On Sun Xu – by Ben Leong

Disclaimer: Given that I currently work for NUS and that what I’m going to be writing about in this note concerns NUS, it is perhaps appropriate for me to start with a disclaimer that all opinions expressed herewith are mine and do not in any way represent those of my employer. In other words, I’m just being a big kay poh and that’s that. 

This is really a response to my student Orry who alerted me to this notehttp://kentridgecommon.com/?p=14416, which ostensibly defends Sun Xu, who has been accused, charged and essentially “convicted” of insulting Singaporeans.

It turns out that I once spent two years of my life meting out punishment for the Singapore Civil Service. Can’t recall the numbers exactly, but probably saw at least 200 to 300 cases and sacked a couple of dozen people. I also worked with lawyers and read judgments for fun just to better understand what I was doing. Suffices to say that I suspect that I am rather familar with offences and punishments. Hence, the first thing that came to mind when I read about the case was: was the case handled correctly?

Sorry, this is called ex-occupational hazard. 🙂

First,when there is an offence, the charges must be framed correctly and clearly and the accused must be given the right of reply. That part is not the problem. Quite sure Sun Xu is guilty as charged. So, that’s all cool. Check.

Next, after someone is found guilty, we have to decide exactly what punishment is appropriate for the “crime”. There are these things called the Principles of Natural Justice. I am not a lawyer and I don’t want to embarress myself by trying to explan this, and it suffices to say that one of key elements is that the “punishment must fit the crime”.

Think Goldilocks. Cannot be too light. Cannot be too heavy. Quite common sense really.

And it is on this point where I’m somewhat confused by the outcome of the whole business.

Before I continue, let me just say that for all intents and purposes, the case is closed.The case was “judged” and a punishment was decided on and Sun Xu was given the chance to appeal. He has given up his right to appeal. So the case is open and shut. It is also not my intention to ask for the case to be re-opened. I am merely excercising my right of free speech and being a big kay poh.

According to reports, Sun Xu was fined $3,000, asked to pay back S$8,200 for his current semester’s scholarship benefits and also made to do three months of community service before he can be allowed to graduate. In terms of monetary penalty, he slapped with essentially a financial penalty of $11,200.

Let’s ignore the community service part for a moment. I am curious to know what crimes, and I mean *real* crimes under our Penal system, would attract a fine of more than $10K?

I am also a little confused about the victim. Who exactly was the victim? Who died? Who was maimed? Who suffered financial loss, and how much?

When judges mete out punishments under the Penal Code, they often have to write judgments. In my past life, when I was the one meting out punishment on the civil servants who commit offences, we have a file for every case and we will have a detailed submission (10 or 15 pages not uncommon) explaining the facts of the case and the reasoning behind the final punishment that was dished out. There are these things call precedences which will be surfaced for comparison to make sure that the punishment is commensurate with the offence.

I would be curious to understand exactly how the NUS Disciplinary Committee came to the conclusion that $3,000 and to pay back the scholarship was “just” punishment. This might make for a good homework question for law school — “Sun Xu’s punishment was just w.r.t. the Singapore Penal Code. Discuss. ” 😛

The second point that I would like to make is about the issue of anonymity.

It’s good that someone spoke up, but I am really not impressed by the fact that the student who wrote the article in defence of Sun Xu had to do so under the cloak of anonymity.

Given the present Internet climate, perhaps he was justified to be worried about being lynched by the online mob, but seriously, speaking under the cloak of anonymity is not healthy and not something that we want to encourage.

Moral courage is something that we want to encourage in Singapore and among our students.

It is because many Singaporeans are chicken and do not have the courage to speak up under their real names that we have the cowboy town we see on the Internet today. I hope that our NUS graduates can do better.

On ths note, I would like to take this opportunity to commend my student Orry for expressing his opinion that the punishment for Sun Xu was excessive in his own name. 🙂

To conclude, I would like to pose a thought experiment for the reader: suppose you were walking down the street and an angry dog starts barking at you. The dog is leashed, so it cannot come bite you. Do you:

(A) Ignore the barking and go about with your business because you have better things to do with your life,  i.e. you have a life. 

(B) Stare at the dog. Stare some more and try to out-stare the dog. Then bark back and try to out-bark the dog.

(C) Take out a shotgun and blow its brains out

(D) Make a police report

(E) Write to Baey Yam Keng

Link : https://www.facebook.com/notes/ben-leong/on-sun-xu/10150639424937549


Further addiiton comment from  Ben Leong

Thanks for your question. I have two more points to make:

One, of the biggest problems with the current situation is that our education system has failed to teach people how to determine what they actually know and what they often don’t know. We have a lot of smart alecks who think they know a lot and anyhow spout crap under the pretense of freedom of speech or academic freedom.

What they seem to fail to understand is that what statements are made, they need to be robustly defensible when challenged. In minor cases, someone will come along and show that you’re wrong and make you look stupid. In major cases, it can lead to defamation. Rights come with responsibilities. Too many do not understand this leading to the sort of chaos that we are seeing online.

Two, forget the legal positions, just pause for a moment and take a step back and take a close look at what is happening:

o Stupid kid makes a stupid comment to his group of friends (or supposed friends) that some segment of this society finds offensive and gets slapped with a $10K fine for what is essentially a private message.
o Stupid girl makes some stupid remark on Twitter and the next thing we know, someone makes a Police report and another school has to initiate disciplinary proceedings.

These people are still in school for goodness sake. Kids say stupid things from time to time. That’s EXPECTED lah. *sigh* What’s going on.

I don’t think that when Parliament passed the Sedition Act, they had any inkling that we were heading towards what we see today. The Act is actually v scary ‘cos its powers are extremely broad. The general expectation in such circumstances is that such powers should only be exercised only under v dire circumstances. We really cannot be invoking the Sedition Act on a minor like the poly girl.

To some extent, this note is less about Sun Xu, and more about posing the question: what the heck is going on with our society today? Where are we heading?

Nature of the beast : (some) Teens and the Youths are, by nature, rebellious and anti-authority

Your Voice : 
I happened to watched NHK program yesterday and realized it was about GE2011, and to my shocking (or shall I say now used to it) that some youngsters were interviewed, and 1 young lady, probably still a high school student or may be just started work, so proudly said something like… ” now with social media they can speak up, previously so scared like controlled can’t voice out about government”… and there was a screen showing a social media screen “vote for opposition”… what on earth these young people assume they have found opposition the better way to make their life better than now ! they now enjoy a good life and they want change just because they can’t speak up or what? speak up about what? are they saying opposition have done wonder and they are better than PAP government? totally out of mind !

Comments : 

  • You can trust Singaporean teenagers to embarrass their own country on the foreign media.
  • that’s the nature of the beast….every generation would have this experience.
  • Sometimes i wish they’d bring back the old PAP hardball way of doing things.
  • Times have changed. Can’t alienate the new generation.Yes, come to think of it, we can’t risk handing the country wholesale to the opposition because we maintained out hardline stance. Do we want to lose more votes or are we willing to give a little, win back votes so we can stay on and be able to do our job of running the country? While we must continue to do what we must do to run the country properly, there are times when we have no choice but to “sweeten the deal” somewhat and let the new generation see that we are listening and that we are willing to change, but change must come gradually and must not be detrimental to the country. I guess, tweaking our policies a little here and a little there isn’t too bad. Though some like me would have felt we should maintain the status quo, while others at the opposite end of the spectrum would feel the government is not doing enough, I think after the last GE, we have reach a pretty ideal middle ground. Equilibrium.

    Can’t speak out? Whoever said you can’t speak out? We speak out all the time. We feedback directly to the MPs and Ministers, sometimes straight to their faces. And we don’t face consequences. Why? Because we do it rationally, we don’t slander, we don’t curse, and we are doing it for the best interests of the country. So whoever said he/she can’t speak out obviously hasn’t been living in reality for quite a while.

  • It’s a new generation. And you can win votes from them. But the politics of our country keeps going left. The centre is shifting left. And left means like any Western democracy, where populism spreads, welfarism spreads, govt’s intervene unwisely in economy because the angry constituents demand it, everything the govt must do, every cock-up is govt’s fault, the govt needs to do the right policy but when unpopular they scrap it, they only plan for 5 years to win elections. Already younger Singaporeans prefer this system. And its dangerous. The govt’s inability to defend its position is because they can govern but they are too technocratic. They don’t know how to lead public opinion, frame expectations correctly. In a way, for a govt, managing the people’s expectations and pushing hard policies is like managing your wife. Will your wife ever be cooperative with you if you didn’t know how to play marriage politics? If your wife is unreasonable, and you give in, your relationship doesn’t get better. The govt is in effect giving in to every demand by populist Singaporeans, and like the hen-pecked husband, will face a divorce once people realise that it is weak.
  • MM Lee Kuan Yew could win elections despite playing hardball, because he knew how to handle human relationships. He sets the expectations and plays is prudently. He can afford to take tough legal action because he knows how to frame it in a way people will accept. After the old guard. It is a leadership problem.
  • Teens and the youths are, by nature, rebellious and anti-authority. Thank goodness elections are restricted to those above the age of 21. And hopefully, the matured population in this demographic continue to outnumber the greedy, childish pricks.
  • Agree on what some of these youngsters are thinking nowadays. I honestly think the younger generations have too good a life. A lot of them never encounter any form of suffering before. Taking away their iphones is basically suffering for them. In addition they do not bother to read about what is happening in other countries, don’t know how to appreciate things that they already have. Lastly they feel that rebel is a cool and hip thing, irregardless of whether it makes any sense at all. Of course there will be mature ones as well. But from the GE and PE results, it pretty scary how some youngsters vote.

New era of freedom of expression : Responsibility and Accountability are often not in the equations.

Your Voice : 

What if someone were to name-call in cyberworld the following :

  1. most MIW supporters are useless monkeys and/or pappy dogs, or
  2. most Alternative party supporters are mindless baboons, or
  3. most Singaporeans are lazy & complacent doodoo birds

You may disagree with the above and feel disgusted, but yeah this is the new era of freedom of expression without crossing established OB markers.

Such name-callings are happening and ever-present, almost always inevitably.
Current OB markers are :

  1. criminal or fraud activities
  2. racial insensitivity, and
  3. religious insensitivity.

In today’s new tech world, ample opportunities are available for groups of dubious intent to extract “anything under the sun” to distort and incite emotions, some self-destructive while others could be malicious. Truthful and sensible logics are often thrown on the wayside, as responsibility and accountability are often not in the equations.

To those bent on creating irresponsible mayhem, it is advisable to :
“Grow up and stop using such incidents to insinuate & incite emotional targeting of specific groups, especially when you have no intention to backup your dubious demeanour”

” A clear confirmation that Lee Kuan Yew, although ethnically Chinese, was his own man,..”

“The centrepiece of the Beijing visit (in 1976) was the formal meeting between the prime minister’s delegation and the Chinese premier Hua Guofeng.

During the discussions, Hua presented the PM with a book, saying, ‘This is a correct version of the war between China and India. I hope you will find it useful.’

Lee Kuan Yew took the book, looked at the front cover, looked at the back, and said, ‘Mr Prime Minister, this is your version of the war. There is another version, the Indian version. And in any case, I am from Southeast Asia – it’s nothing to do with us.’

He handed the book back.

For me, this was a very important moment, a clear confirmation that Lee Kuan Yew, although ethnically Chinese, was his own man, in no way subordinate to China or the Chinese communists.

We in Singapore had a separate, multi-racial identity. What we made clear was that we should not be taken for granted.

The Chinese foreign minister Qiao Guanhua was rather agitated but kept his cool; his wife did not, and walked out of the room in a huff.” – SR Nathan.

… in his book, ‘An Unexpected Journey: Path to Presidency (pg 424).

SRN was then Director SID.

Shared from    Bryan Ti

What’s there to Complain ?


“Phone! Phone! Game!…” the little 3-year-old darling was wailing in her pram. Mummy quickly shoved her the I-phone to avoid further stares from strangers.

“Haiz, kids nowadays, so young already demanding and addicted to I-phone,” mummy complained.

I bumped into an old friend and that was the little ‘commotion’ that occurred during our chit chat.

You see, the little one’s constant demand for the phone has become a problem for my dear friend and she was complaining to me non-stop about it and also how her elder one was so hooked onto computer games.

But, who was the one who created this problem? Wasn’t it mummy herself or perhaps it was daddy ?


to continue reading, please click the linkAnything & Whatever


Dive excursion to Raffles Lighthouse with MOS Tan Chuan-Jin

Last Monday, I had the privilege to go on a dive excursion organised by NParks for our minister, MOS Tan Chuan-Jin! The trip was attended by staff from NParks, Ministry of National Development, NGO Blue Water Volunteer Dr Zeehan and nature blogger (aka me!). I have to say, that I was really shy (and a little timid) being amongst everyone from the related government agencies… It turned out that everyone was very chatty and they even asked about my giant clam project! During the entire trip, everyone shared about our nature places to MOS Tan and he too, shared with us about his views. Of course, it wasn’t just solely ‘work matters’… MOS Tan also shared with us about his diving experience. Did you know that MOS Tan learnt diving in the UK? That’s really freezing cold waters!

Paparazzi of the people on board (MOS Tan in orange; Dr Lena Chan; Khairah from MND). Thanks to Jeffrey Low (far right) for the opportunity to join the trip. (J. Low looking very happy here… :P)

After an hour of ride, we finally reached our destination for the day! Raffles Lighthouse, or also known to some as Pulau Satumu (loosely translated as ‘One Tree Island’), is the southernmost tip of Singapore’s territorial waters. Just beyond the left or right of this island, we are easily into the Indonesian waters.

This photo of the light house was taken during my last coral spawning trip in April 2010. Raffles Lighthouse has been a long-running study site for our work in NUS and continues to be one of the healthiest coral reefs that we have in Singapore. It also holds the highest number of giant clams (both broodstock and natural clams) per unit area.

Just before the dive, J. Low (center) briefing and giving a short orientation on diving to MOS Tan (far right) and Whoo Kiat (foreground). Both of them have not dived in Singapore yet!

One of the trip’s aims is to show MOS Tan our coral reefs and its biodiversity. Raffles Lighthouse is one of Singapore’s most representative example of rich biodiversity despite the prolonged impacts from sediments and coastal reclamation. Despite the small reef area, Raffles Lighthouse has a species richness of 141 based on Huang et al. (2009). A spectacular number that may even surpass our neighbouring coral reefs in the region.

NParks Director Mr Wong Tuan Wah (foreground) and Senior Biodiversity Officer Mr Collin Tong ready to snap photos of our local biodiversity.

Mr Wong asked me about our giant clam project’s progress and I’m happy to say that we are making good headway with it, in hope of reintroducing these iconic invertebrates to our local reefs. I also shared with MOS Tan the extent of our surveys and the number of species we have. Interestingly, MOS Tan’s first question for me on giant clams was “Can we eat it?” haha! A question that I find amusing as it occurs to me that Singaporeans relate certain marine animals with their stomach. 🙂

From far left: Mr Wong, Whoo Kiat, Collin and MOS Tan all ready to take a dip in our waters!

Look at how clear the waters were on that day! You can see everyone’s fins! haha… When I eventually jumped in, my jaw dropped… The visibility was FANTASTIC! I mean it! The top-down visibility was 7m (measured using Secchi disc by Melvin) and across visibility of at least 6m… Zee and I were buddy pairs, and though we were busy looking around, it was still easy to find her! It was probably my deepest dive at Raffles Lighthouse, where at 15m deep, I could see the sloping reefs very clearly (all those fishes that I couldn’t see before, can be seen now!).

On my way to visit my giant clams, I found this! The Nemo family in the Merten’s anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii)… The photos below were taken in September 2010 and then, there were only two medium false clownfish… The family has grown! A large female, two medium males, and two new fish fry! Wow! How they have grown, and likewise the anemone has grown almost twice its previous size!

Underside of the Merten’s anemone… A key taxonomic feature is the regular pinkish bumps.

It was a really good day for me too… I found one of my transplanted giant clam baby from batch August 2008! After the babies had grown, I had to let them go and grow up in the ‘wild’… 24 clams were placed on Raffles Lighthouse and now, only one remains. Though it is uncertain what had happened to the 23 others, I’m very happy to see the individual growing up well and healthy… It is encouraging to see that our clams can adapt to the changing environment…

Everyone were in smiles and discussing happily of our sightings later on the boat. MOS Tan also enjoyed the dives and the boat trip out to sea… For me, it is heartening to see everyone on board enjoying themselves about our nature places. As I continue to learn more about how our nature places are being managed and gazetted, I realised that we need to be practical, yet creative. As our country progresses, technology and creativity are likely tools that can help protect our nature places. That’s where Y-generation comes in! For example, producing iPhone apps that incorporates our nature places! Justa recent trip out to Pasir Ris, I was introduced to Vito and family who designed an app for Pasir Ris Boardwalk! Very neat!

Dive log for my Raffles Lighthouse trip. 🙂

Before I end my post, I would like to thank all the senior NParks staff for this opportunity to join the trip and for their continued interest in working with us on our giant clam projects! Also, not to forget MOS Tan and the MND staff for their company during the dives… Cheers to all…

Source : http://psychedelic-nature.blogspot.com/2012/03/dive-excursion-to-raffles-lighthouse.html

shared by :     Tan Chuan-Jin

A Good Nationalist wants his Country to be admired by other Countries

  Irene Ng

As we ponder on the recent episodes of racial and nationalistic slurs, it may be useful to recall some lines from S. Rajaratnam’s radio plays, which he scripted in 1957. A character in the play muses on building a nation based on nationalistic sentiments: “There are good sentiments and bad sentiments. There are emotions like love, compassion, brotherliness which have made men better men and nations better nations. There’s the patriotism which can better be described as love of country. There is jingoism and phoney patriotism which is arrogant and full of hatred. But a good nationalist wants his country to be admired by other countries.” (p 111. The Short Stories and Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam) 

In the words of another character, Rajaratnam reminds us: “It is up to us who care for this country, who really love the people, who believe that our great resources and talents can be used to bring more happiness – it is up to us to teach the people, to explain to the people, to continue to fight with truth and decency against the racialist….If we believe that our people are essentailly reasonable and decent, then we can believe that they will understand us when we say that, unless we become a nation, we will destroy ourselves.” (p 106)

Rajaratnam, who later drafted our National Pledge, was a good nationalist. In spite of the many disappointments and the torrent of abuse that came his way, he never gave up on his vision of a nation built on high-minded ideals that can make our people better people, and this country a better Singapore. We should never give up too.