The Online Citizen

Singapore Literature Prize judges resign over NLB’s book removal

Singapore Literature Prize judges resign over NLB’s book removal
July 16
14:51 2014

By Howard Lee

A number of judges for the Singapore Literature Prize have resigned from the judging panel in response to the National Library Board’s recent removal and destruction of several children’s books.

Mr Thirunalan Sasitharan, Mr Romen Bose and Professor Robin Hemley have today retracted their participation in the Non-fiction Category of the prize, citing concerns with NLB’s removal and pulping of “And Tango Makes Three” and “The White Swan Express”, acclaimed titles which were removed following feedback from members of the public for their alleged homosexual content.

“We condemn in the strongest terms NLB’s decision to remove and destroy these books, given that it is responsible for the dissemination of information rather than its destruction,” said the judges in a media release. “The fact that the board has not even considered restricting access to the publications but has moved directly to pulping them is very disconcerting.”

The judges also indicated that NLB’s actions amounts to censorship, which they felt have “no place in any free and democratic society”.

They were also concerned with NLB’s “bigoted” stand, which “sets a very worrying precedent that it is acceptable to discriminate against anyone who may hold differing values and opinions.”

In addition, they felt that NLB’s actions was “unbecoming of an institution entrusted to protect and preserve learning and literature and to provide accessibility to information.”

Mr Sasitharan wrote in his Facebook page that, while the decision to withdraw their participation was a difficult one, they cannot in good conscience continue with the partnership.

NLB has so far not indicated if the Singapore Literature Prize (Non-Fiction Category) 2014 will continue or if other judges have been found as replacement.

The pull out by the judges was the latest in a string of public displeasure expressed by members of the public and creative community towards the NLB over the removal of the books from its shelves and their subsequent destruction.

Playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu last week resigned from the steering committee of the Singapore Writers Festival, of which NLB is a partner.

Writers Gwee Li Sui, Adrian Tan, Prem Anand and Felix Cheong also boycotted the panel discussion at the Central Public Library on Sunday as part of the Read! Singapore initiative.

Also on Sunday, a few hundred participants – made up of families, writers and civil society members – attended the Let’s Read Together event to express their concerns with the book destruction. Copies of the two withdrawn books were shared at the event.

  • notanothernameicannotuse

    It seems that NLB is carrying another children’s book which is at odds with prevailing norms which the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans accept. The book is called “Dinosaurs for Kids” by Ken Ham and it teaches creationism.

    I find it repulsive that the book teaches children that dinosaurs were created by God (i.e. creationism). The book starts off innocently enough with dinosaur names and facts but quickly turns repulsive from page 10 what it states that God created dinosaurs. The overwhelming scientific evidence is that life was formed through evolution. I do not have kids, but I ever had children, I certainly would not want them to read such controversial teachings if they were left alone in the kids’ section of the library.

    Can TOC start some petition to get this book withdrawn and pulped as well? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    • Samson

      It is debatable. Who created the first organism? Be prepared when your child asks this. Good luck. They are trying to proof Big Bang but todate, not a squeak from HFC’s Scientists.

      • notanothernameicannotuse

        I’m not here to argue which came first. However, since the topic is clearly controversial and at odds with what the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans accept, the book must clearly be removed from NLB’s childrens’ section and pulped.

        I’m merely following the standards for book removal set by Yaacob and NLB.

        • Samson

          I understand your point. As the judges point out, why not have warnings and restriction of access instead of all out war.

  • Samson

    Mr Thirunalan Sasitharan, Mr Romen Bose and Professor Robin Hemley…..
    I thought wow, we got hope that we have locals who dare stand up for what they don’t accept. Sure enough, the names don’t sound very locally bred people.

    • Crank de Sade

      Dude, T.Sasitharan is local! Just because people’s names don’t sound local doesn’t mean they’re not local.

      • Samson

        Thank you, great to know, even more incredible if he has been locally bred from birth. Do you know? I haven’t a clue about these people and yes, I do assume that Mr Romen Bose and Prof Robin Hemley are not our typical Singaporean Scholars or Academians.

        • Crank de Sade

          Why is it even more incredible just because he is a local? He is sticking to his principles. Maybe more locals should do that so we won’t be in the situation we are in now

    • Melawati

      By the power of Google and the investment of about a minute of your time, you can find out that Mr Romen Bose is a Singaporean who indeed was ‘bred’ locally.

  • IM Flameless

    I hope CNA 8pm talkshow this Wednesday is not going to white wash the whole incident to be in tune with govt’s stand. Online comments have made themselves very clear, MAJORITY of Singaporeans, including some christians, are against the pulping of children books. If you see CNA’s host or its govt-related guests presenting a different view in support of the pulping, please switch off your TV.

  • Samson

    It is better for children to be well informed and be taught to make the right choices so as to be street wise. Remember forbidden fruit taste sweet.

  • Kay Poh Lee

    I confess that I am absolutely amused by the amount of debate on this topic. This is a reflection of our peaceful Singapore, so much so that two ends of the spectrum went on and on and on…. even foreigners (judges, writers, kay-pohs, etc) also want to join in…LOL. Wouldn”t it be better that we channel our energy into bread-butter issues…. ayoyo… tsk–tsk–tsk

  • Kay Poh Lee

    Ayoyo… One say Secular, another say Religious, LGBT or Anti-Family material… ? What’s the fuss???

    Firstly, the majority of Singaporeans supports NLB’s decision not to place those material easily accessible by children. Democratic right, take votes!

    Secondly, if there is a need for parents to die-die must let their children read these books, buy them at your own costs lah…so poor meh…?

    MOVE ON.. babes… oh yes, we need more babies …. LOL

  • Alan

    This is an absolute example of how the minority forcing their view on the majority.

    Are they telling us that they can get what they want by wrestled vocally without a single regards on how the silent majority views on the issue?

    Just another group of idiots!