After being warned for a report which was described as “plain contempt of court” by the chairman of the Committee of Inquiry (COI), the Straits Times now seems to have misled and misinformed the public on another matter.
In a report on Sunday, 9 March, titled “The riot in Little India, 10 issues raised”, it highlighted, as its first point, the following:
The way the first sentence or paragraph is structured or written may give the casual reader the wrong impression that Sathivel Kumaravelu was shown in a video – “projected on a large screen” – dropping his pants while he was on the bus.
It is really tiresome to have to rebut such insinuations based on poorly written reports which either are unclear, give the wrong impression or are just plain wrong.
The COI hearings have been going on for two weeks so far, and in all the many testimonies heard by the committee, there have been absolutely no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claim or rumour that Sakthivel Kumaravelu had “dropped his pants.”
As we previously pointed out, testimonies and videos shown of the interior of the bus – when Sakthivel was on it – have all NOT proved or showed that he in fact had dropped his pants.
The only bus passenger who was also on the bus with Sakthivel that night who testified at the hearings have said he did not see the latter dropping his trousers.
Neither did the bus driver, Mr Lim Kim Huat, when he testified at the COI.
The video of Sakthivel on the bus, which lasted several minutes, showed him with his pants on AT ALL TIMES.
The video of him walking and then running after the bus also showed him with his pants on him.
This rumour that he had somehow undressed himself was apparently first propagated by the media after a claim by the timekeeper, Ms Grace Wong Geck Woon. She claimed to have been told by Mr Lim that Sakthivel had removed his pants, but Mr Lim has denied seeing Sakthivel do so.
The apparent desperation by the media, for whatever reasons – which are unfathomable to this writer – to demonise the deceased is so laughable that on 19 February, Channel Newsasia even substituted his “pants” with “shorts” instead!
Mr Ganesan Thanaraj, the only bus passenger, who was on the same bus as the deceased that night, to testify before the committee, and who had in fact interacted with Sakthivel just prior to both of them boarding the bus, said the deceased Indian national “looked to be in control of himself” on the night of 8 December before the riot took place.
Ganesan, who said that Sakthivel had been standing in front of him in the bus, was asked if he had seen Sakthivel drop or remove his pants while on the bus.
“Did you see the Indian worker pants come off?”
“No,” Ganesan said.
“Not at any time?”
“So he had his pants on all the time?”
“Yes. I did not see his pants coming down.”
So, here are the facts;
- Sakthivel Kumaravelu had drunk some alcohol before he boarded the bus.
- He was wearing pants, not shorts, as claimed by CNA.
- The bus driver, Mr Lim Kim Huat, said he did not see Sakthivel Kumaravelu drop his pants.
- Mr Ganesan Thanaraj said he did not see Sakthivel Kumaravelu drop his pants.
- The entire video of Sakthivel Kumaravelu boarding the bus and then alighting from it did not, at any time, show him without his pants, or had his pants down.
- There have been no other reports or accounts from any other foreign worker that night which says Sathivel Kumaravelu had his pants or trousers down.
The rumour, it seems, came from only one source – Ms Grace Wong.
But Ms Wong’s testimony in court of other issues has been disputed by others in court, including auxiliary policemen who patrol the Little India area.
But more importantly, Ms Wong herself has provided no evidence to her claim that Sakthivel Kumaravelu had dropped his pants – besides her claim that Mr Lim had told her so, a claim which has now been denied by Mr Lim himself.
The last paragraph of the Sunday Times’ report says that the blood alcohol level on Sakthivel Kumaravelu was “almost three times the legal limit for driving.” It was citing a finding by Dr Marian Wang, a witness from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) who took the stand on the first day of the COI hearings. She is a forensic pathologist.
“Dr Wang estimated he could have consumed more than 2 litres of beer before his death,” the Sunday Times said.
What the Sunday Times failed to report is the caveat that Dr Wang attached to her comment.
According to other news reports, Dr Wang said her presumption that the deceased had consumed 2 litres of beer was “a theoretical calculation and could be inaccurate.”
So, why didn’t the Sunday Times reporters – Lim Yan Liang and Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh – include this?
Stop the demonisation
I think the mainstream media should report facts, and not rumours, or worse, make up its own falsehoods and pass them off as undisputed truths.
What those like the Straits Times should be doing is not to keep repeating an unsubstantiated rumour, but instead they should be finding out how such a rumour started – and if it is just that – a rumour – then it should stop propagating it.
Dishonestly using words like “allegedly” to report such rumours is just that – dishonest.
When the foreign media reported that Sakthivel Kumaravelu was “manhandled” when he was “forced” off the bus, the government went all the way to issue a statement to rebut it, and even Senior State Counsel David Khoo debunked this at the COI hearings.
“In addressing the many theories propagated by foreign media alleging the deceased had been manhandled or thrust off the bus, I would say only that we shall, in the course of this inquiry, adduce evidence showing these allegations to be unfounded,” said Mr Khoo.
This is how it should be done – factual and evidence-based findings, and reports.
Not the half-past-six, sub-standard allegations made by those like the Straits Times who, in all conscience, should give the deceased the benefit of the doubt – a deceased who can no longer defend his dignity in person.
The mainstream media should not take advantage of this.
Why do those like the Straits Times continue to propagate unsubstantiated rumours, instead of looking at the facts and report accordingly?
Why continue to demonise the deceased, based on a rumour?