Academic Cherian George replaced as panelist in webinar, told about NUS objection

(SCREENCAP: Raffles Hall Association/Facebook)
(SCREENCAP: Raffles Hall Association/Facebook)

By Wong Casandra and Dhany Osman

SINGAPORE —Two academics who were scheduled to speak during an upcoming webinar organised by the alumni of a National University of Singapore (NUS) residential hall have been replaced, with one of them citing an organiser as saying that NUS had objected to the event.

The “Public Discourse Truth & Trust” webinar, scheduled to run on Sunday (1 November) from 8pm to 9.30pm, had originally featured Cherian George, professor of media studies at the Hong Kong Baptist University, and Donald Low, professor of practice in public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Both are co-authors of the recently published book on Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party titled “PAP vs PAP”. The book, an anthology of essays on the Singapore government and politics, focuses on the PAP’s struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore.

The online event – the sixth in a series – was organised by the Raffles Hall Association, a self-described alumni where “anyone with a link with” the NUS’ Raffles Hall can join.

Prof George and Prof Low were replaced at the last-minute by three panelists, ex-journalist Al Ramirez Dizon, Raffles Hall fellow, and NUS lecturer Shobha Avadhani – who was originally the moderator for the panel – and special research adviser at the Institute of Policy Studies Arun Mahizhnan.

Arun announced on Facebook that he has chosen to drop out of the event shortly after its revamp.

Responding to media queries by Yahoo News Singapore, Prof George said that he and Prof Low were invited by the organiser a month ago to speak at the event. “The organiser called me last Friday and told me the NUS wanted the event cancelled,” he added.

Prof Low said since he and Prof George were asked to speak at the event, he has not received any update about their participation as of Wednesday morning.

The Facebook post featuring the two academics as panelists has since been taken down from the association’s page after it was first put up on 18 October.

Public Discourse Truth & Trust webinar. (PHOTO: Raffles Hall Association Facebook group)
Public Discourse Truth & Trust webinar. (PHOTO: Raffles Hall Association Facebook group)

When asked by Yahoo News Singapore about the last-minute replacement of the panelists, an NUS Raffles Hall spokesperson said, “The ‘Public Discourse Truth & Trust’ webinar is organised by the Raffles Hall Association, which is an autonomous alumni group that is not governed by Raffles Hall and NUS.”

Multiple attempts to reach the association were left unanswered. Sonny Yuen, the association’s founding president, apologised about the changes in a public Facebook group for the association.

“...We apologise to the alumni for the changes that have to be made re(garding) the speakers, but we continue the important conversations on today’s (social) media world where we apparently can no longer trust what we read, see, or hear,” Yuen wrote.

“Please note that all RHA (Raffles Hall Association) learning events are private events for RH (Raffles Hall) alumni only. As this is a closed-door community and voluntary event, the programme and its contents are developed at the organiser’s discretion...,” the post added.

LISTEN: Use the player above to hear academics Cherian George and Donald Low speak about their new book, “PAP vs PAP”.

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