Lessons from the Amos Yee incident.
By Parcsen Loke
By now everyone in Singapore, and even around the world, would know who Amos Yee is. He was the one who posted an eight-minute video on Youtube disparaging Christianity and attacking the late founding father of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Soon after the posting, netizens lodged complaints against Amos to the police, resulting in his arrest on March 29.
As soon as she learned about the video post, Amos’ mother filed a police report. Contrary to what was reported, that Mrs Mary (Amos’ mum) filed a police report to have her son arrested, she in fact went to the police to file an official apology to the nation on behalf of her son.(1) It was also a call for help to the community-at-large as she had been “unable to get through to him”. How did the community respond?
By and large, many of the 600,000 netizens who viewed the video the day it was posted found it repulsive. And, like me (and I didn’t even watch the video), they acted as prosecutor, judge and executioner. We decided that he should be taught a lesson and collectively forced the hand of the law on him. So, he was arrested and jailed. But did we succeed in teaching him the lesson we thought he so desperately needed to learn? Put another way: did it shut him up? Almost as quickly as he was bailed out by his parents, Amos posted another video, referencing the earlier video, as a means to raise funds for his legal fee. This was in violation of the terms and conditions of his bail. Consequently, he was again arrested and jailed.
Undeniably, Amos broke the law. Three, as a matter fact.(2)
- Under Section 298 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, or causes any matter however represented to be seen or heard by that person, shall be liable upon conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with both.
- Under Section 292 of the Penal Code, whoever puts into circulation any obscene object whatsoever shall be liable upon conviction to a fine or to imprisonment of up to three months, or to both.
- Under Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act, any person who makes any threatening, abusive or insulting communication, which is heard, seen or otherwise perceived by any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000.
But the real question is, “Is Amos a criminal?” In my opinion, Amos is just a talented kid gone wild.
The police did what they had to: they enforced the law, but shouldn’t a compassionate nation lead with understanding first? Some have blamed the parents for Amos’ wrongdoings but let’s not forget that it takes a village to raise a child.
The traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” has been widely quoted when examining the partnerships required during the maturation of our youth. Our “village” has never been more necessary than it is today. We live in a fast-paced, instant information, and pressure-packed world. Today’s children are faced with a myriad of both challenges and opportunities. Navigating parenthood can be a daunting undertaking- partnerships and supports are welcome and necessary to prepare our students for tomorrow.(3)