Vincent Cheng at the "Remember May 21st" commemoration event at the Speakers' Corner last year.
Former detainee Vincent Cheng has been prohibited from speaking at the NUS History Seminar to be held on June 4th at the National Library. The organiser NUS History Society has apologised to Mr Cheng and offered to read his speech at the event. Over the phone, Cheng told me he was not surprised and is looking forward to speak when another occasion arises. Last year, police harassed the venue owners of a forum I had planned on the 1987 arrests.
LATEST : Seminar will proceed without Vincent Cheng. (posted May 28th 1300hrs)
The NUS History Society will proceed with the seminar without Vincent Cheng. It has also decided, for unknown reasons, not to read out Cheng's speech at the seminar. When asked if Cheng is barred from attending the event in person, it said that it would be up to the National Library Board to decide.
The following is the statement from NUS History Society, following my queries on facebook.
The NUS History Seminar 2010 will proceed as per normal on 4 June 2010, 2.30p.m at the National Library Board, The Pod. Unfortunately, Mr. Vincent Cheng will not be on the panel of speakers. Thank you.
President, NUS History Society
Ah, short, terse and safe statements. Years from now, the History Society may be seen as the willing censors in this episode. Therefore, what transpired between you and NLB should be made transparent to all now. Who made the call to take Mr Cheng off the list? What was the reasoning for barring him from speaking? Is he allowed to even attend the event now that you are proceeding without him? Are you allowed to read his speech at the seminar?
- Martyn See Tong Ming
The NUS History Society was the one who initiated and planned forth this seminar intending to share with Singaporeans cross-factual perspectives, experiences and discourses on Singapore History. To that, even with the exclusion of Mr. Cheng as a speaker, the objectives set forth by the Society will still be met, albeit not as comprehensive as what we would like it to be. To state that "the History Society may be seen as the willing censors in this episode" is not being fair to the Society and the students running this organisation as this Society was the one who extended the invitation to Mr. Cheng to speak and share at our humble event.
I had a meeting with Mr. Cheng himself on 26 May 2010 (Wednesday) to discuss his scope of discussion so as to better facilitate the seminar on Friday. It is our objective to present his side of the story as accurately as possible.
The NUS History Society certainly did not make the call to take Mr. Cheng off the list. From my own understanding, I do not know how and what the National Library Board will do in the event Mr. Cheng turns up at the seminar on the day itself. Please note that the National Library Board is sponsoring the facilities and resources to the NUS History Society.
We have indeed offered our most sincere apologies to Mr. Cheng but as to having his speech being read out, it was something that I suggested to him but at the point of my conversation with him, I have yet to discuss it with my committee. As a Society, we have decided not to have Vincent's speech read out, even though I am liaising with Vincent to obtain his speech.
I have attempted to clarify your queries to the best of my abilities.
Below is a comment left by another former detainee of 1987's "Marxist conspiracy" saga, Ms Teo Soh Lung, on TOC.
Teo Soh Lung 28 May 2010
Speakers’ corner is just a corner, a little garden space that is not at all charming. Vincent and his friends do not have the voice of the famous tenor who sang at the Botanic Garden.
I do not see why NUS History Society should accept the ban. The National Library is a public space and we all pay taxes to build it. As long as the forum is not about organising a violent uprising,everyone especially an august society like the History Society should be welcomed to use it. The History Society and the library need to give the public an explanation immediately.