Academic Donald Low sorry for remarks on Shanmugam interview


Academic Donald Low has apologised to Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam for his comments on an interview that the minister gave Mediacorp freesheet Today.

Mr Shanmugam had written a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday night rebuking Mr Low for misrepresenting his remarks about considering public opinion when deciding on criminal sentences.

In his own Facebook post yesterday, Mr Low shared the apology he sent to Mr Shanmugam via e-mail.

"I agree with your Facebook post and I apologise if I have caused you any trouble or offence," said the associate professor at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

In the Today article "Penalties for crime must reflect public opinion: Shanmugam", the minister had said criminal penalties should reflect public opinion, but added that public opinion cannot be the sole or decisive factor in proposing laws.


Mr Low then commented that "making laws on the basis of public opinion is populism by another name".

In his e-mail message, Mr Low clarified that his post was mainly a reaction to the headline of the article, which he felt did not represent Mr Shanmugam's position accurately.

"I had read the piece in full, but didn't give your comments sufficient attention in my post. I apologise for that," Mr Low wrote.

He added that he meant to point out that public opinion, even taken as a factor in criminal punishment, is "highly contingent, often irrational and subject to sudden changes".

Mr Low 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.

"But I accept that my post, in the context of the Today article carrying your comments, might be viewed as a criticism of you or your comments. That wasn't my intention at all," Mr Low added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Academic sorry for remarks on Shanmugam interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe