Mr Amos Yee’s video and his prosecution has grabbed the attention of Singaporeans, evoking strong emotions among many people.
Amos’ remarks must have hurt PM Lee Hsien Loong deeply. After all, Lee Kuan Yew was the PM’s father and no one enjoys having their loved ones criticised, especially at a time when one is still grieving and in the manner in which it was done. Amos’ video was offensive and ill-advised.
But this is where we need leadership to come through. Mr Lee is not an ordinary citizen. He is the leader of the country. Difficult as it may be, he must separate his personal feelings from his public ones.
Clearly, there are laws that empower the state to prosecute the teenager. But life’s lessons impart to us that just because we can, it doesn’t mean that we should.
Amos, as it has been repeatedly pointed out, is still a teenager and as teenagers go, so goes all the emotional complexities that adolescence brings.
As parents, we must seek to influence and mould rather than proscribe and punish. Our instinct must be to coax the best out of our children whatever their talents and frailties. As leaders, should we act any differently towards our youths?
From his Facebook posts, Amos seems to be undergoing a complex time in his development. He is undoubtedly endowed with exceptional talent. We should also recognise that he is not a hardened, let alone common, criminal deserving of shackles and imprisonment. For all his precociousness, he is still a child who needs guidance.
Given the situation, the state should provide Amos and his parents assistance rather than make life more difficult for them.
In the bigger picture, how we deal with youths like Amos – and there is a rapidly growing number among the younger generation who are frustrated with the current political system – will determine how we progress as a nation.
If all we are intent on is to shut our youths up by prosecuting and imprisoning them, then we are creating a dangerous situation for ourselves. We will rue the missed opportunity to bring them into public process and harness their intellect and exuberance if we hope to progress.
It is imperative that this Government deals with the emerging situation with greater sophistication than it has demomstrated thus far. To do this, we need more discussion amd nuanced conversation, not prosecution.
As for Amos’ comments on Christianity, there are many in the SDP who are Christians and we are not offended by the video. Neither do we wish to see Amos prosecuted for his views – our faiths are not so shallow as to punish a boy for criticising it.
It is, therefore, incomprehensible to see the state media mischievously suggest that it was the SDP who had influenced Amos to make his video. It is such kind of irresponsible journalism that causes national discord.
If the PAP is offended by Amos’ words, then I would like to remind it that I have been called worse things, much of it by Lee Kuan Yew himself. I choose not to harbour any grudge for a burdened heart cannot truly serve the people.
In this vein, I call on the Prime Minister to step up and lead. With courage and wisdom.
This article was first published on the Singapore Democratic Party’s website.