Activist apologises to minister for remarks

Independent scholar and activist Sangeetha Thanapal yesterday apologised to Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam for a Facebook post of hers which he called "inaccurate and seditious".

Ms Sangeetha, 33, wrote on Facebook: "I would like to offer an unreserved apology to Minister K. Shanmugam for what I had done. I had posted an article in haste.

"What I had posted about what he had said was untrue, and my comments were unjustified. On reflection, I am sorry for what I have done. I have since met the Minister and offered my apology to him, which he has accepted."

On Friday, Ms Sangeetha took issue with comments that Mr Shanmugam had made a day earlier at a Singapore Press Club talk, where he spoke of growing polarisation in Malaysia, with mainstream schools "becoming more and more Malay and Islamic".

His point was that trends in the education system made integration among the different races a challenge, with Chinese children attending Chinese-medium schools, while Malay children go to mainstream schools.

But Ms Sangeetha wrote: "The only reason you would consider this important enough to make statements about, is if you are an Islamophobic bigot who thinks Malay-Muslims are a threat."

On Friday night, Mr Shanmugam said he intended to make a police report as the post had misrepresented his remarks.

What she wrote, he said, was "inaccurate and seditious, and attributes to me sentiments that I do not hold and have never held," he wrote on Friday. "She unfortunately twisted what I had said."

An exchange between Ms Sangeetha and Mr Shanmugam on her Facebook page followed, and the minister said he held "no personal animosity" towards her, and would be happy to speak with her.

She replied: "I am very sorry for all that has happened. The post took on a life of its own, and came out differently from how I intended. Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me."

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam met Ms Sangeetha for a chat in Chong Pang. He later told reporters he would not lodge a police report.

She told him she re-read his remarks and realised her comments were untrue, he said. His decision to drop it was not prompted by her apology or conduct, he added, but because she did not have the intention to cause ill will between races.

"People go and say things without really thinking about what they intend to say, and end up saying all sorts of things which are untrue," said Mr Shanmugam.

"So we left it at that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Activist apologises to minister for remarks'. Print Edition | Subscribe