I am writing this in response to an article I came across on TR Emeritus, titled “MP Baey now says he empathises with Singaporean students” (here, right).
Mr. Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, has received a lot of attention recently. It all started when Mr. Baey commented on Sun Xu’s expression of distaste towards Singaporeans: in Sun Xu’s comment (here, and here) online Sun Xu said there were more “dogs” than people in Singapore. (Sun Xu is a Chinese national holding a scholarship in NUS. Mr. Baey, in an attempt to sooth public sentiments, was viewed by many to be siding with Sun Xu and criticised by many angry citizens online). Later on, Mr. Baey gave an apology, which did not do much to assuage the angry citizens who saw him as insincere.
Mr. Baey’s Proposal To Fine-Tune The Scholarship System
Recently (March 8, 2012) in the Parliamentary Budget Debate, Mr. Baey expressed that he could understand public sentiments regarding locals losing university places (or scholarships) to foreigners, and gave an example of his own experience applying to the NUS Medical School. He then proposed to “fine-tune the scholarship scheme for foreign students and allocate more resources to help needy Singaporean students and encourage local students with deserving results”, as well as do background checks on foreign students applying for scholarships. He also suggested efforts to “assimilate them better and more quickly in Singapore”.
The article I read on TR Emeritus reckons this move by Mr. Baey to be “strange”. I quote: “It is strange that MP Baey is making all these suggestions now considering the fact that, in a media interview, he initially defended a PRC scholar for insulting Singaporeans online”.
Is it really strange for him to do so? I don’t think so. Sure, he “initially defended a PRC scholar for insulting Singaporeans online” when he was interviewed by the media. He wasn’t sensitive in his choice of words, and in trying to be diplomatic he ended up offending a sizeable number of Singaporeans. Sure, he made a mistake. But do we condemn someone forever just because he makes a mistake?
Putting The Controversy And Commentary Into Perspective
Firstly, he has already apologised publicly for the hurt that he has caused with his words. More importantly, he is responding to the huge volume of feedback he has received from us by proposing to review the scholarship scheme for foreign students. Doesn’t doing so mean that he is being adaptable and receptive to public feedback? Doesn’t doing so mean that he has learnt from his mistakes and is trying to make up for them? What is so strange about his move? When someone suddenly does something right after making a mistake must we say: “Hey, didn’t he just make a mistake? I’m sure he can’t be doing it right this time”. It is not strange.
The article on TR Emeritus went on to say: “What’s the point of making online background checks on foreign scholar applicants when the establishment is always ready to ‘defend’ them?”, based on a quote by Mr. Baey. I don’t think one instance is enough to justify the use of “always” in this sentence. The use of “always” in this sentence, which suggests that our government is perpetually and pedantically adamant or inflexible to input, is not justified by a singular instance.
To end off, the article on TR Emeritus went on to say that Mr. Baey’s apology previously was half-hearted, and quoted a reader who found it as an insult: “When someone [apologises], he recognises his mistake and offers concrete step[s] to rectify the situation. Here he is saying that if you are hurt by what he said then he is sorry – without any change admission of the mistake or steps to make good the wrong…” I don’t see how this comment is relevant when in the same article Mr. Baey is mentioned to be proposing a change that, in fact, seems much like a follow-up – to “make good the wrong” – to his previous apology.
On the whole, this article on TR Emeritus contains no objective discussion about the topic involved in Mr. Baey’s proposal. Instead, it casts a negative light on Mr. Baey’s proposal purely through reference to a previous mistake he made. How is this a fair treatment of his proposal? Yes, go ahead and criticise our leaders when they do things wrongly. But when they do something right (and even respond to our feedback), could we be a little appreciative rather than cynical? Should we oppose for the sake of opposing, and forget the real reason for opposing in the first place – political progress?
TR EMERITUS: The Voice of Singaporeans for Singapore.
This article was written by Loo Quanxiang (Mr.), who writes at Perspective Presented (http://looquanxiang.wordpress.com/).