from: Ravi Philemon
date Sat, May 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM subject Explanation from the National Library Board required please
The reports that an invited speaker at an NUS History Seminar organized by the NUS History Society for the 4th Jun at the National Library has been barred both from speaking and attending the Seminar by the National Library, has greatly disturbed me.
The speaker, Vincent Cheng was arrested and detained without trial for 3 years in 1987. He was alleged to be one of the leaders of a “Marxist Conspiracy”, an allegation that he never had the opportunity to address in an open trial despite his many expensive and legal efforts to secure such a hearing. Mr Cheng was released 20 years ago on Restriction Orders and subsequently the Restriction Orders were not renewed. I take that to mean that the authorities are satisfied that Mr Cheng has been rehabilitated and to all intents and purposes, should be a free man enjoying all the privileges and performing the duties of a Singaporean. As you are a member of the Board of Directors of the National Library and a custodian of it’s Vision and Mission, this citizen and taxpayer, respectfully requests a response from you on the following questions: a) Has the National Library taken upon itself, a censorship and regulatory role to bar a free Singapore citizen from participation in a public event which aims to satisfy the public’s underlying curiosity and desire to know more about what happened in a particular situation, a subject, an issue or person? What gives the Library that power to decide on whether a particular topic is suitable for discussion or engagement in public space? Is there an existing list of such topics which should then be made transparent to the public? b) Has the National Library been advised against allowing Mr Cheng to speak or to attend the event? If so, how does this square with the National Library’s principal responsibility to preserve and make accessible the nation’s literary and publishing heritage and intellectual memory? As a concerned citizen wishing to participate in the greater life of our society, I have always believed that public institutions need to vigorously defend their vision and mission which are the compelling reasons for their existence, and on facts of the situation. From time to time, other institutions of government may, indeed must, have different views, agendas or responsibilities and seek to impose these on other institutions for their own purposes. The hallmark of a great democracy is when different institutions are able to fearlessly engage in objective discussion and make decisions based on facts, justice and it’s own designated vision and mission, and not allow these to be hijacked by the goals of another agency, no matter how “good” those intentions may be. My question here is: Were there facts supplied to the Library that caused it to wander from it’s public mission in this case? Did the Library think that it had some firm and objective basis to bar a free Singapore citizen from speaking and attending a public event which was not even it’s own, but one organized by students from the National University of Singapore? The public has a right to know why the Library, of all institutions, has deigned it fit to bar Mr Cheng. More important, I think any free individual has the right to understand why in his own country, he cannot exercise his freedom in a public event at a public venue made possible by taxpayers. The State has freed Mr Cheng. Has the National Library, our bastion of free-flowing information and knowledge now decided to silence him, even after 20 years?
This matter represents the gradual closing of our society and the “silencing” of a man who continues to suffer the odium of being an ex-political detainee without trial, despite being freed for the last 20 years.
Would you please consider supporting the sentiments of my email? If you would, please feel free to use the email addresses found in my email above, to send a similar email to the Board members of the National Library Board (NLB) to request an explanation for the actions of the management of NLB.
Your act of emailing the Board of NLB, would be and act of citizen participation in the larger life of our nation.
More information about this incident can be found in Singapore Rebel.