I waited eagerly for my meet-up with Amos. It was just about a month ago that I met Amos for the very first time, on 11 April 2015.
I was in awe, and I was excited to meet him.
Before this, I have not watched Amos’s videos or heard of him. But like many, after watching his video about Lee Kuan Yew, I watched some of his other past videos and realised how intelligent a person he is.
It was going to be an honour to meet him. I don’t have many heroes in my life and I actually felt like I was meeting one.
I sound like a fan boy, I know, but I was. And still am.
When Amos appeared, he was dressed casually in his black T-shirt, which by now seems almost characteristic of him, just like how Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg would always attire himself in the same outfit.
We greeted each other and proceeded to where we were heading to. Both of us looked nonchalant.
On my part, I did not want to make it look like a big deal. Amos made a video, the whole world knows him now, but it wasn’t like he is any different from anyone else, and I did not want to make him feel uncomfortable. I know, because this is how I feel about myself. After I was sued for defamation by the Singapore prime minister a year ago, I just wanted to get on with my life. I wanted to still be on the streets and to walk around freely, and to be myself.
And so, I did not want to make it awkward or any different for Amos. And as I got to know Amos more later, I realised that he thought the same. To Amos, he made a video, in fact he made several and even won an award for a short film he made, but it was never about his ego.
Amos is not a proud person. He doesn’t want to show off. He just wants to be himself.
To Amos, he likes making videos, he has something to say, and he wants to share it. This is his way of commenting on society and sharing his thoughts, just like it was mine on my blog.
And thus even though I had never met Amos before, I felt like I already knew him.
He wanted to be honest, to be true to himself, he tells me. In fact, he says this to me a lot.
“Pick the honest one Roy, the honest one is always better than the supposed sucking up to the media angle,” he told me just before he went back to remand. That was the last I spoke to him, other than the sign language we could offer solace to one another when in court, now that he’s been kept in chains and behind bars inside prison.
But you see, this is who Amos is. He is not doing this – making videos etc, because he wants the media attention. He wants to be himself. And this is something many people do not understand.
Amos just wants to be true to himself and I get that. That was the reason why I wrote on my blog, The Heart Truths. Some people, primarily those who are supporters of the PAP, want to say that I am seeking attention. All I can say to them is, if you would like the attention that comes with the defamation suit, I am more than willing to allow the defamation suit to be transferred to your name.
And that was what Amos thought too. I “was not sure if my actions would land me in jail,” he told the police in his statement. He did not realise that the PAP would be so violent as to arrest and charge a boy for some words that he said.
Meanwhile, the man who assaulted Amos has still not been charged even after one week. Is the PAP saying that actually smacking someone physically across the face and assaulting someone is less of a crime than just saying something?
Indeed, Amos wants to be true to himself.
“I refuse to (remove my videos) because it would not appease the public, as the video and posts will continue to be circulated, and also because doing so would suggest that I was sorry for the videos and my post, which I am not,” he was quoted as having said to the police.
Direct, but Amos does not want to compromise on his values.
Amos also said in his statements that he made the video after reading my blog. That’s a no brainer, really. His video featured charts from my blog.
And to be honest, it’s flattering.
After getting to know Amos, I have come to know him as a very intelligent person. But you don’t need to get to know him to know this. Just by watching his videos, you can tell that.
I can tell you honestly that I never had the intelligence and diligence that Amos has at his age and I will not – Amos scored 11 points in his L1R5 at the ‘O’ Levels. He also took the Malay Special Programme and with his Co-Curricular Activities he took part in, would enable him to get into a top junior college with 7 points. He can also play the guitar and paint, and of course, made videos and short films.
As such, I was honoured when I saw my charts in his video.
But I also knew how the PAP was going to spin this. When I saw my charts, I knew that when the police was going to investigate him, they would want to ask him about his involvement with me.
And they did, even if I didn’t know him them, and even if they would know that I don’t.
Over the last few days, the media controlled by the PAP has been going around on this portrayal.
“According to Court documents, Yee said his ideas were also shaped by meet-ups with members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). An SDP member also introduced Yee to Mr Roy Ngerng’s blog, and Yee said he was convinced by what Mr Ngerng had published,” the Channel NewsAsia reported.
“The teenager added that he drew evidence from Mr Ngerng’s blog posts for his video on Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”
Not only does the PAP want to relate Amos with me, they want to draw in SDP as well.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see what the PAP is trying to do. It is 1963 and 1987 all over again.
To be clear, I am the proudest to be associated with Amos. He has become a friend and someone I trust, as he trusts in me. And I am grateful that I have been able to speak up for him and to advocate on his behalf.
Amos is being politically persecuted by the PAP, just because he criticised Lee Kuan Yew.
Let’s not make any pretense about this. We know that the PAP could not wait to get him because he made a video that called Lee Kuan Yew a “horrible person” and this shocked the hell out of the supporters of Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP, who let themselves at him.
In fact, two of the people who made police reports are PAP supporters, even members, or affiliated to them.
Within two days of making the video, Amos was arrested. Within another two days, he was charged.
We haven’t seen such efficiency from the Singapore Police Force and the AGC in recent times.
But when they had to pander to the PAP and they had to do the PAP’s bidding, all of a sudden, the police and AGC acted as if they were going to receive their 36-month bonus the very next day.
But this is the state that the security forces in Singapore has become. Are they still there to protect Singaporeans or have they become apparatus used by the PAP for its political persecution of Singaporeans?
It is clear, isn’t it?
But such is the insecurity that the PAP has that it cannot stand on its own two feet but has to use the state machinery to come down on Singaporeans, and not only that but on a 16-year-old boy, mind you. Have they become so fearful of the potential loss of their power that they have to use state violence on a child?
Does the PAP has something to hide, many have questioned.
Indeed, Amos has spoke about the inequality in Singapore in his video. Do watch it. It is still available online.
When I was watching Amos’s video, I remembered being quite amused, at how able he was to string such a clear argument that enticed me to watch the whole duration of the video, as it had many. I love how blatant he is. I questioned the use of vulgarities but I ignored them. If you don’t like what you hear, you have a choice to shut off from it. You don’t have to make a police report. If you choose to make a police report, then certainly it is you who needs to see a psychiatrist if when even someone makes a comment about something, you choose to take it personally.
Yet, the AGC and the media controlled by the PAP has chosen to turn against Amos and paint him as the one who needs psychiatric assessment.
Even Amos’s lawyer, Alfred Dodwell, could not stand such state coercion that he spoke up: “(the) media should reflect properly, as opposed to try to paint him as some psychopath, needing psychiatric treatment and stuff.”
“He is only 16. Only 16. Please don’t forget that. Don’t make him out to be some kind of demon.”
But what struck me was Amos’s commentary about the sociopolitical situation in Singapore.
Amos had said, and I quote him again: “Most people in Singapore are struggling to make ends meet. And it is reported that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we have one of the highest income inequalities, highest poverty rates, and our government spends one of the lowest on healthcare and social security.
“The money spent on the public is so low, it’s more representative of a third world country. And yet the amount of taxes is one of the highest in first world countries. And political leaders in Singapore earn more than quadruple the amount earned by political leaders in the United States. They are acquiring so much money — why aren’t they spending it on the people? What are they actually spending it on?”
Amos was spot on.
And therefore the PAP wanted to get him.
Amos also said, “Lee Kuan Yew, contrary to popular belief, was a horrible person and an awful leader to our country. He was a dictator, but managed to fool most of the world to think he was democratic.”
But what Amos said was just plain facts. Lee Kuan Yew is a horrible person. Let’s make no bones about it. He did help grow Singapore into what it was, but that was also because he had an able team of people behind him, such as Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye and S. Rajaratnam.
But even they started to criticise him in their later years.
Mr Rajaratnam had said: “There is a difference between me and Kuan Yew. He was not all that keen on democracy, “one man one vote.” I always believed that every one should be allowed to vote. This was an important difference.
“I believe in democracy. Here, Kuan Yew and I don’t agree. He says, “You are very naïve. You don’t understand. One man, one vote won’t work.” I express my views. Every citizen has the right to vote. Lee Kuan Yew says that you cannot trust democracy. I believe you can and you must.”
Mr Rajaratnam also said of Lee Kuan Yew: “He knows that we can’t live forever. His dream is to leave behind a reputation. So that even when he passes away, that Singapore will remember him. That this is the man we wanted in Singapore. I don’t think that exactly what he wrote, but that is how he reflected himself, project himself.
“Lee Kuan Yew … believes that if there are more Lee Kuan Yew’s, this place will hum.”
Now look at what Singapore has become with all the mini-Lee Kuan Yews running around.
Not only that, Lee Kuan Yew arrested thousands of Singaporeans and detained them without trial, some of them for more than 10, 20 or even 30 years. Many of them were his political opponents which he wanted to weed out, and many were labour unionists who wanted to fight for workers’ rights. But Lee Kuan Yew put them behind bars.
After Lee Kuan Yew died, ex-PAP minister S. Dhanabalan finally said: ” I resigned from Cabinet (in 1992) because I had a great difference of view over the use of the Internal Security Act in the 1987 arrests. (In 1987, 22 people – many linked to the Catholic Church – were arrested and detained without trial under the ISA for alleged involvement in a “Marxist conspiracy”.)
He also said: “I wouldn’t venture to say whether he was right or I was right. So it was not that he was ruthless, but that he saw dangers where I didn’t. Whether it was real danger or not remains to be seen.”
Is Lee Kuan Yew a “horrible” person? He is, there are no two ways about it. Lee Kuan Yew harassed tens of thousands of Singaporeans, including the families of these people, but who has reported him for it? Has he been charged or trialed?
If Amos should be even charged for a crime many of us don’t think he ever did, then Lee Kuan Yew has to be trialed and sentenced to decades in prison for the atrocities that he has committed against Singaporeans.
Has the PAP ever apologised for the wrongdoings that Lee Kuan Yew did, or even acknowledged this? Instead, they have continously denied this.
Yet, they would charge a boy who spoke the truth.
What is the PAP trying to hide?
As Amos and I walked towards the meeting place that day, when I met Amos for the very first time, I asked him how he was coping.
I didn’t care about what people thought of him. I just wanted to be sure he was well. I just wanted to let him know that nothing has changed and that he should still continue to be who he is.
But he knew that already.
Some have commented that Amos appears arrogant. But this stems from a misunderstanding of Amos. Once you get to know Amos, he is just forthright and honest, but for some, perhaps honest to a fault.
But would you rather someone who pretends to be someone he is not and speaks of you nicely in front of you but stab you in the back?
Well, Amos would not do that.
And because of that, he seems arrogant, even rude.
But if being honest means to appear arrogant, so be it. This would be what Amos would think.
I have learnt many things from Amos since I got to know him. I have learnt to be honest and true to myself, truly. I have always believed in this but when I see the way Amos stick to his guns, that is when you realise what holding true to your values really means. It questions your values and beliefs, and forces you to really face up to yourself, and your fears.
When you look at Amos, then you really know what being brave and courageous means. It is to be honest.
And this is what has endeared Amos to many Singaporeans. We admire how he has stuck to his beliefs and how he would not waver and buckle in spite of the intimidation that the PAP puts on him.
We admire how he is not like the PAP.
Yesterday, Amos appeared in court in a shirt with the words, “Prisoner”, at the back. They were trying to intimidate him but Amos was still in “good spirits”, his lawyer, Mr Dodwell, later said.
The PAP can try to break Amos but one thing they do not understand is this – you cannot defeat a person who is honest and true.
You cannot defeat a person who has strong values and stand true to them.
Amos meant no harm in the first place and he is not going to apologise for something he never did. I support him on this.
Today is the second day of his trial. I wish my dear friend all the best and good luck.
No matter what happens, he has already won, in the hearts of many.
Afternote: After my advocacy for Amos and for the CPF, I had just last week received a letter to threaten me. But I will continue to do the work that I do. If we allow such cowardly actions to make us cower, then change will never come. We must always stand up for ourselves and stand up against such bullying, so that we can regain our rights and our lives.