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SDP to Yale: Respect the rights of Singaporeans
SDP to Yale: Respect the rights of Singaporeans
Added on: Wednesday 18 July 2012
Total comments: 3
SDP secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan has written to Yale-NUS president Professor Pericles Lewis, pointing out the contradiction of promising academic freedom while banning political parties from engaging students on campus.
18 July 2012
Professor Pericles Lewis
I read with extreme dismay the Wall
Street Journal's report that the new Yale-NUS College will
not allow "partisan politics" or the formation of
"political parties on campus". This includes societies
linked to political groups. Beyond that, however, students will be "totally
free to express their views."
Yale-NUS will adopt this policy because
the Ministry of Education in Singapore insists that the College "will
have to comply with the university rules as well as Singapore laws."
The ban is disturbing on two levels.
First, would you care to point out what Singaporean law prohibits the
conduct of partisan political activities by students or bans the
formation of political parties and groups in universities?
In fact, under the Singapore
14 guarantees that "every citizen of Singapore has the right
to freedom of speech and expression" and "all citizens of
Singapore have the right to form associations." It is the ruling
People's Action Party that has hijacked the constitution and laid down these repressive laws.
If Yale wants to be a truly law-abiding
corporate citizen then it should respect the constitution which is the
law of the Republic of Singapore ", not unconstitutional
pronouncements made by the ruling party.
Of course, public assembly in Singapore
is disallowed. The obvious question that follows is: How can
Singaporeans challenge such a law when the law strips away our very
right to challenge it?
Add to this the fact that the every
newspaper, TV channel and radio station on the island is owned and
run by the Government and you have the perfect autocratic system where laws – however undemocratic – are easily passed to control the people, including, now it seems, US universities that operate here.
It seems like this ban by Yale-NUS on
political parties is yet another pronouncement made arbitrarily by
the ruling party to safeguard its authoritarian control in Singapore.
Tragically, Yale seems a rather willing partner in the exercise.
Secondly, if it is all right for Yale
students to organise themselves and for political parties, like the
Republican Party and the Democratic Party, to engage in partisan
politics in the Yale campus, why is it different for
Singaporeans? Are Singaporean students – who, by the way, pay good
money to participate in the programme offered by Yale – not
entitled to similar educational experiences as their counterparts in
the US? Are you not short-changing your students in Singapore?
Offering the meaningless concession that
students are, other than the prohibitions, "totally free to
express their views" fools no one and is, quite frankly,
offensive. It's like trying to bluff a kid by telling him that other
than something sweet, he can have any candy he wants. If I must spell
it out, "totally" means to the full and complete extent, unencumbered
You had told your colleagues that
"Things are changing (in Singapore) rapidly, and a lot of people
in the US have a sense of it only from old newspaper reports." I
agree. Unfortunately, it's for the worse. While it was perfectly
legal for less than five persons to conduct a protest in the past,
the Singapore Government introduced the Public Order Act in 2009 to
outlaw even one person from protesting.
I, as with many Singaporeans, have
tremendous admiration for higher-education in the US. I was a student
at the University of Georgia in Athens and had the eye-opening
experience of joining my fellow Chinese and Taiwanese students in
protesting against the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 – on
campus. I am forever grateful for that opportunity to totally express
my views, something I did not have in Singapore.
You can, therefore, well appreciate
my disappointment when I learned that a revered institution like Yale
University would acquiesce to an unreasonable, undemocratic, and
un-academic policy to ban political parties from engaging
students at Yale-NUS. I have been stopped – twice – from meeting
students at NUS. It is tragic that I will again be unwelcome at an
academic institution in my own country.
My colleagues and I in the Singapore Democratic Party I have welcomed the setting up of
Yale-NUS because we had hoped that the College would have
the courage of its convictions to reject undemocratic rules
regulating campus life. It seems now that instead of Yale opening up
the minds of Singaporeans through academic inquiry and scholarship,
it is the Singaporean Government that will close the minds of the
people running the College.
I would go to the US to discuss this
matter with you and your colleagues at Yale if I could. But I have
been sued and made a bankrupt by two former prime ministers as well
as the current one and, as a consequence, I have been barred from
leaving the country. This, however, should not prevent us from meeting
in Singapore on your next visit. As such, I take this opportunity to
extend to you my invitation.
I am making this an open letter as its content is of public interest. Thank you and I look forward to your reply.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
|Total comments: 3|
Ng E-Ching (26 July 2012 1:32 PM)
If you look at the transcript of the interview, the president of Yale-NUS actually said OFF-campus protests would have to follow Singapore law. It's amazing that the Wall Street Journal managed to report this as ON-campus protests being banned.
Billy Roland (20 July 2012 1:29 AM)
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/07/19/singapore-yale-curtail-rights-new-campus -- HRW raises same issues
Tan Ray (19 July 2012 10:06 AM)
It is a great dismay to learn that such a great and well known university like Yale has to stoop so low to the dictation of NUS ,which is under the rules and regulations of the present government. Instead of allowing the students to think and express themselves freely with an inquiring mind in today's innovative environment, they want to suppress and program them into robotic individuals.