Debate rages over whether punishment for Sun Xu was adequate Published on Mar 30, 2012
FIRST, they wanted him punished.
But now that the National University of Singapore (NUS) has meted out the punishment to the foreign student who made derogatory comments about Singaporeans, the debate has turned to whether justice has been done. Earlier this week, Mr Sun Xu was given an official reprimand, a $3,000 fine, and an order to do three months of community service before he can graduate. The Chinese national's misdemeanour: He ranted on a blog post last month that there were 'more dogs than humans' in Singapore. Some are demanding his expulsion, because of Mr Sun's status as a Ministry of Education scholarship holder and the behaviour expected of such individuals. 'It's too light. I'd have sent him home and taken away the scholarship,' said Ms Paramita Bandara, a retired principal and an educator for close to four decades. 'The punishment was a drop in the ocean. It should have been a deterrent, make it so drastic that people are warned.' Many in the online community have also been asking for his pound of flesh. 'When other people make racist remarks, they may be liable for jail terms,' wrote Mr Sebastian Ng on a Facebook page titled 'NUS should revoke Sun Xu's scholarship'. Those in this camp also point to last year's case involving Chinese national Wang Peng Fei. The then 24-year-old was expelled from the private school East Asia Institute of Management for mocking Singaporeans in a four-minute video, and making racist comments against a minority ethnic group. But some like Tampines Junior College principal Helen Choo felt Mr Sun's punishment was just. 'The school has sent a strong signal showing students that they have to be careful about what they say at all times,' she said. Some netizens feel the same way.
Mr Ahmad Anis posted on Facebook: 'Just let him off already... we all make mistakes.' Former Raffles Girls' School principal Carmee Lim called the punishment 'a bit heavy'. 'Maybe what he did was in a fit of anger,' she said. 'Give him another chance, and have more compassion as a society.' NUS declined to reveal the specific deliberations that led to the verdict, but said that the seriousness of the offence and the risk of harm involved were among the factors considered. One element that Ms Lim and others felt was missing in the punishment of the final-year engineering undergraduate, though, was counselling. Retired school counsellor Karen Choo said: 'Counselling helps because we need to find out why the students do what they do.' She felt that NUS could have engaged counsellors to help him with issues he may have been facing. 'Was he being bullied? Did he have some negative encounter? Or was he simply up to mischief?' she said. Mr Hri Kumar Nair, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, agreed, saying: 'The objective must be to deal with his views.' Yesterday, the MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC also posted a Facebook note on the furore surrounding Ms Shimun Lai, the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) student at the centre of another furore over her racist remarks about Indians. Writing that his initial reaction to her comments was of 'anger, disgust and exasperation', he said he had also encountered racism himself through, for instance, rude remarks by schoolmates. Ms Lai, Mr Sun and others who cross the line should not just apologise and accept punishment, Mr Nair added. He suggested that they ought to get to know and befriend those they attacked. 'They should have an obligation to help in the healing process,' he said. Another minority MP, Ms Indranee Rajah, also put up a Facebook post on Tuesday reflecting on the incidents. 'Ms Lai's comments were particularly hurtful to Indians, and were wrong and completely uncalled for,' she wrote, adding that she was glad, though, that the student had apologised. Attention now turns to what sort of...