Singapore Media Watch

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ravi's "arrest": more than meets the eye

In the above article published on TODAY on 26 September 2006, Loh Chee Kong reported that Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital and could not represent his clients in a court case involving two Falungong members who were charged in August with displaying insulting words on a banner opposite the Chinese Embassy.

"His clients told the court Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital. They also claimed he had been questioned by the police before that - supposedly for creating a disturbance - but could not substantiate that claim."

Singaporeans who do not know Mr Ravi in person may form an unfavorable impression after reading the following sentences in the report:

1. Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital: Mental illness is still regarded as a stigma for many Singaporeans who associated it with "insanity" outright. This statement gave readers a false impression that Mr Ravi was suffering from a mental illness though there was no mention elsewhere of his actual diagnosis.

2. It is therefore not unreasonable to extrapolate from here that Mr Ravi is mentally unsound whose words and actions cannot be taken seriously by a mature, understanding adult in the street. It may also serve as a convenient explanation for his recent brush with the authorities who deemed his "antics" such as fighting legal suits on the behalf of Falungong members and Dr Chee as "bizzare".

3. The author has taken efforts to highlight the fact that Mr Ravi has been penalized four times by the Law Society. What we do not know is what offence Mr Ravi has committed and is it acceptable for lawyers to be penalized 4 times for the same offence in the Singapore legal context. A reader will hence be led to believe that Mr Ravi is an errant, unprofessional and even an unethical lawyer.

Now, contrast what you have just read to a report on the admission of a local singer, Mavis Hee to IMH in June 2006 by the same daily:

1. Mavis was reported to be creating a din at the Carlton hotel and was sent by the Police to IMH. The exact reason for her arrest and subsequent admission was make known: "The 31-year-old Hee tailed the guest - a stranger - from the hotel lobby to the guest room, before barging into the room."

2. In another report by Channel NewsAsia, (
view/216361/1/.html), doctors from IMH were interviewed and with apparent referral to Mavis, they stressed that admission to IMH does not mean a patient is mentally ill.

Let us examine carefully the discrepancies inherent in the article on Mr Ravi:

The reason for Mr Ravi's admission to a psychiatric institution was not made known clearly unlike Mavis's case. What we have are merely vague reports which cannot be substantiated: "His clients told......They also claimed he was questioned by the police before that - supposedly for creating a disturbance - but could not substantiate that claim."

However, this does not seem to be the modus operandi of TODAY or any newspaper. If Mr Ravi did indeed have a mental condition, why wasn't it reported like Mavis? Why did the writer choose to take us on a merry-go-round by using his clients' "claims" to create the impression amongst readers that Mr Ravi is mentally unsound?

There can only be 2 reasons:

1. Mr Ravi did not have a mental condition at all and was confined to a psychiatric hospital for non-medical reasons.

Based on the UTHCPC procedures for general psychiatric admission, Mr Ravi can only be admitted for the following conditions:


2. The doctors did not have a diagnosis of Mr Ravi's condition yet. This is highly improbable as all admissions to a psychiatric hospital, whether voluntary or involuntary, must be clinically justified by the admitting psychiatrist, according to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines. (

Based solely on the information we have from TODAY, we can only conclude that Mr Ravi had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. We do not know the reasons for the admission or are we aware of his status now since the media has not followed up with subsequent updates yet.

Interestingly, the Epoch Times claimed that Mr Ravi was "confined" in a mental institution 2 days later:

1. It was revealed that Mr Ravi was arrested on 19 September by the Police on the day he was to travel to Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Council.

2. According to Mr Ravi's younger sister Seeniamah, he was sedated against his will and committed to Singapore's Adam Road Hospital. He did not suffer from mental illness, according to acquaintances.

The conflicting reports in both papers make it hard to discern the actual events surrounding Mr Ravi's arrest. If you have read only TODAY's article, you may not have questioned its factual accuracy and even believe what was reported. But now you have read another side of the story from the Epoch Times, we need to ask ourselves what information might be withdrawn from Singaporeans which has the effect, whether intentionally or unintentionally of distorting the real picture:

1. When was Mr Ravi arrested? Is it on 19 September or on 25 September, the day before TODAY's article was published?

2. Why was he arrested? If he caused a public nuisance, what exactly did he do or say? (Remember in Mavi's case, this was meticulously documented).

3. What was his medical diagnosis? If he is certified to have a mental condition, can a psychiatrist step forward to confirm it?

4. How long will Mr Ravi be kept in confinement? Is it in accordance to practice guidelines of psychiatry?

Based on logical and critical analysis, we can safely conclude that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim by TODAY that Mr Ravi was arrested for psychiatric reasons. If not, why was he arrested? If he was indeed arrested on 19 September, could it be a ploy to prevent him from leaving for Geneva?

We must remember that in 2005, Ravi did make a successful visit to the UN—to the now defunct Commission on Human Rights. There, he raised Singapore authorities' ire by successfully lobbying the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston to publicly speak out against a case of mandatory death sentencing in the city state.

I doubt the truth will be reveal in its entirety, we can continue to speculate, make wild guesses and formulate conspiracy theories. The lesson to be learn is to take what is reported in the state media with a pinch of salt. They may not go to the extent to report untruths, but subtle inneudoes inserted will have the same effect of distorting the truth.


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