ST Forum: 'Expression of opinion' was in fact harassment (Oct 31)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oct 31, 2007
'Expression of opinion' was in fact harassment
IN THE article, 'Police question poet over e-mail to NMP' (ST, Oct 30), one Alfian Sa'at is identified as the writer of the hate mail directed to me on Aug 12. Before this, I had never heard of him.

I note his public apology as reported. His current rejection of using hate-mail tactics containing four-letter words and abusive language to intimidate people is welcomed; he also urged others to eschew his anger-fuelled 'reckless example'.

While Mr Alfian says he was merely expressing his opinion, this was in fact harassment. A person identifying himself as a 'gay Singaporean' e-mailed me to apologise for Mr Alfian's e-mail which he had read as he was 'deeply embarrassed by such rude and uncivilised actions from a gay counterpart... I have no idea who this Alfian guy is but his actions cannot be reflective of the collective gay community'. I appreciated his kind message.

Mr Alfian later e-mailed me after the October parliamentary session to explain his 'motivation' for his hate e-mail: 'I shot it off after hearing of how you had made a police report regarding the 'Pink Run''. I understand this referred to a cancelled public event staged by gay activists. He reiterates this point on his public blog.

Mr Alfian evidently failed to verify his source. He apparently drew a direct link between the 'Pink Run' in August and my support for keeping Section 377A of the Penal Code, which I expressed this October in Parliament.

Accurate and fair reporting requires the clarification of one factual error. The assertion on Mr Alfian's blog that I made a police report (or indeed any other complaint) against a Pink Run is a patent falsehood. The truth is that the only police report I have ever made related to the hate e-mail of one The authorities can verify this. Perhaps Mr Alfian was over-impulsive in relying on a misleading and unreliable information source; however, he remains responsible for his abusive manner of communication.

His first e-mail to me was prefaced 'This is a personal note to you.' However, its reproduction in the public forum of his blog now raises the issue of defamation.

Politicians and public figures should be thicker-skinned, to serve robust, democratic debate.

Given his public apology, we should move on and aspire towards civilised, rational debate. To demonstrate his genuine remorse, Mr Alfian should remove any inaccurate or defamatory blog posts concerning this incident.

Professor Thio Li-ann


To demonstrate his genuine remorse, Mr Alfian should remove any inaccurate or defamatory blog posts concerning this incident.