Academic apologises again to Shanmugam, for 'untruthful, unfair and unsubstantiated' views

SINGAPORE - Academic Donald Low has made a second apology to Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, over his comments on an interview that the minister gave Mediacorp freesheet Today.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (May 9) night, he said his first apology to Mr Shanmugam "was insincere, and self-exculpatory", and he had written to the minister again to "apologise unreservedly". He also put up his apology in full.

He wrote: "On deeper reflection, I realize my first apology was insincere. I am therefore writing now to apologize unreservedly.

"I had misrepresented your views in the Today article, and had presented them in a careless, thoughtless and flippant way. To make things worse, my apology was self-exculpatory.

"I accept that my criticism of your views was untruthful, unfair and unsubstantiated. I have let the LKY School down. But above all I'm sorry for my original post; it was impulsive and reckless."

 

Mr Low had first said sorry to Mr Shanmugam on April 28, over his remarks on a Today article that quoted the minister.

In "Penalties for crime must reflect public opinion: Shanmugam", published on April 24, Mr Shanmugam had said that criminal

 

penalties should reflect public opinion, but added that public opinion cannot be the sole or decisive factor in proposing laws.

Commenting on this in a Facebook post, Mr Low had said that "making laws on the basis of public opinion is populism by another name".

This drew a sharp rebuke from Mr Shanmugam, who said in a lengthy Facebook post on April 27 that Mr Low had misrepresented his remarks about considering public opinion when deciding on criminal sentences.

He said Mr Low's comments had "seriously misconstrued" what he actually said.

He also said that his remaks had nothing to do with how individual cases should be decided.

Rather, his remarks covered factors that the Government should take into account when deciding what conduct should be criminalised, and the appropriate range of penalties that should be meted out for different categories of offences.

After this, Mr Low sent an apology to Mr Shanmugam via e-mail.

In the April 28 apology, the associate professor at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy clarified that his comments were mainly a reaction to the headline of the article, which he felt did not represent Mr Shanmugam's position accurately.

Mr Low also said his post was not directed at Mr Shanmugam or the minister's comments in the article. Rather, it was his take on what was wrong with a criminal justice system based on public opinion.

Apologising again on Tuesday, he said that he had spent several days reflecting on his conduct "in putting up a commentary that was neither accurate nor honest" and misstating Mr Shanmugam's view then criticising him "in a sneering tone".

He described his first apology as "a non-apology".

"I tried to claim I was commenting on the headline and not his remarks, when my comments clearly showed otherwise," he said.

He also said he had deleted some of his original comments to bolster his claim that he was only referring to the headline.

Mr Low said he felt he should set the record straight as Mr Shanmugam had helped him when he was out of a job in 2012.

"He then put in a good word for me with (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), and gave me a recommendation. I decided that I should come clean about someone who had in fact helped me, and I should set out the facts in public," he said.