More on ‘Spare the rod and spoil the refugee’

7 Aug

Below is the email exchange between Keng Loon and me on the original article, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the refugee’ that was published on UNSW Tharunka magazine.


Hi Charles,
It has been brought to my attention that you have written in to the Tharunka to express your views with regards to an article that I have written.

Firstly, I thank you for your views, although they are in disagreement with mine. I was a member with the Singapore Students’ Association (SSA) here at UNSW, but I would appreciate it if you would not get the association involved in this matter. The views expressed in this article are mine alone and the SSA bears no affiliation or responsibility for it.

To start off, let me assure you that I did not write this article in hope of it becoming a representation of the views of Singaporean students here at UNSW. I am not sure why you chose to google my name and come to your own conclusion that what I have written is representative of the Singaporean student population here at UNSW. It is akin to saying that if an Australian votes for Pauline Hanson, the whole of Australia is racist. This is a narrow minded view that I hope you do not hold in regard. However, it appears from your reply to me that it is this very regard that you are both disgusted and appalled with.

As you rightly expounded in your reply, Australia is a western liberal democracy, hence every citizen should have their right to express their views freely. As a citizen and practitioner of this ideology, you should be well aware that in such a society, not everyone would carry views that conform. Thus, an appreciation of each other’s views is necessary. In that you express your indignant response to my article, you are thus entitled to your views just as I am to mine.

Sure, my article is controversial and deliberately so. I wanted to highlight how a country like Singapore can deal effectively with the illegal immigrant numbers. Certainly, the government has not released statistics to confirm if this method is effective, but these figures are unnecessary. You can only see for yourself and gather from the ubiquitous news networks that Singapore does not have a problem of a boat load of illegal immigrants sailing in to make Singapore their home. I am not saying that caning has completely stopped illegal immigrants from entering Singapore, but it sure is acting as a suitable deterrent to people thinking of such an idea.

The idea here is to quell the escalating problem of illegal immigrants to Australia. For a country held in high regard for its human rights record, it certainly is struggling to find an effective solution to this problem of illegal immigration. I wish to point out that this issue still remains a politically charged one which would make or break a politician’s career in Australia. As much as you hold views which are opposed to mine, I respect it and acknowledge that you have your own views with regards to this matter.

Let me assure you that I am not racist but simply a believer that potential immigrants should go through the proper channels before he/she can be admitted into a country. As I mentioned earlier, you can be and should be entitled to your own views on this matter. Where I think you erred is with regards to how you label my opinions ‘racist’, ‘distasteful’ and appalling. As a Singaporean, privileged enough to see how both the Singapore and Australian legal systems work, it is merely in my opinion that I think caning would act as a sufficient deterrent.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate that my views expressed in this article is in no way affiliated or representative of the Singapore student body here at large. It is obvious from this letter that we hold differing views and a reply, laced with outlandish adjectives to describe me as a person who writes on the behalf of all Singaporeans is unnecessary. I hope you will retract these defamatory and unwarranted remarks.

Sing Keng Loon



Keng Loon,

Thanks for your reply.

I have never insinuated that your opinions were from the SSA. I’m merely asking the SSA to formulate a reply since it is the student body of Singaporean students and henceforth, is perceived as representing their interests. That is precisely the reason why I have chosen to wrote to Tharunka since I would not want its readers to think that some of the Singaporean students, including me, hold such views.

While you are clearly entitled to your opinion, my basis for being horrified at your views is not based on empty rhetoric.

Most importantly, asylum-seekers are defined as a group of people who have left their countries due to forced circumstances. Many of them are either economic refugees; fleeing war or political persecution. Whatever their differences, they are still perceived as a group as requiring protection under international human rights law. How a state chooses to interpret that is based on numerous factors which is beyond the scope of this email. Nevertheless, when you advocate permanent physical and psychological pain and violence be inflicted upon a group of people, this becomes a form of racism. Racism comes in many forms but they all share the same characteristic of stereotyping people based on their shared features In this case, their situation.

As for my other contention with your article, I think they have been spelt out quite clearly in the previous e-mail, which I shall not repeat.

To conclude, I am stressing that Forced Migration is a global and complex humanitarian and social justice issue that cannot be solved simply by terming refugees as ‘illegal’; closing our doors to them or advocating harsh punishments such as caning or indefinite detention. I strongly believe that there is a more humane and just way to deal with this issue.


P.S. If you have no objections, I would post your reply and my counter-reply to my own blog in the interest of my readers and UNSW students.
Hi Charles,

I would not mind you putting up my reply and yours on your blog. Please forward me your blog address as well.



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