Singapore in the Spotlight
Singapore has recently been thrust into the global spotlight for many reasons. Often depicted as a boring, uneventful place, one can hardly call Singapore that now, considering the spate of recent events from the passing of our first Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, to the arrest of 17-year old Youtuber Amos Yee and not forgetting, the Math Olympiad question that puzzled us- When exactly is Cheryl’s birthday? All these events have led to Singaporeans reflecting on our national identity and also the values that we hold dear.
Amos Yee exiting the court with a smug smile
Credits: The Straits Times
Who hasn’t heard of this condescending youth who has been creeping into our conversations?
The teenager posted a video titled, “Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead!”, which garnered over 600,000 views before it was taken down, and a blog post which contained an explicit image of Lee Kuan Yew and the former British PM, Margaret Thatcher. What began as a video under the comedy section of Youtube, has led to an unprecedented uproar in both Singapore and the world.
Amos Yee’s video (reuploaded)
The public opinion has been polarising. While he has had more than 20 police reports filed against him by fellow Singaporeans, he is seen as a catalyst for freedom of speech in the West. The New Yorker Times has described him as “endearing”, and his observations, “well judged”, criticising Singapore’s lack of freedom of speech, citing the fact that Singapore came in 153th in the annual World Press Freedom report. The Guardian has contemplated on “Singapore’s backwardness on rights and freedom”.
Many Singaporeans on the other hand see him as an insensitive boy who did not know what he was getting into when he criticised the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew during the mourning period. He has been repeatedly lambasted as an “attention seeker” and been told to go back to school to learn some proper values. Local stars like Quan Yi Fong have commented that he might be the way he is because he is mentally ill. Singaporeans of all walks of life have also come together to comment on his video (as shown in the videos below)
A rebuttal by a fellow Singaporean
Local Celebrities Quan Yi Fong and Gurmit Singh discuss Amos Yee
That is not to say though that he has not received local support. Well-known opposition blogger Roy Ngerng has called to release Amos Yee and a Christian by the name of Wally Tham started a petition, which has since garnered over 3.400 signatures from individuals stating that they are not offended by Amos’ remarks comparing Lee Kuan Yew to Jesus, and calling for forgiveness.
Online petition to release Amos Yee
Currently, Amos Yee is out on $20,000 bail, through the help of a counsellor, Vincent Law, who wishes to counsel and guide him.
Credits: The Straits Times
A recipient of the prestigious A* Star scholarship, Singaporean Ouyang Xiangyu was in the midst of her post-graduate studies in Cancer Biology in Stanford University when she allegedly poisoned her labmates’ water bottles with Paraformaldehyde, a chemical that can cause death if ingested in large amounts. She was also charged with sabotaging a classmate’s work by killing the stem cells which her classmate had been growing for months.
Many Singaporeans have expressed concerns online about A Star’s selection program and called for more rigorous selection of scholars.
But the most important question is: What drove an academically talented student to resort to such unscrupulous methods? She was studying in an Ivy League college and pursuing her PhD under a prestigious scholarship, so there was bound to be pressure. She had problems adapting to a foreign culture, and her classmates described her as “shy” and “insecure”, and she rarely attended networking events, citing that she was busy. Considering the fact that she tried to sabotage her classmate’s work, there might also have been some element of competition too.
When is Cheryl’s birthday, anyway? This Math Olympiad question from Singapore has gone viral, and stumped many on the internet. The hype originated from a television host, Kenneth Kong, who shared his find on Facebook.
The infamous math question
Credits: Kenneth Kong, Facebook
The question has elicited a number of responses, from frustration to criticism of Singapore’s overly academic atmosphere. While some have managed to solve the question, many either comment on the poor grammar of the question or struggle very badly.
Singapore’s 50th year has certainly been an eventful one, placing Singapore on the world map from a tricky math question to even larger issues like freedom of speech. While we wait and see what will be the fate of Ouyang Xiangyu and Amos Yee, no doubt these incidents have incited us to think of what values we hold dear to and what changes need to be done to a young but rapidly developing Singapore.