Wednesday, 22 February 2012

In defence of Cherian George

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.



Dear Kum Hong,

Thank you for this post. I was unaware that there were voices on the internet vilifying CHERIAN. I'm dismayed. Having worked with him at the Straits Times for a while, I'm in complete agreement with your views. There are but a few Singaporean journalists who, despite all the pressures brought bear on them, have spoken their minds honestly and courageously. CHERIAN is one of them. I too am proud to call him a friend.

Recruit Ong said...

Don't live in the past. Today the bar is raised and there are a lot more voices out there with more courage and who call a spade a spade. For a communications lecturer surely he understands that. The vilification is hardly surprising as my perception of him is that of a fence sitter and an occasional apologist for the regime. But u say he is under pressure, so no wonder lah. Then might as well don't say anything, or swing the other side and be like that pretend-to-be-neutral eugene tan from SMU.

Han said...

If you think the opposite of being mindlessly pro-PAP is to be mindlessly anti-PAP, then you haven't learnt anything.

And way to go at lowering the bar on what constitutes "courage"... ROFL

Siew Kum Hong said...

i think Cherian has stood up to pressure far better than most people ever will or can or have the need to.

patriot said...

Siew Kum Hong seems to see a need to correct the opinions and views of some others.

What if the others like to convince him otherwise?

The Void Deck said...

The tragedy of it all is that if the ever growing smaller pockets of centrist opinions like Cherian George are also blindly vandalised as somehow pro-PAP by the stupid mob, these discerning voices would be bullied into silence eventually. Heh.

Maybe the centrist discerning voices in the web should band together more often, rather than be picked off one by one by the bullies.

Gary said...

Kum Hong,

I read your piece with mixed feelings.

Are you aware that CG while ostensibly inviting readers of his blog to give their views, he had NEVER (would like to be proven wrong) allowed any to be published. Your comments might as well be sent to the deep Black Hole.

His intention and motives therefore remains SUSPECT to many who even bothered to pen a post.

On the point of taking a no-partisan stand, one honestly must question the value of such a stand in the face of a govt that on many many occasions let fly in ones face a lot of incredibly insulting and condescending responses. And on many an occasion, it is so blatantly barefaced.

In my books, as well as, I am certain in many others', it is sheer folly if not idiocy to hold oneself up as a 'sane' voice in the wilderness! In fact, ones sanity should be seriously called into question in the context and circumstances that we face in this country.

Finally, with due respect, I do see a self-serving purpose in CG's MO. IMO people are hardly to be blamed if CG is being 'misunderstood' as you have claimed.

There should not be any LOB (left out of battle) as we say in the SAF.

Siew Kum Hong said...

@patriot: that's fine, it's their prerogative.

@Gary: I can't speak to Cherian's comments policy, since I've never tried to comment on his blog. Otherwise, I'm going to have to disagree with most (if not all) of what you've said. I don't see the fight as being against the PAP. I see the fight as being for what's good for Singapore, and (for all that I disagree with the Government) the PAP has done much good for Singapore and continues to do so.

Bruce said...

" 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. " - Laughable

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