"F*** you, sir", he blogged on 2 June.
On Friday, St Andrew’s Junior College (SAJC) student Reuben Wang made a U-turn and apologised to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in person at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
According to The Straits Times (ST), the JC1 student had initiated the apology after SAJC counseled him on Wednesday.
Wang’s earlier public post had drawn both support and flak from Internet users after he blogged about the “conversation” students had with Teo during the recently held Pre-University Seminar.
Teo was the key speaker at this year's annual Pre-U Seminar, held at the Nanyang Technological University and attended by more than 500 students last week.
In his 700-word post filled with profanities, the 17-year-old criticised Teo for answering questions posed by students with another question instead.
“The participants made it extremely clear they were dissatisfied with DPM Teo- and when we asked about our concerns which we do not know what can be done to solved, he will give the f***ing ridiculous reply “What do you think (can be done)?” Wang wrote.
The forthright student then reasoned, “We are 17 years old with very little to no life experience and you want us to come up with policies for you? It is exactly because we don’t know what can be done we worry about the country. We seek your opinion. You gave us none.”
Wang blogged on the topic again, unapologetic, after his first post went viral. But he has since taken down his entire blog.
After his apology on Thursday, Wang told ST that he realised his post was “rash” after reading his friends’ comments.
In response, Teo was quoted by the paper as saying "I am glad he has taken the time to reflect, and recognises that what he said, as well as the way he said it, were wrong."
He added that he avoided spoon feeding students answers because he wanted them to “think deeply about the difficult choices they had to make”.
Many Yahoo! users who commented on a Facebook thread felt that Wang was only partially wrong.
“The only thing he did wrong was the use of profanities,” said Lendl Tan. “Had he omitted all the profanities, I think it'd have been a rather intelligent and apt piece.”
Agreeing, another user Henry Chua let on, “I still believe the student was correct in being frustrated by the non answer given by DPM, just that he should not have used the expletive.”
Others, who were less supportive, pointed out that it is about time today’s youngsters understand that they are all accountable for their words and actions.
“Kids need to learn that they are responsible for everything they do, and everything they write online,” said David Ernie. “Although I am not a fan of DPM, and his political party, I definitely do not support what the kid did.”
Added Eva Lim Sng, “Have a point, make it, but do it respectfully and without using profanities. Let's not dive into gutter politics. The undergrads today can do better than this.”
When contacted, political analyst Derek da Cunha told Yahoo! Singapore that there is “clearly a right way and a wrong way to express disagreement”.
“If a person's argument is strong then all that needs to be done is to cast that argument in purely intellectual terms substantiated by examples, without any descent to profanities,” he advised.
The independent scholar also noted that this incident is likely to strengthen the argument for a code of conduct on responsible online behaviour, which Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim had recently called for.
Added da Cunha, “If you continue to allow a virtual free-for-all on the Internet with few restrictions (and) thresholds of what are unacceptable continue to be breached, this might increasingly be reflected in errant behaviour offline.”
Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →