A*Star's moral highground. For anything less would make it seem that the organisation is unable to respond effectively to real criticisms but seeks merely to shut them up with the threat of legal action. And such an unfortunate impression would surely not be in the interest of one of the premier institutions in Singapore.

I urge the relevant organisation to please stay their legal rights if it has indeed been infringed on to allay the fears of citizens like Mr. Mark Lim Choon Lye ("Confused over where the boundaries lie"). As it is, the Freedom of Speech is serverly curtailed in this Democracy of ours not because of any nefarious repression on the part of the relevant authories but simply because of the fear of such legal action or worse (conspriracy theories abound of lost opportunities) by ordinary people like us.

We write and comment because we care about our nation and have a stake in it. If fair comment is stiffled as a result, then politics and debate in Singapore will be the poorer as a result.



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