In the last two days, the Rice Media expose has gripped the local literary scene. Many have waded into the discourse with several other women coming forward to share similar stories of intimidation and exploitation. Others whom we thought were “friends” with the man in question, Kenny Leck, have also come out to denounce his actions or distance themselves from him publicly.
These responses are not unexpected in a situation like this, given the prevalence of the #metoo and cancel culture these days. There is, however, one person who has reacted in a completely bizarre manner. This person is Cherian George, the one who has an axe to grind with everything Singaporean. He has used this incident to attack the Straits Times (ST) for not exposing Kenny Leck for his transgressions earlier, and by extension caused unnecessary suffering to all the young women who have passed through the doors of BooksActually.
To back up his accusations, he produced a 2013 email where a ST correspondent wrote to him with questions regarding the bad experience several writers had with BooksActually and its publishing arm Math Paper Press. This “negative experience” was related to BooksActually as a publisher and distributor. Cherian claimed that the ST never followed up on the story. And with this, he has accused the ST of keeping quiet about the allegations against BooksActually despite knowing that something was “fishy” about them. He also criticised the paper for continuing to feature BooksActually positively despite being aware of its mismanagement issues, which in turn made the indie bookstore even more alluring to those seeking to be part of the local arts scene.
Up to this juncture, it might seem that Cherian has a point – if the ST knew about BooksActually/Kenny Leck’s bad behaviour then why didn’t they speak up. There is one glaring point which Cherian is hoping no one notices “the accusations in the 2013 email and the accusations in the Rice Media article are completely different things”. It is a leap of logic to say that just because Kenny Leck is bad at managing his business, then one should guess that he would also be sexually harassing his female staff. This is essentially what Cherian is saying – that the ST should have known better, that if they had exposed Kenny Leck for his bad business practices, then the young women needn’t have suffered his unsolicited sexual advances. The link between the cause and effect put forth by Cherian is befuddling, and one would expect better from an ex-NTU professor (perhaps that is why he is “ex” and not current).
It is amazing the lengths that Cherian would go to just to cast aspersions on the national newspaper who is coincidentally (or not) his wife’s ex-employer. It is also hard to ignore the hypocrisy in all of this – “Cherian is in fact using the women’s plight as a tool to attack the ST”. In doing so, he is guilty of the very same thing which he has accused Kenny (and by his feeble reasoning ,the ST) of being guilty of, which is, causing hurt and distress to the women by exploiting them at their most vulnerable. Perhaps, in future, Cherian should pick his battles carefully lest it exposes his not so noble agenda or worse, his poor ability at forming a convincing argument.Editor's Note: Do you have a story to share? Please use our Submission Form or email us.
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