Yale-NUS cancels programme on dissent in S'pore, S'poreans including Tan Chuan-Jin chime in

The opinions on the cancellation are divided.

Fasiha Nazren | September 15, 2019, 01:50 PM

On Sep. 13, Yale-NUS College announced the cancellation of a programme called "Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore".

The one-week programme, formerly titled "Dissent and Resistance in Singapore" was expected to have run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5.

Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong said that the proposed activities in the programme itinerary did not align with the learning objectives that were earlier approved by the Curriculum Committee.

He added that the activities may subject students to the risk of breaking the law, and incurring legal liabilities.

Led by playwright Alfian Sa'at, supported by other journalists & activists

The project was to be led by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at and programme manager Tan Yock Theng.

It was supposed to be an instalment in the university’s “Learning Across Boundaries” programme, one of the 14 projects offered.

According to The Sunday Times, an early outline for the programme said it would look into modes of dissent from "citizen journalism to artistic works, from 'accommodationist' tactics such as pragmatic resistance to 'radical' strategies of civil disobedience".

A panel discussion with veteran journalist PN Balji, historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance journalist Kirsten Han was also slated to be part of the programme.

Risk mitigation

In an interview with Yale-NUS's student-run publication, The Octant, president Tan said that the decision was made for "risk mitigation":

"The fundamental reason why we took the decision we did was risk mitigation, particularly for international students, who could lose their student pass for engaging in political activity."

Speaker of Parliament chimes in

On Sep. 14, speaker of parliament Tan Chuan-Jin turned to Facebook to weigh in on the cancellation of the programme.

Here's his full post, questioning whether the programme truly was "the way to go":

Kirsten Han, a freelance journalist who would have been involved in the programme, questioned Tan's views, noting that "dissent is seen as dangerous and unacceptable in Singapore, rather than part of a democratic society".

Divided views

Views on the cancellation of the programme remained divided.

Some Singaporeans agreed with the decision, believing that the people behind the course want to "bring Singapore down".

While others thought that it was unfair to assume that students will "dissent and be resistant" to authorities.