Photo of K Shanmugam from AFP

Law Minister K Shanmugam yesterday (Aug 28) warned government-funded academics at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) over several recent disagreements with the Singapore dictatorship:

“Think-tanks may sometimes disagree with the Government, but they must not do so under the influence of a foreign country. While such institutions play an important role – to explore issues civil servants may not be able to – they must maintain an independent stance. Objectivity is critical.”

Minister K Shanmugam also implied that the government will get to decide whether if the academics are “acting on foreign powers” and that Dr Goh Keng Swee, who founded the institute, would be “turning in his grave”:

“It is unacceptable for academics to be suborned and to project the views of a foreign country under the guise of objectivity and academic freedom, with a hidden agenda of influencing Singapore’s policies. Academics do so either because they are working with foreign intelligence or because they are seduced by them… Dr Goh would certainly turn in his grave if he thinks that the think-tanks he set up or was responsible for have become instruments of influence for other countries. Think-tanks could challenge the Government – not “for the sake of challenging”, but “where (the Government) needs to be challenged”. Academics ought to be real scholars and… put forward scholarly viewpoints, but practical ones, that help the country.”

The Law Minister was speaking at a forum held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), which is a deliberate move to threaten the scholars at the school. In recent months, multiple scholars at LKYSPP made several criticisms warranting sharp rebuke from the government. In April, the associate dean of LKYSPP Donald Low was forced to apologise to Law Minister K Shanmugam after he posted on Facebook criticising the Law Minister’s statement on criminal punishments:

“If criminal punishments are to reflect only public opinion, why bother having judges do sentencing? Just run an opinion poll each time someone has been convicted.”

Professor Donald Low apologised in less than a week, saying that he owed his job to the Law Minister.

About a month later in June, LKYSPP Adjunct Professor Yeoh Lam Keong criticised the Singapore Police for the mishandling of the 2013 Little India Riot. The Singapore Police slammed the professor asking him to “volunteer with the police to get a better understanding”.

Also in the same month, the dean of LKYSPP Kishore Mahbubani slammed the Prime Minister for “squandering our hard work” following diplomatic spats with China. A war of words followed after incumbent diplomat Bilahari Kausikan fended off the dictator Prime Minister.

In August, a LKYSPP academic had his permanent residency stripped for disagreeing with the Singapore government, which the official alleged that he was “influencing” key government members to change certain national policies. There was however no evidence presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs and neither did the authority explain which country was the professor acting for.