I am writing this blog in a state of shock and horror after seeing the video of Amos Yee being physically assaulted and then taunted outside the Court.
Our Police force has failed to protect Amos and seem to have ignored or not taken seriously the numerous online threats of violence and sexual violence against him, a child. As a result someone has taken the law into their own hands.
It is not enough for the Law Minister, Shanmugam, to say at this late stage that the vigilante violence is unacceptable and to say that it should be left to the courts to deal with Amos. The central problem is that this teenager should never have been charged. The thug said after he punched Amos, “Sue me, sue me” which shows that his attack was motivated by Amos’s comments about Lee Kuan Yew rather than by so called offence to Christians.
For this reason if not any other, the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, now needs to step out of the shadows and make a clear cut statement. The PM needs to state his own views and the official line of his party, the PAP, with regard to attacks both digital and actual on children and other dissenting voices.
Not only would this be the only acceptable response from a man who is capable of such acts as penning an insensitive, callous and deeply offensive letter of condolence to me on the death of my father but also because he bears direct responsibility for the assault on Amos. So far he has done nothing to cool the flames and to discourage an atmosphere of collusion with threats of violence. This repeated failure to condemn the culture of threats of violence suggests that he has even surreptitiously added the threat of physical reprisals as a new weapon in his armoury of fear.
Because of the PM’s refusal to speak up I have decided to share with you a letter that my lawyers sent to the Prime Minister last year so you can see that the Prime Minister’s failure to condemn the culture of violence against dissenters is not a random act. I have pasted here a copy of the actual letter sent to Lee Hsien Loong in his capacity as Secretary General of the PAP:
15 May 2014
Mr Lee Hsien Loong
People’s Action Party
Block 57B New Upper Changi Road
By Email: [email protected]
Our Ref: lit/JEY0011/JM
RE: The Jeyaretnams
We act for Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary General of the Reform Party, his wife, and his son , together “the Jeyaretnams”.
As you aware, from the run up to the Punggol East by –election in 2013 to most recently on Good Friday this year, 18 April 2014, the Jeyaretnams have been the target of harassment and criminal intimidation aimed at forcing Mr Jeyaretnam to step down from the by election in the first place, then later to leave Singapore altogether, “stop meddling in its economic affairs”, and to “quit politics”.
The threats of violence have included threats of rape, death, castration, and mutilation to himself, his wife and son. The Jeyaretnams have been the victims of threats public and private by email, Twitter, Private Message on Facebook, and public comments on the news websites of global media corporations.
You will also be aware that on the 17 January 2013 Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam mentioned to the Press that his son and wife had received what were tantamount to death threats and that his son was upset. At that point several foreign and state-owned/controlled media organisations, colluded to present these threats as fabrications or embellishments and to invade Mr Jeyaretnam Junior’s right to privacy. Mr Jeyaretnam Junior, a minor, was also the victim of a nasty campaign of harassment and racist abuse and intimidation by an internet body known as SMRT Feedback.
One man was subsequently arrested for the threat of rape of Mrs Jeyaretnam and son and a different man for the threats of harm to and harassment of Mr Jeyaretnam and they have been dealt with by the police in Singapore.
The intimidation and media campaign is clearly politically motivated yet we can find no statements from any of the political parties in Singapore either distancing themselves or in fact deploring the acts of abuse, harassment and intimidation.
We would ask you now to state what your party’s official response is to the political intimidation of Mr Jeyaretnam and his family members and the media campaign to portray his behaviour in a wholly negative and false way. Would you now condemn these acts in the strongest terms?
It has been noted that Minister Tan Chuan-Jin stated on Facebook on 21 February 2014 that “It is wrong and these acts should not be condoned. Kenneth and his family should not be subjected to this.” Nevertheless would you please clarify whether this is your party’s official view and what in fact you have done to discourage such intimidation and the culture of mockery and trivialising the death threats in the state-owned media? In light of the fact that the Elections Department is part of the Prime Minister’s Office, would you let us know what steps have been taken to ensure that intimidation of political candidates and their family members does not become an acceptable part of the political process and election campaigning in Singapore?
We are also puzzled by the failure of SMRT Corporation, which is majority owned by Temasek Holdings, to take any action against a group (SMRT Feedback), which is clearly passing off as connected to SMRT and uses a deceptively similar logo – but posts clearly defamatory material. Will you confirm your Party’s view on this group?
Puxon Murray LLP
My lawyers waited for a while for the PM and the PAP to respond and resent the letter but still no response was received. The absence of a response can only lead to one conclusion: that Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP find attacks against children and the families of their opponents acceptable.
The reason I called the violence against Amos Yee state-sponsored on my Facebook page yesterday was because of the way the State media (and Yahoo news) colluded with the abusers implying that it was acceptable to make my family targets.
In the same way the State media have ignored the fact that Amos is a child and have published his picture without restraint. He is clearly in considerable emotional distress and has alleged abuse from his father over several years. He chose to turn up for his court appearance in pyjamas, the only clothes he fels comfortable in. Despite this he has been handcuffed and remanded in custody with adult prisoners even though he is not accused of a violent crime and poses no physical threat. He clearly needs to be in a safe, protective and loving environment instead.
Not only has the PM failed to step up and deplore his treatment but as yet we have heard no appeals for leniency from the Christian establishment. Apparently he is considered such a threat to the PAP and the Lee family that the state is determined to silence him. The judge has banned him from blogging or posting online even if this means that he has to remand the teenager Amos in custody until his trial.
This assault on Amos Yee only differs from the murder of the Charlie Hebdo satirists in Paris, shot for criticising Islam and the atheist blogger in Bangladesh hacked to death by machete in teh degree of violence and the choice of weapon. In Singapore it is just more difficult to get hold of guns and knives otherwise Amos might be dead by now. The man who slapped him could easily have stabbed him with a knife. None of the journalists or bystanders made any effort to detain or follow him afterwards.
The clock is ticking down. Unless Lee Hsien Loong comes out to condemn this assault we can conclude that he considers it acceptable to use fear as a way of maintaining his party’s grip on power. This is no different from the way the PAP use fear by threatening to withhold national resources from non PAP voters or the threat of detention without trial or bankruptcy or jail through defamation suits or trumped-up charges.
I believe Singaporeans have had enough of living in the shadow of fear of retribution from the PAP regime and its minions. it is time to demand a fairer and more compassionate society. In short we need justice.
I repeat my pledge to help Amos Yee sue his assailant for damages for this cowardly assault