The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Dr. Allan Ooi Act.

Perhaps, it is time for a Dr. Allan Ooi Act, in Singapore. I shall explain.

As many of my readers will know, Dr. Allan Ooi was a Singaporean doctor working for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on a bond. This was a legal restraint of his right to do anything else but work for the SAF. He had no freedom to do so, until his bond had expired. The problem, for him, was that the bond, originally twelve years long, had been extended to fifteen or sixteen years - and then made unbreakable - meaning he had no escape option, under any circumstances. Dr. Allan Ooi killed himself to escape his bond.

In many countries, the tradition is to name new laws after the people whose lives inspired those laws. Perhaps, in Singapore, there could be a new law called the Dr. Allan Ooi Act, which could either outlaw the practise of bonding entirely, or restrict its scope so that bonds are short-term affairs, with get out clauses so that anyone can leave the bond by fulfilling certain requirements which must not be impossible or too onerous.

Dr. Allan Ooi took his own life, because he could see no other way out of the living hell he faced. He hated his job and the life it gave him, but was bonded to it, for what must have seemed a lifetime. No-one should have to face such a life again. It is time to change the law: let there be a Dr. Allan Ooi Act to bring humanity into Singaporean employment law.

Dr. Allan Ooi could not have made the point of his distress clearer. Let us listen to the message of his short life and change the law, to make Singapore a kinder place in which to work. Let not his short life, have been in vain.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:09 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh come on. the guy KNEW what the bond was, and took it up, despite his family not being in that much of a need for someone else to pay for his studies.
he then took up another course in london, which added to the bond.
if he was already so unhappy at being bonded for 12 years, why do that?
i think it's too simplistic to just blame mindef for his death. if anything, he should really have known better.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You blame the victim. It never occurs to you that the system itself should be changed, or might be at fault. The very principle that allows a 12 year bond and its extension to 16 years has no place in a modern, developed civilized nation. That should be obvious. It is just a variety of slavery.

Your lack of feeling for your fellow man is common in Singapore. People here just don't care. Your use of "oh come on" scoffs at the fact that I do care. Isn't it funny that a foreigner like me, cares more about the fate of a Singaporean than Singaporeans like you do, who don't care at all?

I find it all very telling - and rather sad for what it says about this society.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If it is "simplistic" to blame Mindef, for his death, it is equally simplistic to blame him - as you do. In fact, it is also heartless...

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 2cents worth:

1. MINDEF should not have imposed a 16 years bond. Even a SAFOS only serves 6 years. Something is seriously wrong with this bond length

2. He should not have signed up to it. No one pointed a rifle at his head and forced him to sign. He did it willingly. As an adult, an intelligent adult, he should have weighed the consequences.

3. MINDEF should have a get out clause due to religious/mental...etc reasons like the US to allow servicemen to quit; Although the procedure takes more than a year.

4. It is sad and regrettable that he took his own life. I do not wish to blame anyone or anything. Let's just remember him.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I agree with your four statements. In particular, the need for a get out clause for good reasons. It is unbelievable that, in his case, there was no escape but through death. What a terrible last few weeks/months he must have had weighing his decision to end his life. RIP Dr. Allan Ooi.

7:43 AM  
Blogger BareSheen said...

Dear Valentine,

There is surely something to be said about the bond and such a long one. That aside, with all due respect, I find it very disturbing that someone like Dr Allan who was given so much in life - good looks, high intelligence, great education, an almost guaranteed life long job with above average income - would just throw it all away because he could not get out of a bond.

I am sorry. I find that very difficult to accept no matter what private pain Dr Allan may had faced. It indicates a spoilt personality. A personality molly coddled by privilege and advantage since young. A personality that does not understand privation and countless sufferings suffered by countless millions. These millions do not just throw their lives away but somehow find a way to find meaning in life and to live on.

I find it very hard to fathom why someone would kill himself over such an issue like a life long bond. The job may be routine, boring even. But it is not as if it is an utterly meaningless job like say stones picking or rock smashing for hours on end. He is not shackled with a chain in a 5 by 6 feet cell and neither is his private life curtailed in any way.

By the way, many many jobs out there are rather routine and mundane. Heck, most of our lives are rather rountine and mundane punctuated by moments of success, joy, elation. Does that mean we commit suicide?

Ask any deprived Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Burmese, Laotian, Chinese out there on Singapore streets sweeping, cleaning - leading a hard meaningless back breaking life. I guarantee you - they will be bewildered at Dr Allan's act of self - annihilation.

It shows a weak character. A life that has hardly touch the crucible of hardship in life. THAT, Mr Valentine Crrawley is many Singaporeans' problem - that they had it so good for so many years that they do not know how to deal with problems and hardships.

Dr Allan's act seems like a childish petulance, if you ask me. I am not bothered if I am labeled uncaring by my comemnts here. I do care. Care enough to be angry that such a handsome young man who have been given so many privileges and opportunities in life would just throw it all away just because the Singapore government is being recalcitrant.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I understand your point. It is an interesting one. There is truth in the view that Singaporeans don't know how to endure suffering and so may not cope with its sudden advent very well.

However, to try to understand him, we must look at what he lacked and what killed him. He lacked the freedom to choose. Yes, he had many privileges, but the one thing he wanted was the one thing he couldn't have. That is why, I think, he gave up on his life. He wasn't free to be and become as he wished and could not get out from under the grip of the Singaporean government in any other way.

Whether or not he was weak, I don't think that there should be bonds. A bond is a kind of ownership of the human by the state or organization. It is a kind of slavery and should not be allowed. There are other ways to getting good being a great place to work. They should try that.

Thank you for your considered view.

6:58 PM  

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