Friday, December 21, 2012

Alirio Melendez, former National University of Singapore immunologist, is a fraud

Alirio Melendez


After a 19-month investigation, the National University of Singapore (NUS) today says that it has determined that one of its former scientists, the immunologist Alirio Melendez, has committed “serious scientific misconduct”.  The university found fabrication, falsification or plagiarism associated with 21 papers, and no evidence indicating that other co-authors were involved in the misconduct, it says.
But the university would not identify the papers (although five of Melendez’s papers have already been retracted), nor release the report of the committee that investigated them.  That tight-lipped approach mirrors two other investigations into Melendez’s work by the University of Liverpool and the University of Glasgow, UK, which respectively abandoned and concluded inquiries last year without publicly commenting on their findings.
“It’s standard procedure that for research-misconduct investigations such a report and the list of papers would be kept confidential,” an NUS spokesperson explained to Nature. She said that the university is now contacting journal editors and co-authors about each of the papers involved, and added that normally the university would not make a public statement at all, but in this case “the scientific misconduct uncovered was unprecedented”. When asked whether the report would remain permanently under wraps, she added: “I don’t think it will be released at a later date.”
The university did not reveal Melendez’s response to the charges; last year he told Nature that he was conducting his own investigations into other papers, which he agreed contained “questionable data”, but which he asserted were not his fault. Nature made efforts to contact him for this article without success.
The NUS launched its investigation in March 2011 after an anonymous letter alleged research misconduct in two papers. An inquiry committee looking into this subsequently extended its remit to cover around 70 papers, focusing on NUS-affiliated work, and the investigation was reported in Singapore’s Straits Times in October. Melendez — who left Singapore to come to the United Kingdom in 2007 — had subsequently worked at the Glasgow and Liverpool universities, which conducted their own investigations alongside NUS.
A cascade of retractions and alterations racked up while the NUS was investigating; it now totals five retracted papers, a correction and an expression of concern (the history can be followed on Retraction Watch). In autumn of 2012, it emerged that Melendez had resigned from Liverpool in November 2011, not long after the University of Glasgow concluded its investigation in October 2011. But Glasgow told Nature it would not comment on individual cases (as the Times Higher Education also reported).
Today, the NUS says that its committee “uncovered evidence of fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism associated with 21 papers, including the two in the original allegation. Based on similarities in the pattern of misconduct and in some cases sole authorship of questionable papers, it concluded that Dr Melendez has committed serious scientific misconduct. The Committee found no evidence indicating that other co-authors were involved in the scientific misconduct. NUS has started the process of informing the relevant authors and journals about the problems in these papers to ensure that the public scientific record will be corrected.”

(Venezuela-born Alirio Melendez was with NUS from 2001 to 2009.)
Member, Immunology Programme
Department of Physiology
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
National University of Singapore

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jim Sleeper, Yale academic, on Yale-NUS College and Singapore

Singaporeans Speak Freely at Yale -- and Against It

Jim Sleeper
Lecturer in Political Science, Yale University

Huffington Post, Dec 6, 2012 (source)

Is the Tide Running Out on Liberal Democracy?

In his immodestly titled and even more immodestly influential book of 2007, The Future of Freedom, the journalist and Yale trustee Fareed Zakaria advanced the belief of Margaret Thatcher and the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan's U.N. ambassador, that illiberal, authoritarian capitalist regimes like Augusto Pinochet's in Chile and Lee Kuan Yew's in the little corporate city-state of Singapore build the strongest foundations for liberal democracy because they stabilize the national wealth-production upon which a democracy ultimately depends.

But while entrepreneurial capitalism was indeed a progenitor of liberal democracy in the 18th century, where the mind of Margaret Thatcher resides, today's corporate capital, especially in its most recent, casino-finance iterations, has become subversive of democracy. It is undermining the sovereignty and the morals of democratic polities without generating any new frame or faith strong enough to sustain them.

Not surprisingly, democratic movements -- Occupy Wall Street, public-sector union uprisings in Wisconsin -- have returned the favor by becoming equally subversive of finance capital's agendas, and they'll become increasingly so in the years ahead.

Sure, they'll sometimes be desperate and irresponsible. And that will prompt people like Zakaria to interview people like Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew and his son Lee Hsien Loong, the current prime minister, at the World Economic Forum, helping them to hint to receptive audiences that most people must be ruled because they really can't govern themselves.

In such hands as these, disparagement of democracy is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy that sometimes summons an iron fist against national' working classes and migrants, as Singapore did so decisively this week.

This doesn't discomfit Zakaria, who hasn't a democratic bone in his body but savors a lively and imaginative contempt for left-of-center movements that, in his telling, always turn their promises of democracy into engines of oppression more draconian than any dreamed of by stern paternalists like Pinochet and Lee.

Never mind that Chile had democratic and republican roots as deep as Wisconsin's before General Pinochet led a coup that murdered his more intelligent and effective predecessor Salvadore Allende and thousands of supporters; Zakaria's high-capitalist, militaristic music in The Future of Freedom suited Davos' orchestra of high-minded opinion well enough, and the book became a best-seller.

No surprise, then, that last spring Zakaria joined three fellow Yale trustees, long-time investment advisers to Singapore's government, to tout Yale's collaboration with that country's ruling party in establishing an undergraduate liberal-arts college to boost Singapore as the center of what its ambassador to the U.S. called "the education industry" in Southeast Asia.

Zakaria soon had to resign from Yale's governing corporation for committing plagiarism in an article for TIME magazine, but his neoliberal symphony had already skipped a few bars on its score by mistaking the hubbub of capitalist market dynamism for the conversations of citizens deliberating democratically about big decisions shaping their lives.

Zakaria missed or downplayed a reality that's harsher than any he's had to face: It's that the true framers of constitutional democracies can't just stride onto foundations prepared by illiberal regimes like Singapore's.

As Jonathan Schell shows unforgettably in The Unconquerable World, democrats such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vaclav Havel, and Martin Luther King, Jr., have to be willing to survive years of nearly paralyzing fear, public smearing, prosecution for "defamation" of the authorities, bankruptcy, imprisonment, and more, in their struggle to displace power-wielders and their crony capitalist collaborators. (That may sound archaic. But look around.)

Most such efforts are suppressed energetically by the powers they challenge, and when they seem irrepressible, they may be crushed violently. "Repression is like making love; it's always easier the second time around," explained Singapore's British-educated, eloquent ruthlessly energetic autocrat Lee while refining this "love" into an art form.

Under the country's Lee's son Lee Hsien Loong, the country is still deep into an energetic, fine-spun suppression of democracy. And world history lately hasn't exactly been smoothing Zakaria's much-heralded neo-liberal paths to democratic reform.

At Last, Singapore's Brave Democrats Speak to Yale

Against this dark background, two brave framers of democracy in Singapore -- Chee Soon Yuan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party, and Kenneth Jeyaretnam, secretary-general of the Reform Party -- created a sensation last week, thrilling many who'd been smothering under Yale's institutional happy talk about Singapore and inciting denial and consternation among the regime's and the Yale administration's operatives.

Chee and Jeyaretnam flew many thousands of miles to New Haven to speak out at the invitation of some independent students at the Yale International Relations Association and faculty at the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies. The third panelist was the political scientist Meredith Weiss, a Yale PhD who teaches at the State University of New York in Albany and presented richly researched, nuanced information that tended to reinforce the opposition leaders' credibility, not because she cast it that way but because of what the reality is:

"The crux of my argument," Weiss said, "is that the Singapore polity offers more space than voice: non-institutional engagement is possible and increasingly common, but institutional channels to express those preferences or perspectives remain absent or curtailed..... The structure of 'civic society' that Singapore's ruling People's Action Party has crafted allows for a degree of feedback and responsiveness, so at least some demands have been subtly met, but in a way that gives no credit to those generating the ideas the PAP chooses to embrace."

The panel organizers had also invited three representatives of the Singapore government, including its recent ambassador to the U.S., Chan Heng Chee. But, perhaps wary of according opposition leaders any recognition beyond what the government has given them in smearing and prosecuting them, the officials declined.

These officials' absence only reinforced Weiss' description of their modus operandi and prompted the organizers to change its title from "Singapore: The Democratic Divide" to "Singapore Today: Opposition Perspectives."

Brief but solid accounts of the two-hour session in the New Haven Register and the Yale Daily News, and even in a short report in the Singapore government-controlled Singapore Today, have prompted thousands of Singaporeans to clamor for the video that will be posted soon on the website of Council on Southeast Asian Studies. (E-mail the Council at

The video is really worth watching, even if you're more interested in academic freedom and human rights generally than in Singapore per se, because Singapore thwarts academic freedom and human rights in ways both sinuous and intimidating.

The panel gave Chee and Jeyaretnam an opportunity to speak to more than 100 Yale faculty and students in person, including many Singaporeans studying in the U.S -- an audience more open and public than any these men have been able to address in Singapore.

Their account of harsh and often insidious realities hidden by a deluge of Yale-NUS promotional happy talk was as wrenching for Singaporean students who've been apologists for their regime, as it was liberating for others who've come to the U.S. partly to escape the stifling self-censorship and conformity that make Singapore seem clean and safe to outsiders.

Some Singaporeans listened with their heads down, as if ducking Jeyaretnam and Chee, whom they'd never heard before. The most assiduous and crafty apologist among them, E Ching Ng, sat silently, and "a young woman sitting with her kept running her hands through her hair, braiding and un-braiding, arranging, separating, smoothing, all so anxiously and compulsively throughout the talks that one of us finally had to tap her arm and ask her to put her elbows down so that we could see the speakers," a Yale faculty member told some of us later.

What You Hadn't Been Told About Singapore and its Democrats

Chee and Jeyaretnam are seldom seen or heard even on television or radio in Singapore and are slighted or ignored in the print press. The news media are controlled through Government Linked Corporations, or GLCs, that run much else in this country of approximately 6 million, a little over half of them citizens, the rest "permanent residents" and non-resident migrants whose rights are minimal.

The government controls 50% of the economy and owns 80% of the land, in a nation smaller in area than New York City, and it subsidizes 90% of the housing, so it has wields lots of carrots and sticks to silence the independent-minded.

Websites are more open and invigorating to Singaporean twentysomethings, a majority of whom identify them as their first or second sources of information. Whenever my columns are posted on, readers' comments are numerous, feisty, and enlightening.

But the government still licenses websites and can pull the plug on them legally for any number of infractions, and Weiss reports that while "Online campaigning legalized 2011, with limits, and clearly helped opposition parties to get their messages out,... only 25% of all voters.... said that the internet was their first or second source of information in the 2011 general election."

Singapore's labyrinthine, omniscient governance comes from the eternal (and eternally-rigged) People's Action Party, which has a lot more than websites: The PAP took 60% of the vote in the 2011 elections but 93% of the seats in Parliament, the rest going to one "opposition" party whose deputies always vote with the government.

Neither Chee's nor Jeyaretnam's party has a deputy in Parliament, and they can explain the reasons why, including some you'd never think of: Anyone contributing more than a certain amount to an opposition party must register his or her name, income and many other details -- with the Prime Minister's office, via the election commission that his PAP alone controls.

Weiss notes that the PAP reacts to every democratic stirring but without any accountability. Few Americans can imagine what this means: In a micro-state with a ruling party that has held power for 50 years, the universities, press, courts, and even civic associations are wired top to bottom with government operatives who dispense punishments from the draconian and punctiliously legal penalties to unofficial and undocumented reprisals.

All these have been visited upon Dr. Chee, who holds a PhD from the University of Georgia, was fired from his professorship at the National University of Singapore in 1993 after joining the Singapore Democratic Party that he now leads. To appreciate the significance of his speaking at Yale, it helps to know that earlier this year he was barred by the regime from leaving Singapore to give a speech of at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

"In the last 20 years he has been jailed for more than 130 days on charges including contempt of Parliament, speaking in public without a permit, selling books improperly, and attempting to leave the country without a permit," wrote Thor Halvorssen, President of the Human Rights Foundation, in an open letter, published here in the Huffington Post, to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "It is our considered judgment that having already persecuted, prosecuted, bankrupted, and silenced Dr. Chee inside Singapore, you now wish to render him silent beyond your own borders."

It may have taken Singapore's heightened sensitivity to well-publicized criticisms of its collaboration with Yale, such as mine here, to loosen such restrictions on Chee, who is selling his book, Democratically Speaking, to help defray the bankruptcy charges and penalties that the government imposed, although it has recently reduced those penalties, as well.

Jeyaretnam, who holds a Double First Class Honours degree in Economics from Cambridge University, is the son of J.B. Jeyaretnam, the first prominent opposition member of Singapore's Parliament, who was evicted from that body in 1986 after being convicted by the ruling-party-controlled courts on criminal charges of misusing his own Worker's Party finances.

When the British Commonwealth's Privy Council declared the case a "miscarriage of justice," Singapore abolished its ties to the Privy Council, refused to reinstate Jeyaretnam, and sued him for libel years later, bankrupting him and leaving him to walk through transit stations wearing a sandwich board, an aging barrister trying to sell copies of his book, Make It Right For Singapore.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam's Reform Party has a platform somewhat more centrist than his father's and than Chee's SDP, which emphasizes growing disparities in income that can't be discussed in Singapore as openly as in the U.S. Noting that because the government owns so much of the housing and land, Jeyaretnam observes that it has many ways to silence residents -- including NUS students, most of whom live in such housing and, despite Yale-NUS' assurances of freedom of expression, would jeopardize their families' access to patronage jobs, services and transit, as others have done in the recent past, if they opposed the ruling party with public statements or gatherings that could be closely monitored on campus. The Reform Party wants to loosen those strings by privatizing housing ownership more explicitly.

A relatively small recent incident tells quite a lot about what Chee and Jeyaretnam have been up against. Two weeks before they spoke at Yale, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs barred Australian clergyman James Blundell Michin from entering the country because, on a previous visit, he'd participated in a "talk show" hosted by Chee's Singapore Democratic Party.

Michin had "abused the social visit pass privileges previously extended to him while he was in Singapore by interfering in our domestic politics and mixing religion with politics," according to the MHA.

The ministry explained sanctimoniously that "The separation of religion and politics is a long established principle in Singapore, to safeguard the inter-religious and social harmony in our multi-religious society." But the harmony is Orwellian: Singapore's regulations require all foreigners involved in activities directly related to "any seminar, conference, workshop, gathering or talk concerning any religion, race or community, cause or political end" to hold a Miscellaneous Work Pass.

Michin's "real" affront was that he had written disparagingly about the nation's founder, Lee Kuan Yew, and, in August of 2011 had "alleged that the rule of law was bypassed and corrupted in Singapore, and questioned the independence and integrity of the judiciary."

The week of the panel, a strike by 100 angry migrant Chinese bus drivers exposed not only their employer's broken promises and their substandard wages and living conditions -- Singapore has no minimum wage -- but also how forbidden any labor-union action is in Singapore.

The government boasts to investors that it never has strikes or job actions, and it promptly arrested several of the bus drivers for trial and deported most of the rest, prompting the brave writer Vincent Wijeysingha of the Online Citizen website to pen a long, scathingly satirical account of its lies and brutality. It begins:
"The government has acted in our name as is its duty. It purged an industrial action and returned the nation to business as usual. The bus drivers from SMRT recklessly involved themselves in an illegal strike after refusing to bring their grievances to management or their trade union or seek the assistance of the Manpower Ministry. Twenty-nine have been deported, one hundred and fifty more issued a police warning and the five ringleaders will be tried. Industrial harmony has been restored, the tripartite relationship upheld, and public disorder averted.

"As fortunate citizens of this prosperous and stable nation, we can heave a sigh of relief. Those refractory foreigners got what they deserved. How dare they come to our land - which our government built from a fishing village - and demand such indulgences as suitable accommodation and an equal wage....."

Wijeysingha shows how ephemeral -- virtually non-existent -- the "trade unions" are and how calculatingly feeble and false the Manpower Ministry is. Coming just as American Wal-Mart workers staged a walkout on Black Friday without union or legal protection, Singapore's retaliation with what Chee called "zero tolerance for industrial action" reminded me that Asian state capitalism and Western state capital are converging to subvert democracy, not enable it.

Or do Zakaria and the liberal arts teachers at Yale-NUS mean to help workers of the world to converge, as well? Chee noted that when he arrived at NUS in response to student invitations to speak about civil liberties, he was turned back by police on one occasion and by university officials on another.

"I am not asking Yale to change the country, but do not be complicit in helping the PAP to oppress Singaporeans, and do not seek to advance your interests at the expense of ours," Chee said in New Haven. "I fear that despite all assurances, making money is the be-all and end-all. I have never yearned so much to be proven wrong." His fear is that Yale's claim to defer to the government and laws of Singapore out of respect for supposed "'Asian values' has been used" in ways that will prove him right.

Chee told the Yale audience ruefully that, when he landed at Kennedy Airport in New York, the official checking his passport remarked that "The U.S. has a lot to learn from Singapore." Chee told us, "There is a lot to learn from Singapore about controlling your own people," but obviously the officer believed in Singapore's false front as a "rich, clean nation renowned for its disciplined workforce and its no-nonsense government" -- an image that Chee proceeded to unpack with slides and statistics.

For example, while Singapore boasts a per-capita income of $57,000 compared to the U.S.'s $46,000, Chee noted that that's only because the tiny city-state has seen a 67% increase in centi-millionaires -- residents worth at least $100 million. Meanwhile, 5% of Singaporeans earn less than $5000 a year -- less than $100 a week -- in a city that is 42% more expensive than New York City. Chee then showed slides of people subsisting in miserable living conditions and reminded us of the tiny island's millions of rights-less migrant workers like the Chinese bus drivers.

"You Americans have just been through an election where income disparity was debated. It is not up for debate in Singapore," whose famously "disciplined workforce" works longer hours than those of Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and Moscow. "More than half say they'd emigrate if they could, and 10% do leave."

A More Skeptical, Combative View

Jeyaretnam was more sardonic than Chee, comparing Yale president Richard Levin's "naivete" about Singapore to that of Sidney and Beatrice Webb's about the Ukraine, whose wonders they touted rapturously upon returning to American, all to the great benefit and probable amusement of the Soviets in the 1930s. "Levin lets us know that Yale has done its homework about Singapore," Jeyaretnam mocked, adding that if Levin's delegation ever tried to talk with any opposition leaders, "We must all have been out that when they came calling."

Growing more serious, Jeyaretman worried that "the authoritarian model" is gaining ground worldwide as people "give away their freedom in exchange for security and prosperity. But Singapore was one of the richest cities in Asia before Lee Kuan Yew arrived.

"There has been no economic 'miracle,' it's been only a deliberate policy to open the floodgates to immigrant labor, producing a disastrous fall in real income for the bottom quarter. You are losing jobs by outsourcing them; Singapore keeps jobs by bringing in cheap labor and increasing its repression."

Jeyaretnam's criticisms of universities in Singapore and of Yale's feeble accommodations to them were substantially the same as Chee's. "What Singapore does best is not anything that a liberal college such as Yale should want to learn. I can only hope that they'll fulfill their commitments to foster open debate at Yale NUS."

He also noted that while the internet has had positive impacts, "any blog can be required to gain government approval and a license" -- I wondered how long Online Citizen can expect to survive -- and he made scathing fun of the government's regulation of campaigns, noting that he was given television time on only a Mandarin-language channel even though, as he noted drily, "English is the national language." .

Few of the Singaporean Yale students in the audience, most of them from elite high schools in Singapore, seemed to have heard of or witnessed anything like this before. The more defensive among them disparaged Jeyaretnam afterward, but they couldn't help but notice that his and Chee's presentations received long, vigorous applause from an audience deeply moved, even impassioned, by their example.

By far the most defensive, churlish, amazingly naive comments came from two Yale-NUS faculty members. I'm almost too embarrassed even to quote them here, but you can watch them on the video when it's posted on the Council on Southeast Asia Studies website.

These teachers of political science actually believed that because Yale is a non-profit institution and because they and other new faculty had sat together on a hilltop in New Haven for two weeks this past summer and then again in Singapore designing a new liberal arts curriculum in perfect freedom, no business or government interests will control them.

The American Professoriate Weighs In

But the pervasive monitoring and repression that Chee and Jeyaretnam described are so ubiquitous and generate such pervasive, unthinking self-censorship and fear that, the week that they spoke at Yale, the American Association of University Professors sent a public letter to the Yale community and to 500,000 American professors expressing "the AAUP's growing concern about the character and impact of the university's collaboration with the Singaporean government."

The letter poses 16 questions to Yale that the university has yet to answer convincingly because it has refused repeatedly to make public its contract with Singapore in establishing Yale-NUS. "We believe that a healthy atmosphere for shared governance at Yale can only be restored if the Yale Corporation begins by releasing all documents and agreements related to the plan to establish the Yale-National University of Singapore campus," the AAUP writes, after exhaustive reading and research on every document on the collaboration that has been made public.

"In a host environment where free speech is constrained, if not proscribed, faculty will censor themselves, and the cause of authentic liberal education, to the extent it can exist in such situations, will suffer."

This reinforces the political scientist Weiss' observation on the panel that "Arguably central to efforts to channel and control participation in Singapore has been depoliticizing students and the university since the late 1960s and early 1970s, through measures ranging from restructuring faculty governance at NUS to eliminating the more radicalized Nanyang U to building a new campus at Kent Ridge without a clear central meeting point to prohibition or restructuring of a host of student activities and organizations to a retreat from (then cautious, instrumental return to) the teaching of 'critical thinking,'"

The AAUP letter discredits claims by Yale-NUS administrators and faculty (and by Zakaria last spring) that their university critics are ivory tower moralists, provincials fearful of engaging cultural differences and respecting so called "Asian" values:
"At stake are not simply 'cultural differences' but whether Yale recognizes universal human rights and the protections for academic staff enunciated in the UNESCO Recommendation. Singapore is a modern, industrialized city whose leaders and citizens fully understand these values."

Some Singaporean Professors Weigh Out

So one might hope. But two weeks before the AAUP released its letter, the Singapore Management University cancelled the opening of a research center on human rights just days before its launch, without giving reason why.

The center, which had been planned for two years, "was meant to have been funded by a large donation of between $1 million to $3 million from the Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa, who had flown into Singapore last week specially for the launch," according to the website Singapolitics.

A brilliantly dissident website, The Online Citizen, speculated that the Government had a hand in the closure of the center. "Asked by Singapolitics "to respond to this allegation, a Ministry of Education spokesman only said: 'We were informed by the SMU that it had decided not to go ahead with the launch of the centre.'"

Recall here how small and tightly run Singapore is. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife heads the country's Temasek sovereign wealth fund, whose CEO-designate in 2009 was the current Yale trustee Charles Waterhouse Goodyear IV, a progenitor and proponent of Yale-NUS. Charles Ellis, another Yale trustee at the time when Yale-NUS arrangements were being negotiated, was also an adviser to Singapore's Government Investment Corporation and is married to Yale vice president Linda Koch Lorimer, who is a member of the new, fig-leaf governing board of the Yale-NUS, which will be held to Singapore's corporate laws, which none of Yale-NUS' boosters seems to have examined carefully.

In the past year the Johns Hopkins University, Australia's University of New South Wales, and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts have all pulled their programs out of Singapore, and faculty at the Claremont Colleges rebuffed overtures to establish an undergraduate liberal-arts college in Singapore after Britain's Warwick University cancelled its own effort there.

Business Unusual?

Yet Yale's trustees and president have rushed in where these institutions declined to tread, without giving Yale's faculty a truly deliberative role like that assumed by the faculties at Claremont and Warwick.

What were they thinking? Or, as Evan Thomas kept asking in his book The Very Best Men, about the supposedly worldly, smart Yale men in national intelligence who fomented a hapless coup in Guatemala, installed the Shah in Iran, and staged the Bay of Pigs: "How could they be so dumb?"

I've never charged that Yale's trustees were furthering their own business interests directly by pushing Yale-NUS, nor even that Yale as an institution is "lining its pockets" from the Singapore venture. I've reported that someone with pretty good credibility predicts they'll do so.

What I do charge is that the "business" mindset of Yale trustees who've meant to do some good in the world while doing well for themselves has driven this project despite many good reasons for doubting its wisdom pedagogically as well as politically.

I've also speculated about likely reasons why the Yale Corporation went this far. A possible line of inquiry for an investigative reporter or dispassionate historian and perhaps a prosecutor would require learning how business is done in Singapore, not to mention in America these days, where "payments" to institutions can be made, and individuals rewarded, without leaving contractual fingerprints.

Imagine that a Yale trustee who had left the Yale Corporation by the time the Corporation approved Yale-NUS had also been intimately and enthusiastically involved with Singapore for many years before then, and imagine that he is married to Yale's vice president, who has become a member of the new, Potemkin Yale-NUS governing board, an unmarked subsidiary of the National University and hence of the People's Action Party.

Imagine further that the Yale University endowment's investment portfolio just happens to be let in on restricted, lucrative investment opportunities that controlled in some measure by Singapore's government investment and sovereign wealth funds, including Temasek (whose CEO-designate in 2009, Charles Waterhouse Goodyear IV, is currently a Yale trustee).

As one Yale faculty member put it, a lot of business and public financing in Singapore "has been perfected by money launderers and high rollers in ways that make every lead that might throw light on the wheeling and dealing disappear into a Gordian knot."

Shouldn't we begin by insisting that Yale make public its contract with Singapore for Yale NUS? Why has it refused to do so despite repeated requests from many quarters? Shouldn't we make it impossible for Yale-NUS to enjoy credibility or dignity until that has been done?

There's no need to presume that the Yale Corporation members who were most active in conceiving and supporting Yale-NUS were mercenary about it, let alone corrupt. Assume that they're all good guys, hale fellows well met, knights-errant of a commodious American capitalism, and that they get almost weepily sentimental about their Yale undergraduate encounters with the liberal arts, which they remember fondly and dimly enough to think that by exporting them to Singapore in this fashion they'll be repaying Singapore and the whole world, by whose gilded graces they have done so well for themselves.

I think that we can doubt the soundness of their judgment, which has been clouded by the "doing well" side of their equation. They should have sat awhile with Jeyaretnam and Chee. And Yale-NUS' maestros and musicians should have looked more intently at Fareed Zakaria's symphony before hiring themselves out to play it for the People's Action Party.


Dr Chee Soon Juan on Yale-NUS College

Dr Chee Soon Juan

Dr Chee Soon Juan: Yale must not be complicit in suppressing Singaporeans' rights

The Singapore Democrats

Dec 6, 2012 (source)

Dr Chee Soon Juan's address to the Yale community on Nov 30, 2012.

Dear friends, ladies and gentleman,

I want to thank the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies and Yale International Relations Association for organising this forum and for so graciously inviting us to participate in it.

Many of you here today probably know very little about Singapore, at least not before the Yale-NUS controversy erupted. What you probably heard is that Singapore is this rich, clean island renowned for its disciplined workforce and no nonsense government.

This assessment is not entirely wrong. Singapore is very rich. We have the most number of millionaires per capita in the world. In fact, Singapore is one of those places that some would sight as an unmitigated success story. In 2011, US Ambassador to Singapore Mr David Adelman said: "The agreement with Singapore is perhaps our most successful FTA globally.”

The US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2004 by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and US President George W Bush.
At that time, I had raised serious questions about how such an agreement would affect workers in Singapore. I visited the US Congress and AFL-CIO to urge caution about the FTA because the lack of democratic freedoms, in general, and workers' rights, in particular, would mean that workers would be exploited instead of helped.

That was in 2004. Now some 8 years after the FTA was implemented, the results are in. And they look very pretty, I must admit – at least for a few.

As I mentioned earlier, Singapore is the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita –US$57,000, the United States is around US$46,000. This is, in large part, due to the influx of a staggering number of millionaires emigrating to the city-state. Between 2010 and 2014, it is projected Singapore will see a 67% increase in centa-millionaires – that's folks with over US$100 million in disposable wealth. We have the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world.

It is perhaps inevitable that such wealth will have a significant impact on the economy. This year, the Economist Intelligence Unit listed Singapore as the 9th most expensive city in the world – more expensive than London, New York and Frankfurt. And not just by a whisker – Singapore is 42 percent more expensive than New York City.

But the FTA doesn't do as much for the rest of the population. In fact, it keeps the poor firmly anchored at the bottom. About 5 percent of Singapore's workforce draw an annual income of less than US$5,000 – that's less than US$100 a week – in a city that is 42 percent more expensive than New York City. Ten years ago they made the same amount. For a decade they saw no wage increase.

How is this possible, a city that is one of the most expensive in the world with wages that are one of the lowest? Because there is no minimum wage legislation. And why is there no minimum wage legislation? Because there is no opposition to fight for it.

The ranks of opposition parties have been decimated with years of persecution, there are no independent trade unions because labour leaders have all been imprisoned or run out of the country.

There is no free media – all Singaporean TV stations, radio channels and newspapers are owned and run by the government.

You have just come through a presidential election where income disparity was a major issue.

A couple years ago, you had the Occupy Wall Street campaign which brought to the fore, amongst other issues, the yawning gap between the rich and the poor here in the United States.

I hear that the richest 1 percent of the population in this country owns 50 percent of the wealth. The statistic is indeed alarming. And yet, the income disparity is wider in Singapore.

Middle-income workers in Singapore don't have it better. According to a survey of conducted by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), Singaporean workers work the longest number of hours.

And yet, the study reported that their real incomes have diminished. A UBS study done in 2011 used New York as the benchmark upon which workers' wages of 73 cities were compared. New York was given the score of 100. Zurich came out at the top at 144. Singapore? 35.8 – below that of Sao Paolo, Johannesburg and Moscow.

These are not just numbers. They have a huge impact on the quality of life of Singaporeans. We are one of the most, if not the most, stressful places to live in Asia and one of the unhappiest peoples in the world. In a survey of 14 economies, Singaporean workers were found to enjoy going to work the least, are the least loyal to their employers and have the least supportive workplaces. Only 19 percent of those polled in Singapore look forward to their work each day, the global average is 30 percent.

It's not like we can vote out the ruling party. Former prime minister and strongman Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whom many still consider to wield ultimate power in Singapore said: "Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don’t understand this.”

So what can Singaporeans do to make things easier for themselves? They leave the country – for good. More than half of Singaporeans say that given the chance they would emigrate.

And an astounding number do. According to the World Bank, 10.1 percent of Singaporeans pack up and leave the island. Another survey found that more than a third of younger Singaporeans say that feel no loyalty to their country.

And it isn't that the Singapore government is doing all this by itself. It has ample support from the West especially the neoliberals here in America.

In 2003, prior to the signing of the US-Singapore FTA, the AFL-CIO wrote to the House of Representatives bringing its attention to the pitfalls of the agreement which, if enacted, would mean that Singapore's workers "are likely to face widening income inequality."

The AFL-CIO letter continued: "Singapore's government has wide powers to limit citizens' rights and to handicap political opposition...The Government continued to significantly restrict freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as to limit other civil and political rights."

So it wasn't that the US Government did not know of the problems the agreement would present. As it was, there was hardly a debate in Congress and the US Government promptly signed the FTA – the first in the world.
To be sure, the love affair between the Singapore government and the neoliberals started a long time ago. In 1986, when a minister (the late Ong Teng Cheong) sanctioned a strike in the shipping industry he incurred the wrath of some of his cabinet colleagues.

He said: "The minister for trade and industry was very angry, his officers were very upset. They had calls from America, asking what happened to Singapore? – we are non-strike. If I were to inform the cabinet or the government they would probably stop me from going ahead with the strike."

Since then there have been no strikes. Until four days ago when a group of bus drivers recruited from China struck because of low wages and poor living conditions. The Singapore government has said that it has zero tolerance for such action and four workers have been arrested.

So what has all this to do with Yale?

When it was first announced that Yale would be setting up a campus with NUS in Singapore, I had my reservations but kept my own counsel. My colleagues and I in the Singapore Democratic Party cautiously welcomed the set up.

We had hoped that given Yale's proud history that it would not allow the Singapore government – or any government – to dictate the kind of experience it provides for its students.

But my worst fears were confirmed when it was declared that Yale-NUS would not allow certain political activities, including students forming party-affiliated organisations.

It seems now that instead of Yale opening up the minds of Singaporeans through academic inquiry and scholarship, it is the Singaporean Government that will close the minds of the people running the College.

I also understand that degrees will be awarded by NUS, and not Yale. If this is the case, then I have to question why this is so. Is Yale not proud of the students if produces in Singapore?

I fear – and I sincerely hope that I will be proven wrong on this – that the Yale leadership does not, like American multinational corporations that have come before it, cynically looking to make that quick and easy dollar from Singaporeans while completely disregarding what such actions would do to our society.

My experience with foreign academic institutions lead me to be very skeptical of their claims to want to provide Singaporeans with the best that academia can muster.

Will I be unwelcome again at an academic institution in my own country? What kind of message will Yale be sending to Singaporeans when you call security to stop me when I visit the campus to talk to students about their rights and civil liberties.

I don't presume to lecture the US, and even Yale administration, on how to conduct its business but I will say this: Where you come to make your profits is where I bring up my children. Like you, I want them to grow up enjoying the quality of life that you want for your own children. Where you come to advance your interests is where my fellow Singaporeans and I live in the hope of freeing our country and knowing what it's like to be free. Like you, we want a say in how our country is run and be able to elect our own government.

Don't get me wrong – I am not asking you to change our country, Singaporeans are more than capable of doing that ourselves. What I am asking is for the US and its institutions like Yale not to be complicit in helping the ruling Peoples' Action Party to oppress and exploit Singaporeans.

But when an institution, despite knowing the repression that goes on in a country chooses to take advantage of the lack of freedom to install extractive and exploitative economic policies for its own benefit, when you seek to advance your interests at the expense of ours, then I question if you are friends at all.

If all America is interested in is to make money regardless of the damage that profit-making venture is, then we are all going to be poorer for it. If we continue to choose the beggar-thy-neighbour approach to globalisation, the global community will fail.

I fear, despite all the assurances, and because of what I have seen of what corporate America together with the Singapore state has done to my country, that making money is the be-all and end-all of all that is collaborated. I hope you can see why the Yale-NUS venture leaves me suspicious of Yale's motives –whether you are there to educate or simply to line your own pockets. I have never yearned so much to be proven wrong.

Asian values under the guise of Confucianism, have been used by the Singapore government to steer the people away from democracy which, it argues, will hamper economic progress. I argue the opposite – and data that I have presented bear me out – that openness and accountability, in other words democracy, is essential for the economic advancement of a people.

But that's not the point.

Others argue that democracy is a Western concept not suited to an Eastern culture like Singapore. The irony is that it was the West which subjugated and oppressed Singapore, together with much of Asia, for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Freedom from colonialism was not given but won; the rebellion was instinctual. In short, the longing for freedom is not Asian or Western – it is primordial.

But that's not the point either.

Humankind must not live in a world where the poor and the elderly live off the crumbs that fall off the rich man's table; where Westerners, with the help of autocratic governments, exploit the locals in the countries that they invest in. Instead, we must work out a way to live in peace and on the premise that human equals human.

That's the point.

If you come to Singapore to visit, you will see a conspicuous display of opulence. But hidden away in the unseen corners are pitiful figures of poverty.

I don't care if this bent and gnarled figure is an American or Singaporean and neither, I suspect, do you (see photo below).


For a struggling American worker is not different from a struggling Singaporean worker. We're first and foremost human beings: when oppressed, we long to be free; when exploited, we seek to break that yoke.

And if you care enough that education at this revered institution will prepare you for a life that not just enables you to get ahead but to also improve the lot of those around you, of humanity, then you will also care that Yale University not yield on the principles of higher education on which it is founded.

You will want this proud arena of intellection to care that it upholds its reputation of imparting not just knowledge but wisdom, the wisdom that invites an individual to enter the door of his conscience.

Such wisdom cannot be found in textbooks, you can't score a correct answer on it in your multiple-choice test. It can only be approximated when you have the freedom to challenge authority, to question the status quo and push the limits of convention, a freedom that Yale so boldly and nobly embodies, a freedom that we have lost in Singapore.

Teachers and students, if you will not accept anything less for yourselves here in New Haven, why then do you acquiesce to a demand that will deny your counterparts at Yale-NUS that same, rich experience?

I can only hope that as we progress into the future, as the global community becomes more intertwined and our interests become increasingly linked, that our values – the values that people come before profit, rights before riches and wisdom before wealth – will also become inextricably bound.

I have been censored and censured, ridiculed and mocked, I have been sued and made bankrupt, and I have been jailed over and over. But that only makes me more determined to speak truth to power and to you, my friends, here at Yale.

Thank you.


Singaporean opposition leaders challenge Yale-NUS

Aleksandra Gjorgievska
Yale Daily News, Dec 3, 2012 (source)

Singaporean opposition leaders challenged the establishment of Yale-NUS at a panel discussion in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall Friday afternoon.

Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party Chee Soon Juan and Secretary-General of the Reform Party of Singapore Kenneth Jeyaretnam called for a re-evaluation of Yale’s motives in partnering with the National University of Singapore in the creation of Yale-NUS, condemning Yale’s alleged compliance with restrictions enforced by the People’s Action Party — the party currently in charge of Singapore’s government.

Roughly 100 members of the Yale community attended the panel, which was co-sponsored by the Yale International Relations Association and the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale and also included Meredith Weiss, associate professor of political science at the State University of New York at Albany.

"When you seek to advance your interest at the expense of ours, I wonder if you are our friends at all,” Chee said. "Teachers and students, if you will not accept anything less for yourselves here in New Haven, why do you deny it in Singapore?”

Chee, whose speech elicited a prolonged applause from the audience, said his worst fears were realized when he found out the Singaporean government would restrict political activity on the Yale-NUS campus, and urged Yale not to be complicit with the ruling party’s oppressive policies toward the Singaporean people.

In October, Yale-NUS administrators announced that branches of existing political parties in Singapore as well as organizations "promoting racial or religious strife” would be prohibited on the college’s campus in accordance with the nation’s laws.

Jeyaretnam said he thinks healthy political debate cannot exist in a society that is not free. In Singapore, he said, all national media and bloggers who attempt to circumvent state control are frequently threatened with defamation suits by the government, which he added are facts that Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis has overlooked.

By the time they enroll in a university, he added, young Singaporeans are conditioned to self-censorship, as most live in government-owned flats.

But Bryan Garsten, a political science professor and member of the social sciences faculty search committee for Yale-NUS, said in a question and answer session following the panel that intellectual liberty has been fundamental in the college’s planning process.

"It is hard to sit and hear the generalizations about Yale and Yale-NUS [being made here],” Garsten said. "I want to state that intellectual freedom has been essential and assumed in all of the conversations about the Yale-NUS curriculum."

Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said that the college’s charter is available on the college’s website. No one involved in the venture is trying to hide any specifics, he said, adding that Yale-NUS administrators welcome advice on how to proceed with the venture.

Keith Darden, a political science professor at Yale until last semester and an associate professor of social sciences at Yale-NUS, said during the event that since Yale is a not-for-profit corporation, it cannot legally profit from the Singaporean liberal arts college. The Yale-NUS community is made up of top scholars who are not controlled by anyone, he added.

Because channels that would allow Singaporean citizens to express themselves freely remain absent or blocked, Weiss said, most Singaporeans raised under the rule of the People’s Action Party do not expect to have a major voice in the government’s decision-making process. Still, Weiss said she thinks Singaporean civil society has "increasing space for engagement."

Both Chee and Jeyaretnam questioned Yale’s financial reasons for establishing the new college, expressing concern that through Yale-NUS, the University will "simply line [its] own pockets” and disregard its established academic goals to maintain a presence in Singapore.

"For [President Levin], this is purely a business transaction,” Jeyaretnam said. "What happens to the citizens of my country is not his or Yale’s concern."

Chee said the Yale-NUS degrees — which will be awarded by the National University of Singapore instead of Yale — are evidence that Yale’s engagement in Singapore might be superficial, though he added several times that he hopes his suspicions will be proven wrong.

"Is Yale not proud of the students it produces in Singapore?" he asked.

Chee and Jeyaretnam both said that since Yale-NUS is "a done deal,” Yale’s next steps will be crucial for the success of the venture.

During the Q-and-A session following the panel, history professor Glenda Gilmore and classics professor Victor Bers said the Yale-NUS agreement formalizing the joint venture should be made public to clarify Yale’s role in the project.

E-Ching Ng GRD ’13, a Singaporean graduate student, said she thinks several facts, such as that Singapore is 40 percent more expensive than New York, were misrepresented during the panel, but she was impressed by Chee’s sincerity during individual conversations with audience members.

Rayner Teo ’14, co-president of the Malaysian and Singaporean Association, said after the event that he thought Jeyaretnam appeared "more interested in regurgitating his party’s platform than engaging in substantive dialogue."

Marko Micic ’15 said he still believes Yale-NUS’ fundamental problem lies in the secrecy surrounding the project. "Nobody is really sure what the real motivation for creating it is, and so consequently people are free to speculate,” he said.

The Yale-NUS campus is scheduled to open in August 2013.

(SDP's note: This statistic of Singapore being 42 percent more expensive than New York City was reported by the Wall Street Journal


Read also
: Yale University's Singapore campus plan debated (New Haven Register)


An Open Letter from the AAUP to the Yale Community

American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

December 4, 2012 (source)

Washington, DC-The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) today issued an open letter to the Yale University community expressing growing concern about the character and impact of the university’s collaboration with the Singaporean government in establishing Yale-National University of Singapore College.
The letter raises questions about the possibility of true academic freedom in an authoritarian country, about the specific measures that Yale will take to protect the freedom of faculty, staff, and students, and about the lack of transparency that has characterized the planning process. It recommends that the Yale Corporation release documents and agreements related to the plan to establish the Yale-National University of Singapore campus and establish genuinely open forums in which plans can be reviewed, discussed, and modified as necessary.
Among the many issues that might be reviewed are these:
  • What risks do students and faculty face over campus speech that may be critical of the Singaporean government? What may be the impact on free speech on campus of any surveillance protocols put in place by Singapore authorities?
  • Will all faculty, staff, and students of Yale-NUS (including Singaporean nationals) be guaranteed immunity from prosecution for writings or statements that would be protected under the provisions of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel? Will the other protections called for in the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel be implemented on the Singapore campus?
  • Will the libraries, faculty, staff, and students of Yale-NUS be exempt from restrictions on importation of publications or periodicals?
  • Will independent Internet access be guaranteed?
  • Will the right to invite speakers to campus be compromised by restrictions on visitors to Singapore?
  • What risks to students, staff, and faculty with various sexual orientations are posed by Singapore’s laws?
  • Do employees at Yale-NUS who are not American citizens face working conditions that would be unacceptable in the United States? How will working conditions for non-American citizens be monitored and reported to members of the Yale community?
  • Will American faculty teaching at the Singapore campus be assured the protections for academic freedom and shared governance embodied in AAUP’s Policy Documents and Reports that faculty have in New Haven?
The open letter is available on the AAUP website at
The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has approximately 47,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.