KENNETH JEYARETNAM: WHY I CHOSE TO STICK MY NECK OUT FOR AMOS YEE

Credit: Kenneth Jeyaretnam

A lot of journalists have asked me why I chose to fly out to Chicago. The answer is I didn’t choose to. I had been supporting Amos Yee from before he first appeared in court here. I had also written an open statement to support Amos after which his lawyers Grossman LLC contacted me and asked if they could submit my testimony as evidence. During some later prepping sessions by video link the lawyer let slip that it would make a huge difference symbolically if nothing else were I to attend to testify in person. By then I felt I had an obligation to follow through so I scrambled around for a flight and left, ill prepared as it turned out for snow in Chicago!

When people ask me why I went to Chicago what they are actually asking me is why I chose to stick my neck out for Amos in the first place. At first I thought to myself that it was the same reason that I put my neck out for Soon Juan, Vincent Wijeyasingha, Roy Ngerng and others. That I believe in standing up for persecuted individuals, that I believe in freedom of expression and that we will never reach our full potential as a nation until we have that freedom. Yee is not the first such person I have gone out of my way to help. For example, I looked after Roy Ng on a trip to the UK and France, accompanying him to Paris and introducing him to NGOs and rights organisations.

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In truth there was something about Yee’s case in particular that struck a chord with me. Maybe it is because I also had a 16 year old son and I used to be a 16 year old boy myself. It was hard to see a child maltreated so horribly. Mostly though it was that his plight and the persecution he suffered, the way the Gvernment was unwilling to tolerate even a sliver of dissent and came down hard with spurious charges reminded me of the way they could not tolerate my father being in parliament. Again the vindictive and personal nature of the persecution stemming from anger at criticism of LKY reminded me of LKY’s vow to see JBJ on bended knee. Of course Amos Yee’s stubborn refusal to be bowed, to bend that knee in front of the altar of LKY, reinforced the link to JBJ in my mind.

I had already laughed my head off when Yee’s lawyer had said by video link that he was sure Amos would be grateful for my efforts. “No he won’t”, I replied when I stopped laughing. There is no point helping Amos if you are doing it for thanks or gratitude. Do I regret helping him? No, I am also elated but at the same time saddened that Amos had to flee to have a chance at a life and I am aware of how hard life is for an exile or a refugee. I do feel though that the judgement has vindicated my father and the political persecution he suffered all cleverly packaged and disguised as either civil suits brought by private persons or even trumped up fake charges of fraud. Even now Singapore refers to my father’s “criminal” conviction even though that conviction was found to be a grievous miscarriage of justice and a non-existent offence and was overturned by a higher court. Amos Yee like JBJ will forever be branded a criminal in his home country.

The judgement can be found here:
http://www.grossmanlawllc.com/files/ij-decision_media.pdf

My original statement here:
https://kenjeyaretnam.com/2017/01/24/statement-in-support-of-amos-yees-a...

I will continue with other aspects of the hearing, such as the Judge’s understanding of our sedition laws and other tools of repression and the question of obscenity and grizzly bears, in future blog posts.

Meanwhile, ‘I hope Singaporeans will see how democratic counties truly view our authoritarian system without the rose-tinted spectacles that MHA requires us to wear. We should stop feeling so pleased and proud that we have sold our rights so cheaply to the Lee family and their cronies, for living standards that are not ‘much better than those in Kuala Lumpur or Eastern Europe.

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