I sent this to Signel
In the press, Thio Li-Ann has spoken about one hate mail she has received, regarding someone who wanted to ‘defile her grave’.
From her Parliamentary Speech:
“This August, I had my own experience with this sort of hysterical attack. I received an email from someone I never met, full of vile and obscene invective which I shall not repeat, accusing me of hatemongering. It cursed me and expressed the wish to defile my grave on the day 377A was repealed.
I believe in free debate but this oversteps the line. I was distressed, disgusted, upset enough to file a police report. Does a normal person go up to a stranger to express such irrational hatred?”
From The New Paper:
‘I have already been insulted and received hate mail, even harassment.
‘But should we be a nation of cowed individuals, subjugated by fear of being called hateful names?
Since her speech on Monday, she has been called terms like ‘homophobic’, ‘unenlightened’ and ‘prejudiced’ on the Internet. Some called her a ‘fundamentalist’.
Many other profanies, vulgarities and four-letter words were hurled at her because of her stand.
Prof Thio said: ‘One person expressed the wish to defile my grave on the day 377A was repealed. And I am conveying the sense of it in the most polite way I know how.
‘I don’t believe in repeating obscenities.’
Professor Thio herself was “shell-shocked” and made a police report after receiving an abusive email in August from an unnamed stranger who threatened to defile her grave on the day Section 377A was repealed.
“If it was just a rude letter, I’d let it slip. But this really overstepped things,” the law lecturer told Today.
Some of you might be curious to know what was this mail that was “full of vile and obscene invective”, with “obscenities” she could not repeat, that she had to censor by “conveying the sense of it in the most polite way I know how”.
I reproduce it here for you. I know what that email is because I wrote it. And contrary to the TODAY report that said it was by ‘an unnamed stranger’, I actually signed off with my name, and sent it from my yahoo email account (the one I’m using here). This is the email. It consists of four lines:
Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2007 05:03 +0800 (CST)
From: “Alfian Bin Sa’at”
Subject: a valentine
Sunday, Aug 12, 5.03am
Subject: a valentine
Dear Dr Thio,
This is a personal note to you.
I think you are absolutely fucked up.
As long as you exist, with your hatemongering and your vicious crusades against sexual minorities, I will never leave Singapore. I hope I outlive you long enough to see the repeal of 377A and on that day I will piss on your grave.
Thio Li-Ann has filed a police report, accusing me of ‘Intentional Harassment’. On 26 October, I sat for a two-hour investigation at the Tanglin Division Police Station at Kampong Java Road. The Invesigating Officer was a very friendly and helpful man. Those of you with uniform fantasies, please restrain from asking me if he was attractive, because I will not entertain that query. Anyway, he wasn’t in uniform. In my statement, I reported the following.
1) The mail was shot off one night after clubbing with friends (hence the time). Before that, on the cab ride home, I had been told that Thio was the ‘member of the public’ who called the police, resulting in the cancellation of the ‘Pink Picnic’. The officer asked me how I felt when I wrote that letter and I said ‘aggrieved, wounded and helpless’. And then taking a cue from her Parliamentary speech, I added, ‘distressed, disgusted and upset’.
2) I had sent only that one email to her, which I did not think satisfies the criteria of repetition and persistence that would constitute ‘harassment’.
3) The phrase ‘fucked up’, to my understanding, meant ‘dysfunctional’. I said I did not consider the term abusive.
4) I had not threatened her with bodily harm.
5) In fact I had not made any threats to her at all, unless she thinks being a fellow citizen with me in Singapore constitutes a threat.
6) As for ‘cursing’ her with death by talking about outliving her, I said I was merely pointing out the obvious fact of her mortality. I also said that since I was younger than her, I would naturally expect her to die earlier, barring any misfortune. The sympathetic policeman offered to change the word ‘die’ to ‘pass on’ in my statement.
7) On the part about pissing on her grave, I said that gesture was meant to celebrate the repeal of 377A. I also said that a few lawyers had told me it was not illegal to piss on graves.
As the interview went on, the incredulity of it all I think struck the policeman. I told him that if what I sent her constituted harassment, then it would set an impossible precedent. Anyone who has received any message through whatever form of communication causing ’emotional distress’ can file a police report alleging ‘intentional harassment’.
I asked the policeman why he was even acting on her complaint, and whether he had more urgent cases to attend to. I told him she was wasting taxpayers’ money and state resources. I said this was precisely the kind of ‘bully-boy tactics’ that she spoke of in her Parliamentary speech. I also said I considered her calling the authorities about the ‘Pink Picnic’ to be an example of harassment, and that I felt harassed listening to her Parliamentary speech.
I ended the statement by saying that I hoped she was aware that many of her actions have affected and hurt other people. I said I did not discount the possibility of her receiving other hate mail, but acting on me specifically as I was a strategic target, having written plays with gay themes.
I am posting the ‘hate mail’ here, knowing full well that there will be those who will chide me for my hot-bloodedness and impulsiveness. I apologise to those who think that my ‘uncivil’ four-liner has somewhat sabotaged the repeal-377A cause. But I think the exposure of this woman’s pettiness, tendencies towards exaggeration, as well as her wanton abuse of the legal system, far outweighs the flak I will inevitably receive.
Alfian. : )
IT IS over. Nominated MP Thio Li-ann will not be suing playwright Alfian Sa’at for a strongly-worded email he had sent her.
‘I consider the case closed,’ she told The Straits Times on Wednesday.
One reason is that Mr Alfian had sent her an email apology on Wednesday morning that was ‘civil’.
In it, he wrote that he had looked through the Hansard parliamentary records and noted her speeches on other issues such as women’s rights and the elected presidency.
Prof Thio said another primary motivation for her decision is that she wants to live by her espoused principles of the need for robust debate in a democracy.
Said the National University of Singapore law academic: ‘In my academic writings, I have argued, in relation to defamation case law, for more protection to be given to ‘political speech’ by requiring public figures or politicians to be ‘thicker-skinned’, in the interests of robust democratic debate.’
‘That is a primary motivation for not pursuing the matter further – living by my political liberal principles of the centrality of rigorous and vigorous debate for the health of democratic debate.’
She added: ‘I don’t believe anyone should be trigger happy with political defamation suits.’
The episode began when Mr Alfian, thinking Prof Thio had made a police report leading to the cancellation of a National Day picnic organised by gay activists, sent a four-line email to her ‘in a flash of anger’.
It contained a four-letter word and accused her of ‘hatemongering’ and ‘vicious crusades against sexual minorities’.
Prof Thio made a police report, and cited the email in Parliament last week during the debate over the repeal of Section 377A, describing it as being ‘full of vile and obscene invective’.
Mr Alfian later posted the email on his blog, identifying himself as its author.
TODAY, Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Leong Wee Keat
HE thought she had made the police report which led to the cancellation of the “Pink Picnic”, a public event that had been planned by gay activists.
In his “flash of anger”, poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at shot off an angry email to Nominated Member of Parliament Professor Thio Li-ann early one morning in August.
Yesterday, Professor Thio denied that she was the person behind the August police report. In an email to the media, she said: “I have only made one police report in my lifetime and that was in relation to the hate email I received … This fact can be verified by the relevant authorities.”
Mr Alfian told Today that he “had heard and saw on a few blogs” alleging that it was Prof Thio who had called the police. He “shot off” the email after returning home from a night of clubbing. “If it was not her, I had done her great wrong and I offer my public apology,” he said.
Prof Thio said: “Perhaps Mr Sa’at was over-zealous in relying on a misleading and unreliable information source, but he remains responsible for the abusive manner of his communication. However, as he has publicly apologised, I think we can all move ahead by learning to argue on substantive public issues in a civil fashion.”
The email was cited by Prof Thio in her speech in Parliament last week against the repealing of Section 377A of the Penal Code. She had described the email as being “full of vile and obscene invective”.
The 63-word email started off stating, “this is a personal note to you”. It then contained one four-letter word, accusations of “hate-mongering”, vows to urinate “on her grave” and was signed off “With love, Alfian”. The email has since been removed from Mr Alfian’s personal blog but has resurfaced on at least two other websites.
Mr Alfian, 29, said he removed the email last week “on the advice from friends”.
Yesterday, Prof Thio raised “the issue of possible defamation” in her letter to the media. The National University of Singapore law professor said: “As his first email to me was prefaced, ‘This is a personal note to you’, no issue of libel arose then. However, as he has reproduced his email of Aug 12, 2007, addressed to me in the public forum of his blog, the issue of possible defamation now arises.”
Lawyers told Today that they have seen an increasing number of cases involving defamatory statements made in blogs.
In this case, Harry Elias Partnership consultant Doris Chia said the email could lower Prof Thio’s reputation. Ms Chia noted, however, that the words were “phrased like an angry tirade. The question is whether how many people will take his sayings seriously”.
Then, there is also the defence of fair comment.
Mr Adrian Tan, a partner at Drew and Napier, said: “The law allows everyone to express their views on public matters, even if those views involve strong language. All honestly-held views are protected, even views which the general public might find offensive.”
Defamation could also be considered a criminal matter under the Penal Code, where anyone guilty of criminal defamation may be jailed for two years, or with fine, or with both.
Yesterday, Prof Thio said she noted Mr Alfian’s public apology and how he had urged others not to follow his “reckless example”.
“His current rejection of using hate-mail tactics containing four-letter words and abusive language to intimidate people is to be welcomed,” she said.
Mr Alfian told Today: “For me, this matter is closed. I have taken down the post, apologised and it would not be productive to take this any further.”
IN THE report, ‘Police question poet over e-mail to NMP’ (ST, Oct 30), it was stated that I had ’emerged as the writer of the strongly worded e-mail to Nominated MP Thio Li-ann’.
This might suggest that the exposure of my identity as the letter-writer was involuntary, and that it was a check with the police that had pinpointed me.
In reality, I had already decided to claim ownership and personal responsibility for the e-mail last Saturday. I posted a copy of the e-mail online, explicitly identifying myself as its author.
Contrary to some reports that stated that it was penned by an ‘unnamed stranger’, the e-mail was sent from my personal e-mail account, signed off with my own name.
Your article also stated, twice, Professor Thio’s assertion that ‘it was full of obscene and vile invective’.
I wish to clarify that the e-mail was no more than four lines in total, in which an impolite word appears but once.
IN THE article, ‘Police question poet over e-mail to NMP’ (ST, Oct 30), one Alfian Sa’at is identified as the writer of the hate mail directed to me on Aug 12. Before this, I had never heard of him.
I note his public apology as reported. His current rejection of using hate-mail tactics containing four-letter words and abusive language to intimidate people is welcomed; he also urged others to eschew his anger-fuelled ‘reckless example’.
While Mr Alfian says he was merely expressing his opinion, this was in fact harassment. A person identifying himself as a ‘gay Singaporean’ e-mailed me to apologise for Mr Alfian’s e-mail which he had read as he was ‘deeply embarrassed by such rude and uncivilised actions from a gay counterpart… I have no idea who this Alfian guy is but his actions cannot be reflective of the collective gay community’. I appreciated his kind message.
Mr Alfian later e-mailed me after the October parliamentary session to explain his ‘motivation’ for his hate e-mail: ‘I shot it off after hearing of how you had made a police report regarding the ‘Pink Run”. I understand this referred to a cancelled public event staged by gay activists. He reiterates this point on his public blog.
Mr Alfian evidently failed to verify his source. He apparently drew a direct link between the ‘Pink Run’ in August and my support for keeping Section 377A of the Penal Code, which I expressed this October in Parliament.
Accurate and fair reporting requires the clarification of one factual error. The assertion on Mr Alfian’s blog that I made a police report (or indeed any other complaint) against a Pink Run is a patent falsehood. The truth is that the only police report I have ever made related to the hate e-mail of one email@example.com. The authorities can verify this. Perhaps Mr Alfian was over-impulsive in relying on a misleading and unreliable information source; however, he remains responsible for his abusive manner of communication.
His first e-mail to me was prefaced ‘This is a personal note to you.’ However, its reproduction in the public forum of his blog now raises the issue of defamation.
Politicians and public figures should be thicker-skinned, to serve robust, democratic debate.
Given his public apology, we should move on and aspire towards civilised, rational debate. To demonstrate his genuine remorse, Mr Alfian should remove any inaccurate or defamatory blog posts concerning this incident.
Professor Thio Li-ann
POET and playwright Alfian Sa’at has emerged as the writer of the strongly worded e-mail which Nominated MP Thio Li-Ann referred to in her impassioned speech against repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code.
Yesterday, Mr Alfian, 29, confirmed that he was called up for police investigations last Friday, following Professor Thio’s police report about the e-mail, and said he was sorry for giving vent to his anger over her views.
The National University of Singapore law professor had described the e-mail as being ‘full of obscene and vile invective’ when she spoke in Parliament last Monday on why the Penal Code should retain the section that makes sex between men a crime.
The Government has decided to retain 377A, but has removed Section 377, which outlawed oral and anal sex between men and women.
Prof Thio said that she had had a ‘personal unpleasant experience’, when telling the House that some people who disagreed with her views had resorted to name-calling to intimidate and silence the opposing camp.
In particular, she referred to the e-mail she received from ‘someone I never met, full of vile and obscene invective which I shall not repeat, accusing me of hate-mongering’.
A police spokesman yesterday said it was ‘inappropriate to comment’ on a matter under investigation, but Mr Alfian – the winner of the 2001 Young Artist Award – told The Straits Times that the incident ‘was not the proudest moment of my life’.
The resident playwright at theatre company Wild Rice added: ‘I apologise if she felt that I was trying to stifle her right to free speech. I also recognise that she has been doing very credible work on human rights issues and I sincerely hope the unfortunate tenor of her Parliament speech will not sabotage all the other causes she has been working for.’
The e-mail was ‘sent in a flash of anger’, he said.
Among other things, it vowed to defile her grave if Section 377A was ever repealed.
‘I regret the way that it has been used to taint the pro-repeal camp as being incapable of rational debate,’ he said, adding that he hoped others would not follow his ‘reckless example’.
He said: ‘I was expressing an opinion of her and I believe that opinion was not tantamount to harassment or intimidation.’
When contacted, Prof Thio declined comment.
The incident was under investigation, ‘and as far as I am concerned, the matter is closed’, she said.