News Flash, May 19, 2011!
I received a message today from MDA, Singapore’s Media Development Authority, regarding our book, Escape from Paradise. MDA is responsible for the difficult task of censoring books and other media in accordance with Singapore’s core values.
The message is below and shows that our book was not censored or banned by Singapore.
It was removed from Singapore’s National Library, and no longer sold in Singapore due to the strong-armed tactics and threats to bookstores by Helen Yeo, wife of former cabinet minister Yeo Cheow Tong.
Due to the actions of Helen Yeo, our book, Escape from Paradise, has been misrepresented to be a book against Singapore, when this is not the case.
Escape from Paradise is the epic story of a family starting with the Tiger Balm Kings, the Aw brothers in Burma, down to a present day member of that family, a young lady from Singapore.
Escape from Paradise has received all 5-star reviews on Amazon, and has been extremely well-reviewed by its readers—except for one person—Helen Yeo.
We send our sincere thanks to MDA for this clarification.
From: “Customer Service”
To: “John Harding”
Date: 19 May 2011 09:23:42 +0800
Subject:[F11016729] Content & Standards- Publications Content CRM:0085067
Dear John Harding,
I refer to your query on the book “Escape from Paradise”. Publications are self regulated by the industry, with importers referring them to the MDA when they are in doubt. “Escape from Paradise” has not been submitted to the MDA.
Should you require further assistance, please reply to this email.
Escape from Paradise was published on June 26, 2002.
On July 8, 2002, we received a letter from Helen Yeo (click) demanding that we withdraw Escape from Paradise from sale in Singapore and that we publish an apology “in form suitable to” her.
Subsequently, we learned that Escape from Paradise was no longer in Singapore’s bookstores. We confirmed this on Feb 9, 2003 when we spoke by telephone to Singapore’s largest bookstore Kinokuniya (we have it on tape).
Kinokuniya confirmed that they had been threatened legal action by a lawyer from Helen Yeo’s office if they did not remove Escape from Paradise from their shelves.
Kinokuniya complied to avoid litigation.
Escape from Paradise had been the most popular book in Singapore’s National Library. All 25 copies were usually checked out and with a paid waiting list. That is, before it was removed from the library.
The only library branch where Escape from Paradise is now available is a single copy is at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. There, you have to give your particulars to see the book. Once you sign, there is a good chance that Helen Yeo and her friends will know.
Regarding Singapore’s National Library, a reader in Singapore, wrote us, “…I have a friend who is quite high up in National Library. He has verified your version of events about the book being taken out and with a single copy remaining. However, he said that NLB tried to challenge Helen Yeo’s request, but this was put down by someone.”
Helen Yeo’s husband, Yeo Cheow Tong, was a Singapore cabinet minister at the time, giving her influential connections.
Helen Yeo was mentioned only in passing in Escape from Paradise as a lawyer involved with the sale of the co-author’s family home. The book is not about Helen Yeo.
Apparently Helen Yeo had reason to be afraid of the attention this might draw—as there were facts not known to us when we wrote Escape from Paradise and which are not in the book.
Having been attacked by Helen Yeo, we uncovered and published the facts she had wished to hide.
The property sale involving Helen Yeo in the book recorded the property as having been sold months before it was actually sold (click).
In addition, there was a Caveat, a legal prohibition, issued on April 19, 1995, against the sale of the very same property.
Helen Yeo’s letter of July 8, 2002 to us states, “the date of the transfer of the property was December 26, 1995,” This was eight months after the Caveat was in effect!
In 2004, We sued Helen Yeo in the United States District Court, District Of Arizona (case #CIV-02-1417-PHX-JAT), but she never appeared—see our formal complaint (click).
Helen Yeo has done Singapore a great disservice for her questionable and unilateral banning of Escape from Paradise. It risks bringing undeserved bad publicity to Singapore.
It is not Singapore’s ban, but the personal ban on our book by and for Helen Yeo. As such, Helen Yeo’s personal ban on Escape from Paradise should be lifted.