Academic makes second apology to Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Low's comments "seriously misconstrued" what he said. Apologising to Mr Shanmugam, academic Donald Low said his criticism was "untruthful, unfair and unsubstantiated".
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Low's comments "seriously misconstrued" what he said.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Low's comments "seriously misconstrued" what he said. Apologising to Mr Shanmugam, academic Donald Low said his criticism was "untruthful, unfair and unsubstantiated".
Apologising to Mr Shanmugam, academic Donald Low said his criticism was "untruthful, unfair and unsubstantiated".

He says he misrepresented minister's views in online post, calls his first apology insincere

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 night, Mr Low 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 realise my first apology was insincere. I am therefore writing now to apologise 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, who is an associate professor at the National Uni- versity of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, had first said sorry to Mr Shanmugam on April 28 for his remarks on the article that quoted the minister.

In the Today article headlined "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 said "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, adding that his remarks had nothing to do with how individual cases should be decided.

Rather, he was referring to 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 this first apology, he said 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 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 and 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 referring only 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Academic makes second apology to Shanmugam'. Print Edition | Subscribe