I came home from out of town amused to find that the newspaper I work for will have on its Saturday front page a controversy about a Yale University-National University of Singapore partnership (you can read it after Friday 11pm GMT, 6pm EST at todayonline.com). Now, Singapore through the lens of many in the West is not exactly a beacon of democracy, and while I do have some issues on how my country is run -- especially having in place legalised abortion -- I disagree with the assessment of arm-chair critics and casual visitors over how everyday life and politics is like over here.
There is plenty of freedom -- not that it is irrelevant, but you can walk the streets anywhere in this island late into the night and early morning alone with relative safety. I am grateful for that, especially for the security of the female members of my family. And there is a high level of respect for the dignity of the human person, and yes, as a journalist I can tell you there is freedom of expression, with the understanding that we don't agitate the sensitivities of race and religion of the multiple ethnic-religious communities in the country that more than once erupted into deadly violence in the 1950s and 1960s.
There are other traditional family values still intact and encourgaged, although I will have to admit they are ever in danger as the world's population increasingly see this place as one they like to live and work. Often I come across "refugee" parents from Europe, North America and Australia, who relocate here to work for job security and so that the kids can grow in relative safety.
Enough of the PR on Singapore, but I find the opposition to the Yale-NUS collaboration amusing. In one of the links I am providing below is a view by a Yale university student Walter Vancoli who spent two semesters here on an exchange programme and concluded that there is no academic freedom at NUS because, among other things, of "the continued prohibition on male homosexual acts
under Singaporean penal code section 377A, the illegality of public protest and the casual jokes about fines and caning".
I won't cross swords with anyone who thinks caning is inhuman, despite the fact that it has brought the feared Triads and hardened criminals like cold-blooded murderers and rapists down on their knees. Capital punishment is up for grabs, although I don't disagree with its existence especially with drug syndicates trying to set up regional/global distribution bases here. But homosexuality as a symbol of freedom?
I leave you with these three articles but I found Fareed Zakaria's piece level-headed, but that is maybe because I am bias.