I am proud to consider Cherian George a friend. While he is not all that much older than me, I do remember reading his articles in the Straits Times as I grew up.
For a large part of his stint in ST, I was perhaps probably too young to truly understand everything he was trying to say back then, since in those days a lot more was said between the lines than in the lines themselves. But I always understood that he was usually criticizing the Government in some way or other.
Those of us with longer memories, who are older and remember life in Singapore before the internet and globalisation, know that Cherian has always been independent-minded and unafraid to speak truth to power, however unpalatable that may be to those in power.
He continues to do so today -- a careful reading of all his writings will show that he continues to be fiercely independent-minded, always fair and never taking partisan sides. And those of us who know him personally, know that he has paid the price in his personal life, in ways that could have broken lesser people and caused them to give up long ago.
So it truly breaks my heart to see clearly uninformed elements on the Internet today, conducting what is essentially a witch-hunt against Cherian. My bet is that these are probably young people without any knowledge or memory of the past, but more dismayingly, without any interest in finding out more about the man and his history before criticising, nay persecuting, him.
Cherian is one of the still sadly rare few in Singapore who are willing to risk their reputation and career, to openly and frankly speak their minds about what they perceive to be wrong in the country they love. He runs the risk of censure, and worse, by his employer and the establishment. And yet, look at what some people are doing to him.
I don’t want to give any shred of credence to their claims by naming them or linking to them. Suffice to say that correlation is not causation; Cherian writing about TRE coming out into the open and the attendant risks, does not mean that he had anything to do with them being threatened with a lawsuit.
And their claim that Cherian’s failure to reproduce the allegedly defamatory comments about Mr K. Shanmugam makes it one-sided, betrays a laughable ignorance of the realities of defamation law. If he had reproduced those comments, he himself ran the risk of getting a lawyer’s letter. Unlike his critics, Cherian operates in the light and not in the darkness of anonymity, where he risks losing everything in a moment of recklessness.
Those who make these baseless accusations against Cherian need to understand that Cherian, as an academic working on media issues who advocates a liberal and progressive perspective, is probably one of the few friends and advocates in the establishment that those of us in the blogosphere and social media have today. While I firmly believe that Cherian is a bigger man than many of us, and so he will overlook the tragic irony of those for whom he advocates turning on him, let’s not make this harder for Cherian than it needs to be.
Cherian George has given so much for Singapore and Singaporeans. While I know he does not expect anything from us, he certainly deserves better than this.