According to a Raffles Hall 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.”
Singapore—Confusion ensued online when the National University of Singapore (NUS) suddenly and without explanation announced another line-up of speakers for a webinar on Sunday night (Nov 1) instead of Cherian George and Donald Low, two academics based in Hong Kong.
Professors George and Low published a book last week entitled “PAP vs PAP: The Party’s struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore.”
The original announcement for the Raffles Hall Alumni Learning webinar reads that its title is “PUBLIC DISCOURSE: Truth & Trust,” asking that in this “Covid-19 world” of fake news and disinformation, “How can public discourse have its full might when technology enables deep fakes, where in the name of national interest and security, information and discourse is constrained or perhaps manipulated?”
The two academics were to answer these questions “at a global label and specifically in the Singapore context” in the light of their recently published book.
However, in the new announcement for the webinar, the lineup of speakers is completely different: Al Ramirez Dizon, a former journalist with Singapore Press Holdings, Shobha Avadhani, a lecturer in New Media from NUS, and Arun Mahizhnan, a special research adviser at the Institute of Policy Studies.
The announcement says ‘NOTE CHANGES,’ calling the new lineup “a panel of distinguished and experienced experts in media and communications” who will “ask the important questions: where and what is the truth in public discourse; and what are the socio-political consequences if truth is compromises or constant and trust is thus eroded.”
Associate Professor at The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Kenneth Paul Tan wrote a Facebook post on Tuesday (Oct 27) expressing confusion over the webinar, saying that he had just gotten a copy of Professors George and Low’s new book and asking why they “seem to have been replaced by other speakers,” in the webinar he had signed up for.
“So who will we be listening to this Sunday evening?” he asked.
Netizen Lim Jialiang wrote a Facebook post, also on Tuesday (Oct 27), saying that he had talked to Prof Low, who told him that he had had no contact from the organizer of the webinar for over a month.
He added, “With the new event details and the completely new panel of speakers, I think it’s safe to surmise that Donald and Cherian, have for all intents and purposes, been uninvited from the talk scheduled for this Sunday.”
Mr Lim asked why this was so, given that their book had enjoyed good sales and was “sure to court a lot of productive discussion and debate.”
He also asked who had made the decision to change the speakers’ lineup and whether or not the new guests knew about the situation.
His final question was this: “Is Raffles Hall Association going to come out and say definitively that they are replacing their panel of original speakers?”
In an update, he added that one of the speakers, ISP’s Mr Arun Mahizhnan, has withdrawn from the webinar. Professor George himself replied to Mr Arun’s comment on Prof Tan’s post stating he will no longer be speaking at the webinar, saying that he was “sorry” Mr Arun was “dragged into this.”
“What is holding back the PAP is within its own mind” say Cherian George and Donald Low in a new book