Academics Cherian George & Donald Low replaced as guest speakers of webinar organised by alumni of NUS hall

A surprise move.

Sulaiman Daud | October 28, 2020, 09:58 PM

Members of the public who signed up for a webinar featuring academics Cherian George and Donald Low as speakers may be disappointed, as the two men appear to have been cut from the line-up.

The event, titled "Public Discourse: Truth and Trust", was organised as part of the Raffles Hall Alumni Learning series, and scheduled for 8:00pm on Sunday, Nov. 1.

Screen shot from Raffles Hall Alumni Facebook page.

The event graphic also prominently featured a new book written by both men, PAP vs PAP: The Party's struggle to adapt to a changing S'pore.

The Facebook post promoting the event in the Raffles Hall Association (RHA) group was shared on Oct. 18.

Different speaker line-up

However, on Oct. 28, another event graphic popped up.

This event had the same name and moderator, was scheduled for the same time at the same date, but it featured different speakers instead.

George and Low had been removed as speakers.

In their place were Al Ramirez Dizon, a former SPH journalist, Shobha Avadhani, an NUS lecturer, and Arun Mahizhnan, a special research adviser at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

Screen shot from Raffles Hall Alumni Facebook page.

The Facebook post by a user named Sonny Yuen included the following caption:


Join in the important conversations on the today’s (social) media world where we apparently can no longer trust what we read, see or hear.

We have a panel of distinguished and experienced experts in media and communications -_*Shobha Avadhani, Al Dizon and Arun Mahizhnan*_ - to ask the important questions: where and what is the truth in public discourse; and what are the socio-political consequences if truth is compromised or constrained and trust is thus eroded."

One speaker said he would withdraw

One academic who signed up for the event, Kenneth Paul Tan, expressed his confusion in a Facebook post about the change in speakers.

This prompted one of the replacement speakers, Arun Mahizhnan, to comment on the post itself. Arun said that the organiser of the forum did not give him a "full briefing", and that he decided to withdraw from the event.

George also replied to him in a Facebook comment, which you can see below:

Screen shot from Kenneth Paul Tan's Facebook page.

George and Low respond

When contacted, Low told Mothership he and George were asked by NUS to speak at the event a month ago.

Speaking to Mothership on Oct. 27, Low said:

"Last Friday (Oct. 23), Cherian told me that the event might be cancelled, and that NUS would email me to confirm. But NUS has not communicated with either of us since then."

Low added that he was told by friends about the new event, scheduled for the same time and date but without his participation.

Speaking to Mothership on Oct. 28, George said:

"Both Donald and I are Singaporeans with NUS ties. We did not ask for an audience with Raffles Hall, but accepted the alumni group’s invitation in the spirit of academic collegiality.

So we were as surprised as anyone to discover through social media that the organisers had replaced us, citing ‘organiser’s discretion’. We choose not to take this conduct as representative of the best of NUS faculty, students and alumni."

George was referring to a post in the RHA Facebook group by Yuen, which you can see below:

Screen shot from Raffles Hall Association Facebook page.

What is the Raffles Hall Association?

Raffles Hall Alumni Learning is organised by RHA, and was launched on Aug. 1, 2020.

Raffles Hall is one of the halls of residence in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

According to an NUS news release, Sonny Yuen is an NUS graduate and is identified as the president of Raffles Hall Association.

It adds, "The RH Alumni Learning project, the brainchild of Weilee Cheong (Law ‘87), draws from the collective wisdom and intelligence of the great minds in the RH alumni, and from expert guest speakers."

When contacted, NUS informed Mothership that the association is an autonomous group.

According to a Raffles Hall (NUS) spokesperson:

"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."

Mothership has contacted Yuen for comment.

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Top image from Cherian George and RHA Facebook group.