On Friday, 28 August, The Online Citizen published a report by Fang Shihan on NMP Mr Viswa Sadasivan's speech at the Lee Kuan School of Public Policy. On 29 August, we removed the report from our website after being contacted by Mr Viswa's assistant. The following is Mr Viswa's letter to The Online Citizen and our response.
Mr Viswa's Sadasivan's letter:
I have asked for the article to be taken off for the following reasons.
First, I agreed to speak at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (something that I committed to two months ago) on condition that it would be a closed-door session i.e. no media coverage (including online media).
Second, when I came to know from a third party a day after my speech that a story was filed for posting on theonlinecitizen.com, I had given explicit instructions that I did not want my speech carried by the media. But after persuasion I consented to it being carried by theonlinecitizen.com on condition that I personally clear and sign-off on the final version. This was agreed to. On this understanding I had asked for changes to be made to the draft that was sent to me, essentially to take out parts that were not adequately contextualised which could result in a skewed reading of what I said at the LKY School on Wednesday, last week. The fact is that I did not get to see the final amended version and therefore did not get the chance to sign-off on it, as agreed, before it went online. This is highly regrettable and it is a breach of the agreement, albeit verbal, and a breach of trust.
This online article does not capture the tone or spirit of my speech and the question and answer session that followed. It failed to capture the context and the many qualifiers that I had presented that is absolutely necessary for the reader to have, to get an accurate sense of what I conveyed in the speech and my motivation thereof. The online report, intentionally or unwittingly, presented my comments in an exceptionally sharp, even belligerent and self-righteous manner. This is unacceptable, naturally. I have no issue standing by whatever I have said or will say in future. However I cannot stand idle and see my comments or intentions misrepresented and misread - it does not serve me or the democratic process any good. Most certainly, I do not wish to become a player in furthering an agenda that is not mine, and something to which I don't subscribe.
In short, I do not wish for my speech in Parliament nor my speech at the Lee Kuan Yew School last week to become incorrectly portrayed or politicised. In fact, it is for this reason that I turned down more than 14 requests from local and foreign media agencies for interviews following my maiden speech in Parliament. Whatever I had to say I said at Parliament and at the Lee Kuan Yew School.
For these reasons I have asked, after careful consideration, for the posting of the article on my speech at the Lee Kuan Yew School to be removed.
The Online Citizen’s response:
We thank Mr Viswa Sadasivan for his letter.
We would like to express our apologies to Mr Viswa for the miscommunication about letting him “personally clear and sign-off on the final version” of our report. It is not a practice nor a policy of The Online Citizen to do this – unless under very special circumstances.
The miscommunication came about, we believe, firstly because of the above. Following this, it was thought that Mr Viswa’s assistant, who had communicated her concerns about the content of the report with our reporter, had agreed for it to be published after the discussion. We had thought the assistant was given authority by Mr Viswa to make the decision. As it turned out, this was not so.
On Mr Viswa’s other points in his letter, we regret that Mr Viswa alluded to an “agenda” we might have. We have no agenda except, in reporting on events, such as the one where Mr Viswa spoke at, our aim is to report as accurately as we can – as we have always done and will continue to do so. We also find it regrettable that Mr Viswa finds our report “exceptionally sharp, even belligerent and [presented in a] self-righteous manner”. Shihan’s report is none of the aforementioned. It is unfortunate that Mr Viswa holds such a view. We leave it to our readers to decide.
Also, Mr Viswa says he does not wish for either of his speeches in Parliament or at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy to be “politicized”. We do not understand what Mr Viswa means. Even so, we had no intention of “politicizing” either of his speeches, whatever that means. Our aim was solely to relay to our audience, what he had said.
However, after careful consideration of the concerns which Mr Viswa conveyed to The Online Citizen separately, we have agreed to remove the report from our site.
We again thank Mr Viswa for his letter and take this opportunity to congratulate him on his recent appointment as Nominated Member of Parliament.
We now consider this matter closed.
The Online Citizen