3 Apr 2007

SINGAPORE: A*Star tells why it wanted to sue student blogger

Welcome to the land of 'Newspeak' where the Philip Yeos of society decide what we can and cannot have an opinion on.

One year on and Philip Yeo seems to be determined to clear his name of accusations of bribery etc. Still none of what is stated in the article below undermines the original allegations. There is no evidence being produced simply a white paper issuing their position on the debate. According to Philip Yeo we are now 'allowed' to have an opinion on the GPA, but on all other issues relating to the fallout we are not allowed to have an opinion? They also state that they threatened to sue Acidflask but in no way influenced his decision to close the blog down.

Bribery claims went well beyond fair comment, says outgoing chairman.

Straits Times
Friday, March 30, 2007

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has come out to explain why it had wanted to sue a graduate student who posted comments about the agency in his blog in 2005.

The blogger, Mr Chen Jiahao, a 25-year-old graduate student who went by the moniker AcidFlask at that time, had implied that the agency was corrupt.

Among other things, he alleged that A*Star bribed universities to enrol its scholars, paid professors to accept scholars into their labs and suggested that its scholars enrol in universities with which it had "connections" rather than the more expensive, top-notch ones.

Outgoing A*Star chairman Philip Yeo told The Straits Times that he was telling the whole story now in response to queries from the public in the wake of The Sunday Times' report on their second online spat.

The agency had not disclosed the exact nature of Mr Chen's remarks in the past as this would mean repeating the libel.

But too many people, especially those in the blogosphere, came to mistakenly believe that A*Star was annoyed that Mr Chen was querying the high Grade Point Average (GPA) its scholars must achieve.

They also thought that the agency had forced Mr Chen to shut his blog site, casting the blogger as a victim of bullying.

What upset A*Star, said Mr Yeo, had nothing to do with the GPA issue, which anyone was entitled to have an opinion on.

But Mr Chen's assertions that A*Star indulged in bribery and corruption went well beyond fair comment.

Mr Chen's allegations had damaged the reputation of the agency and its officers and scholars, who were unjustly portrayed as being not good enough to get university places on their own merit.

That was why it threatened to sue the former Public Service Commission scholar who is now pursuing his doctorate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

But when A*Star demanded an apology and retraction of the postings made on March 3 in 2005, Mr Chen demurred. When he did so, it was clearly an insincere response, prompting the agency to reiterate its threat to sue.

Related Links:
A-Star has their own white paper on this…
Melissa Sim, Sunday Times II
Melissa Sim, Sunday Times
A*Star seeks unreserved apology from blogger
Acidflask's Story
A*Star confirms warning to student over defamatory blog
How is Singapore Science Really Doing?
Committee to Protect Bloggers
The New Zealand Herald
Reporters Without Borders
Index of Freedom of Expression
Chen Jihao's comments about the bond system of student loans.
Acidflask's view on ineffective investment in academic research.
Acidflask's blog 'obituary' by a fellow Singaporean blogger.
Fellow blogger Gilbert Koh considers Singapore's defamation law.
Another take on Singapore's (British-born) defamation legislation.

to read on