Should we punish Anton Casey?

By Aloysius Chia

Should people demand Anton Casey leave just because he made some rude, condescending remarks about Singaporeans?

Here I am going to present a number of points, running against the current sentiment, about why there is no good reason to.

A number of prominent Singaporeans have spoken up against Anton Casey, asking him to leave if he cannot show basic courtesy and respect to Singaporeans. Among those who have deemed his comments unacceptable are a number of MPs.

Yet before we consider metaphorically prosecuting the man for his no doubt insensitive comments, should we not consider the implications of our reactions as well?

How did bad speech become conflated with Anton Casey being a bad person?

Certainly this man should face the consequences of his words, inviting from those who find it repulsive rebuke or refutation. But should he be expected to leave just because he uttered something really dislikeable to many?

For if there are some who find the government’s censorship of certain speech equally repulsive, and the hard regulation of online media detestable, should it equally be so that the call to banish this man from our shores be a form of censorship as well?

In other words, should we punish someone just because he says something uncomfortable to our ears?

If asking someone to go is the result of saying nasty things, then this form of intolerance, which is no different from asking foreign workers to leave just because they express themselves through protests, are basically the same thing.

When the desire to punish somebody is a result of encountering things that one do not like, even if there was no fundamental violation of the law or any fundamental injustice done to another person, what occurs is taking conformity to another level.

Yes, Anton Casey may have made the most damning speech of all places, in the midst of rising inequality, but his speech itself is no basis for asking him to leave this country.

He may be exorbitantly wealthy, and that may have made his words even more stinging, but this is no good reason to ask him leave. He may represent blatant inequality, but this does not mean he causes inequality.

Singaporeans in a vastly cosmopolitan country should know better than anyone else about this, given how we have live in a multi-racial environment with different cultures and religions all our lives. Tolerance has always been the keeper of the peace.

We don’t judge the character of a person by the skin of his or her colour; likewise we shouldn’t judge a person just because we have heard some ugly words at some point of time by the person. If we can’t take it, and have to ask him to go, then it shows the level of tolerance we have.

Let’s be fair, nobody really knows how Anton Casey is like. For all we know he is really a bad person, and his apologies a result of pressure and professional motives. But before we get the facts right, and know who he really is, let not’s all punish him just because we are perturbed by some words which point to a problem that have other more deeper causes.