UPDATE : NLB's response is disputed by book publisher Mr Fong Hoe Fang. Read his letters to NLB here.
The National Library Board (NLB) has responded to blogger and social activist Ravi Philemon's inquiry over the exclusion of former political detainee Vincent Cheng from the list of speakers of a planned seminar organised by the NUS History Society (NUSHS).
I highlighted in yellow parts of NLB's response that may be deemed contentious, to say the least.
Taken from Ravi Philemon's blog.
National Library Board responds
Ms Amy Gay, National Library Board's Director of Communications, responded to my query as to why Vincent Cheng, the alleged "Marxist Conspirator" was barred both from speaking and attending the seminar by NLB.
From: Amy GAY
Date: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 6:14 PM
Subject: Fw: Explanation from the National Library Board required please
To: Ravi Philemon
Thank you for your email to all the members of the NLB Board. We would like to take this opportunity to explain the context and background to the seminar that you had raised concerns.
The National Library is the venue sponsor for the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Singapore History seminar organised by the NUS History Society. NLB had supported this seminar due to its focus on the personalities, events and agenda that shaped the history of Singapore. This was in line with NLB's focus for its heritage programmes and exhibitions which explored the role of key movers in Singapore's growth from a fishing village into a modern nation.
NUS History Society (NUSHS) had indicated that Junior College and Upper Secondary students were the target audience and that academics would form the line-up of speakers. The initial line-up provided by the NUSHS for NLB's support were academics from the local tertiary institutions researching on these areas. The academic exploration that the seminar would pursue was also in line with NLB's programming objectives to seek insights into Singapore's history through research and study. The late inclusion of Mr Vincent Cheng, by the society was not consistent with the direction of the initial proposed line-up, of academics, by NUSHS.
As part of our partnership and sponsorship conditions with all our programme partners, the content and details of the programme such as the panel of speakers need to be in line with the intent of the event and jointly agreed upon. For this particular seminar, the programme details did not follow the intent of the seminar based on our initial discussions with NUSHS. The final line-up of speakers provided by NUSHS include Assoc Prof Yong Mun Cheong, Head of the History Department of NUS, Assoc Prof (Adjunct) Loh Kah Seng of NTU, Assoc Prof Huang Jianli with the History Department of NUS and Assoc Prof (Adjunct) Kwa Chong Guan with the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at NTU and the History Department of NUS. Based on this line-up, the National Library is still working with the NUSHS to hold this public seminar this Friday. Mr Vincent Cheng, like any member of the public, is welcome to attend.
Meanwhile, registered NGO Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD), of which I am a member, has emailed the Internal Security Department over ex-detainees' speaking rights. The ISD has acknowledged its receipt but has yet to respond.
SFD queries ISD over Vincent Cheng affair
Internal Security Department
31 May 2010
Re: Mr. Vincent Cheng - ex-Internal Security Act detainee
I am writing to you, on behalf of Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD), about ex-ISA detainee Mr Vincent Cheng’s public speaking engagement at the NUS History Seminar 2010 on 4 June 2010, 2.30p.m at the National Library Board (NLB).
It has come to public attention that the National Library Board has asked the NUS History Society to take Mr. Vincent Cheng off the speakers’ list. Hence on 4 June 2010, Mr. Vincent Cheng will no longer be on the NUS History Seminar’s panel of speakers.
As a registered political association looking into matters of civil and political rights, SFD would like to seek from you answers to the following questions:
1.Did the Internal Security Department or Ministry of Home Affairs officials and/or their agents communicate or meet with the National Library Board representatives over Mr. Vincent Cheng’s speaking engagement there?
2.What is ISD's policy in allowing former detainees, in this case the 1987 group, to speak in public? In answering this question, could you also refer directly to Mr. Cheng’s public speaking rights as an ex-detainee?
Singaporeans for Democracy notes that at present there has been no active ban on recent ex-detainee publications, although SFD’s member Mr. Martyn See’s documentary Zahari's 17 Years remained banned.
As this is a matter of public interest, I would be grateful to receive a timely response.
Many thanks for your assistance.
Dr. James Gomez
Singaporeans for Democracy