DIPLOMAT TOMMY KOH SPEAKS FOR THE CRITICS

Written by Erica Liaw

In Support of Alfian Sa’at

Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh has voiced out his support for Mr Alfian Sa’at with regards to the Yale-NUS saga.

“We should not demonise Alfian Sa’at. He is one of our most talented playwrights,” posted Tommy Koh.  “Freedom of speech means the right to agree with the government as well as the right to disagree,” He continued.

Koh added in his post that he felt he should defend Alfian “at this moment when he must feel discouraged and worried and friendless.”

 

We Should Love Singapore

At a speech at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference on 1 October 2019, Professor Tommy Koh has also spoken about the importance of tolerating criticism.

“We should welcome criticism as long as the critic loves Singapore and is not out to destroy Singapore,” Mr Tommy Koh was quoted saying in a Straits Times editorial.

“The contestation of ideas is a necessary part of democracy. We should therefore not blacklist intellectuals, artists, writers because they criticise the government or hold dissenting views.”

 

The Beef between Playwright Alfian Sa’at and Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung

On the 7 October 2019, Mr Ong Ye Kung singled out playwright Alfian Sa’at in Parliament to draw relations to his activism and the scrapped Yale-NUS module on dissent and protest.

“And as for Mr Alfian Sa’at himself, in 1998 he wrote a poem entitled “Singapore You Are Not My Country”. Let me quote some lines to give you a flavour of his thinking,” said Mr Ong Ye Kung during Parliament.

Alfian Sa’at responded in a series of Facebook posts that shed light into the conflict between the government and activists.

“First things first, he did not quote a line in the poem in full,” posted Alfian Sa’at, “I am not exactly sure what he means by continuing this attitude in my activism.”

“The honourable Minister talks about the importance of academic freedom on campus in Singapore. Now one asks, what about freedom of expression in the arts?”

In his last post, to draw an end to the debate, Alfian Sa’at posted that while he understands the bitter emotions from the public, he hoped that derogatory comments would not be made about the Education Minister.

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