My Take

Singapore teen's folly of ignoring words of wisdom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 1:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 1:27am

Don't speak ill of the dead.

That is especially true if the dead happens to be a revered founder of a prosperous city-state like Lee Kuan Yew. But Amos Yee, the Singaporean teenager behind online attacks on the late premier and Christians, has obviously never heard of this wise saying or chosen to ignore it.

Judging by the contents of his offending online clips, he is also an extremely smart and well-informed person. But while he certainly doesn't lack intelligence, he could do with more wisdom, such as not offending or wounding unnecessarily.

For his attacks, he was jailed for four weeks yesterday but released on time served. He was convicted of wounding religious feelings in an expletive-laden video clip and uploading an obscene image. But there is little doubt that his real offence was to round on Lee shortly after he passed away. About 50 protesters, mostly student activists, rallied for Yee in Hong Kong over the weekend. But in light of the sentencing, the outcome seems reasonable and does not necessarily vindicate Yee, though he is now a free person.

While it may be politically correct in the outside world to denounce Yee's conviction as persecution, many Singaporeans no doubt feel the kid deserved a slap on the wrist.

When the whole Lion City was in mourning and tens of thousands queued for hours to pay their last respects, Yee, 16, launched his scathing attacks against Lee, his intrusive government and economic disparities. An atheist, or at least anti-Christian, he compared Lee with Jesus, but not in a flattering light. He also doesn't like Margaret Thatcher, who was an admirer of Lee. Despite the use of obscenities, a few of his graphics are worthy of the late Steve Jobs. Some of his criticism of Lee's governance style and the lack of freedom and political choices in Singapore are legitimate or at least debatable. They are also nothing new, as you might read them any day or week in Western publications like The Economist or The Wall Street Journal.

Given his high intelligence and language skills, Yee deserves a bright future. One only hopes he learns to channel his rebelliousness into fields of creativity and knowledge that are less in-your-face than his blog and video clips have proved to be.