Eight years ago, a homophobic, bigoted speech was made in Parliament about gay people. In particular, about homosexual men.
That reprehensible speech, by a then-Nominated Member of Parliament who is also a law professor, was a stunning and blatant abuse of the highest law-making institution in the land for a self-serving vile purpose.
But that was not the shocking thing about the sad events of that day.
What was disturbing about the speech was what came after it – how it “[drew] applause from the viewing gallery and getting many MPs thumping their seats” in obvious approval, as the Straits Times reported it then.
I wrote about this incident for Public House then. The article is now published on The Real Singapore. (See here.)
“The reaction of the MPs, more than that of the public in the public gallery, must give pause to Singaporeans who would like to see civility and rational discussion and consideration of issues in the highest law-making institution in the land,” I wrote.
“One wonders if our MPs are not homophobes – for how could one bring oneself to applaud such a speech?”
Yet, history seems to be repeating itself – in the recent incident involving 16-year old Amos Yee.
To keep it brief, Amos Yee was arrested and charged for content he posted online about Chritianity, the late Lee Kuan Yew and for a cartoon depiction of Mr Lee and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Amos Yee is presently under remand for breaching his bail conditions.
On Thursday, as he was making his way to his pre-trial conference at the State Court, an unidentified man went up to him and assaulted him, smacking Amos Yee in the face, even as reporters’ cameras were rolling and clicking away.
What has followed is disconcerting.
Some people online are openly cheering the assault, nevermind that Amos is of the age of a minor, and the strike had resulted in injuries to his eye and face.
The cheering of the use of violence against a young man – a teen, really – is similar to the cheering of bigotry in the House back in 2007.
And one of those who silently gave the thumbs up to the assailant’s action was a former editor of the Straits Times, Bertha Henson.
She wrote on her Facebook page after the incident:
Ms Henson explained it in her blog.
Listing down the reaction of different groups of people to the assault on the boy, she said she belonged to group “b” which she describes as:
In other words, Ms Henson is saying yes, she would hit Amos Yee herself – if she “could or had the guts to” do it.
And she later makes it clear what it is she is cheering.
She says she “got vicarious pleasure from seeing the slap administered”.
But she adds that “that is about as far as I would go.”
To see her condone or to take “vicarious pleasure” at a young boy being assaulted (whether in public or not) is quite disturbing.
This is especially so when the act is done right outside of the courts of justice.
In effect, condoning such an act – even if later in the article she claims to support the law being meted out to the assailant – is to condone disregard for the law.
It would be the same as someone else saying he is in effect condoning and supportive of such use of violence on Ms Henson just because he does not like what she writes on her blog, or how she behaves.
This seems lost on the former editor.
The use of physical violence on unsuspecting minors or children or young people cannot in any way be condoned in a civilised society.
So it is good to see the Law Minister, K Shanmugam, saying exactly this.
In a Facebook post, he said:
“Amos Yee was assaulted as he was going to court today. That is quite unacceptable.”
“People may have strong feelings about Amos (or anyone else who is charged). But we have to leave it to the courts to deal with them. Taking the law into one’s own hands cannot be condoned.
“Rule of Law means respecting the legal process. If everyone starts taking the law into his or her own hands, then we will no longer be a civilised society.”
Thus far, one person has inflicted physical violence or harm on the teenager, which is against the law; another advocated wanting to “cut off his dick and stuff in his mouth”; several others support his rape in prison.
It is thus unfortunate that those like Ms Henson and the so-called pitchfork lynch mob, which include a pro-PAP Facebook page, seem oblivious to the consequences of supporting – even if it is taking “vicarious pleasure” in the assault – and expressing such support for the use of violence, especially on minors and teens.
It degrades us as a people, as a society, as a young nation which aspires to be a gracious society and something greater.
Ms Henson says she expects to “be attacked by those who disagree with my group b choice and will call me all sorts of names and declare their ‘disappointment’’ ecetera.”
I think it goes beyond disappointment.
It is something more serious than that, and hopefully Ms Henson and those who condone the use of violence will realise this, and realise it sooner rather than later.
Just as MPs should not be cheering the bigoted speech of an NMP, we too should not, for whatever reasons, cheer the physical harm of anyone, let alone pain inflicted on young persons, just because we disagree with what they say or how they behave.
Now, has anyone asked if Amos Yee has received medical attention for his injuries?