MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.50.45 PM

In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Playing musical instruments banned during Thaipusam

From ‘Ban on playing music at Thaipusam aimed at ensuring peaceful procession:Iswaran’ 5 Feb 2015, article in ST

The ban on playing music at the annual Thaipusam procession was introduced because of past incidents of fights breaking out between competing groups which disrupted the procession, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran. The ban, which has been in place since 1973, also applies to all processions, and not just Thaipusam, Mr Iswaran told reporters.

Given that Thaipusam is the longest foot procession in Singapore which goes through major roads in the heart of the city, it is even more important to make sure that the procession is conducted in a peaceful manner, he added.

…His comments followed the arrest of three Singaporean men over a scuffle that broke out on Tuesday evening during the annual Thaipusam procession. Police said organisers had asked a group of people to stop playing traditional Indian drums as it was not allowed under the event’s police permit.

Following the incident, some have questioned the ban on musical instruments at the annual procession. Responding to this, Mr Iswaran said the authorities have in fact made special concessions for Thaipusam and a couple of other Hindu foot processions, pointing out that there is a ban on religious foot processions, which has been in force since 1964 following “some very bad episodes and experiences“.

Back in 1981, the police had a different explanation for the banning of music from religious foot processions, that it wasn’t so much the music itself that was disrupting the peace or inciting people to beat the hell out of each other like alcohol does, but that it moved people to DANCE all over the streets and block traffic in their spiritual ecstasy. The 1973 ban, of course, didn’t stop people from bringing on the bongos still, and things got ugly when the police tried to seize drums from participants in the 80s, with one cop suffering a black eye for performing his party-pooping duties.

‘Musical instruments’ back then included portable radios and cassette players, and I’m not sure if the police would swoop in to restore order and silence if devotees were playing ukeleles, harps or doing mass accapella instead. In 1984, there were Thaipusam near-fatalities after a fight and stabbing in Serangoon, music or no music. The ST did not mention if those involved ‘smelt of alcohol’. Nor did anyone consider the possible theory that maybe it’s not thumping music or dancing that’s responsible for a religious procession turning into a Little India riot. Maybe it’s, I dunno, dangerous WEAPONS perhaps? Instead of looking for parangs, the police are raiding boom boxes. If someone rolled in a grand piano, they may just gun the damn thing down before it hypnotises people into a murderous trance. It gives new meaning to the term ‘killer beats’.

The penalty for holding a parade without permit in honour of some deity’s birthday, Hindu or not, can earn you a $1000 fine, or up to 3 months jailtime back in 1989. The police won’t do anything, however, if you decide to hold a funeral bash, banging drums, gongs and cymbals included, for a deceased loved one. Best not to anger the spirit of a dead grandmother I suppose, compared to say Lord Muruga or the Monkey God.

It’s interesting how it’s only parades on foot that are illegal. What if I went around on top of a tooting bus cheering at the top of my lungs in a victory dance interfering in people’s business and getting them to wave at me? Wait, you mean this has actually happened before? With no police around to grab people’s loudhailers and telling truck drivers to STFU with their horning? The audacity!

F1 Grand Prix is not a $25 chicken rice race

From ‘Singapore GP not a $25-chicken-rice race: organisers’, 14 Sept 2014, article in CNA

The Singapore Grand Prix is meant to be a great experience and not a ‘$25-Chicken-Rice’ race, said the organisers of Formula One’s (F1) only night race, in response to a report that showed the city-state may not be the most affordable place to catch an F1 race.

Race organisers say Singaporeans consistently make up about 60 per cent of the over 80,000 race-goers each year. This applies to every price category – from the cheapest walkabout tickets to the Pit Grandstand.

“Over and above a sporting occasion, it is a huge social occasion now. Singaporeans like a good party,” said Mr Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore GP. “I think this loyalty has grown among Singaporeans – they’ve become quite proud of the Singapore Grand Prix and they like it when the world is watching Singapore and the skyline.

“We don’t want to be a ‘$25-chicken-rice Grand Prix’. We want to be a great experience.”

But there is a price to be paid for the chance to experience F1’s only night race. Travel website TripAdvisor ranked the Singapore Grand Prix as the seventh most expensive, out of the 19 races worldwide. It said the price of catching the Sunday final race here is S$622.67. This includes the cost of the cheapest tickets at S$207.33, a meal and a night’s stay at a hotel near the track.

Roche’s analogy of a ‘$25 chicken rice dish’ is likely a snub at the famous house special at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which now incidentally costs $27. Curiously enough, the ‘legendary’ chicken rice was created by a German chef back in 1971, who was inspired by the hawker version to create a premium dish, made from COBB 500 chickens, medium grain jasmine rice and homemade ginger and chilli sauces. I wonder what former executive chef Peter Gehrmann would think of the comparison, with Roche suggesting that $25 for a plate is overpriced, overrated when it seems like only top-grade ingredients went into its concoction. Chicken rice will never be ‘sexy’ or ‘glamorous’ like an F1 race no matter how you mark it up. And honestly, thank God it’s not.

While Chatterbox used to be a ‘coffee house’ in those days, today it’s a casual diner and its ‘award-winning’ chicken rice still wins the hearts of some locals who appreciate the generous servings of meat, describe the sauces as ‘sublime’ and the meal as an ‘annual pilgrimage’ (WHAT awards exactly, I wonder). Perhaps the Night Race is more of a $25 XO Chai Tau Quay instead? 20 years ago, Chatterbox charged their chicken rice at $16 per plate (Is $16 too high a price for chicken rice, 17 Aug 1995, ST), which is still cheaper than what you can get for a BURGER at F1 ($17) today.  In 2009, food stalls in the F1 zone were charging chicken rice and HOKKIEN MEE at $8, which was expected since the whole event was designed to milk the most out of rich people, though if I had to choose between a sub-par, measly $8 chicken rice and the Chatterbox dish, I’d rather splurge on the latter. According to Trip Advisor, we also sell the most expensive pint of beer in the history of F1 ($13.58), no thanks to our recent increase in sin taxes. Nobody seems to be overly concerned about a riot breaking out on the grandstands.

But look at the discrepancy between our minimum ticket price vs Malaysia just across the Causeway ($207.33 vs $39.12). The CNA article also didn’t mention that, according to the BBC, Singapore has the MOST EXPENSIVE 3-day ticket OF ALL (1,109 pounds) (2013). The second most expensive ticket in the world was from Brazil, at a distant 745 pounds per ticket. This year, for $42276.50 you could book a GREEN ROOM (Oops, you can’t now, it’s sold out!). What the F1 organisers are avoiding to explain really is WHY so expensive compared to the rest of the region (i.e Malaysia), even for a night race. It’s not that we have the most ardent racing fans so much as we have the greatest concentration of goddamn billionaires  (26) here.

Not to mention the other intangible costs of a night race on our environment, namely the excessive use of lighting. No, the F1 isn’t a $25 chicken rice dish. Ecologically speaking, it’s a $25 triple-decker Big Mac, sinful beyond redemption, greasy, artery-clogging, too much of which will eventually kill you. In the government’s eyes, it’s a billion-dollar baby.

Arts group at Night Festival wants you to kill stray cats

From ‘Kill stray cats’ flyer taken out of context’, 1 Sept 2014, article in CNA

Flyers reportedly urging people to “kill stray cats”, which earned the ire of animal welfare groups and online readers over the weekend, were revealed to be taken out of context, TODAY reports. It was part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts by art collective Vertical Submarine, which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) for the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.

The art collective issued a statement on its Facebook page clarifying the flyer — of which an image of a sample circulated on social media on Sunday — was taken out of context and was part of a series of flyers highlighting other similarly evil actions as part of the piece Eville.

“The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted,” said the group’s statement.

…The flyer on stray cats explains how “charitable elderly lonely widows” spend a total of S$6.6m on cat food and supplies, which could be spent on themselves. These were signed by a so-called Red Herring Conservation Society. The term “red herring” is an idiom referring to something that distracts or misleads people from important issues.

In the statement, Vertical Submarine added: “As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.”

If the flyer had read ‘KILL ALL HUMANS’, it probably wouldn’t get as much attention, though that is just about the most evil thing anyone can do. ‘Satirical didactics’ is an excuse for something that wasn’t very ingenious or witty to begin with, and ended up slightly more serious than satirical, like a New Nation article about PM Lee unfriending his Indonesian counterpart on Facebook. No cats were harmed in the exhibition, of course. Though many butterflies had to die for someone else’s gruesome piece of taxidermal ‘art’ some years back.

Not sure why the Singapore Kindness Movement got involved in macabre performance art of all things, or maybe they just ran out of things to do after the departure of Singa the Lion (who also happens to be a member of the cat family). Cat abuse doesn’t need highlighting, really. We’ve read enough high-profile, grisly stories of how cats are mutilated, disembowelled or thrown 10 storeys off HDB blocks.  To hide an anti-abuse message that we’re used to experiencing on a sickeningly visceral level behind an obtuse ‘context’ isn’t helping matters at all. In fact, it even seems patronising. By resorting to headscratching ‘schlock’ tactics, the arts collective responsible did exactly what a ‘vertical submarine’ would do. Sink to a new low.

Here’s the reason why the joke isn’t funny anymore. In 1952, the government declared all out WAR on stray dogs and cats during the rabies frenzy, issuing ‘shoot to kill’ orders and screening ‘propaganda’ films to alert the public against this vermin scourge. In 2007, it was reported that the AVA kills 13,000 stray cats every year, replying to animal lovers that culling was a ‘necessary sin’. Some residents even complained to their Town Council that they were ‘afraid of cats’ and wanted them put away. If Eville intended to raise ‘awareness’ about unnecessary animal deaths, they should target the government agencies who are the real culprits behind this secret kitty genocide, rather than bring up ‘elderly lonely widows’ (or ‘crazy cat ladies’, which is also a case of lazy stereotyping).

So yes, we already know there are people killing strays out there. What’s really scary is that some are doing it as part of the job and they call the slaughter by a different name. Now let us all enjoy this clip of Maru jumping into random boxes.

Fewer flats flying National Flag on National Day

From ‘Why fewer flats seem to be flying the flag for National Day’, 7 Aug 2014, article by Joanne Seow and Yeo Sam Jo, ST

ENTIRE blocks of flats awash in red and white in the run-up to National Day? It is a less common sight these days. More than half of the 15 Members of Parliament and residents The Straits Times spoke to said they have noticed fewer flags on display in recent years. Changes in the work of grassroots groups and public housing designs are two of the reasons for the drop in the number of Singaporeans flying the national flag from their flats, they added.

Some residents’ committees (RCs) now prefer to hold community events instead of going door to door to give out flags. Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari said some RCs in his GRC have stopped actively decorating housing blocks for National Day since two years ago.

“We feel it would be good if residents do it themselves so that it’s more heartfelt,” he said. He hopes that when residents realise fewer RCs are doing it, they will put the flags out themselves. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said a resident told him he did not hang a flag as he did not want to be the odd one out.

New flat design is a factor too, said Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu. He said newer blocks in Queenstown do not have common corridors facing the outside, making it harder to display flags.

Public servant Rachel Lim, 29, said her family stopped putting up the flag when they moved from a road-facing block in Chai Chee to a point block in Sengkang West nine years ago.

“There is no common corridor and the block is inward facing,” she said. “Even if you display the flag, there is no audience.”

‘This is where I won’t be alone…’

Naked flats on National Day isn’t new at all. In 1989, the Kaki Bukit Zone 5 RC were forced to come up with a brilliant solution to spur Singaporeans into flying the flag over their HDB parapets loudly and proudly: LUCKY DRAW AND FREE FOOD. If you bought a flag from your RC, you stood a chance to win a radio, TV or a table fan. You were also invited to a buffet breakfast so that you could ‘mix around’ with fellow flag buyers. No such luck these days. Today it needs to be more ‘heartfelt’ without us wondering if they’ll be serving free N-day roti prata at the void deck so that I’ll be the first in line.

Even if you take the initiative to fly the flag without any form of shameless inducement or pressure from your RC, you may be criticised for not hanging it correctly, letting it flap in an unruly manner in the wind, or even get charged for displaying a faded or stained flag. So if you happen to be the ONLY one on your block showing off your patriotism, you’d better make sure the flag is in pristine condition and salute-worthy condition otherwise you’d put the whole block to shame.

When a block of flats festooned in red and white becomes an annual symbolic staple on the nation’s birthday, it naturally becomes a visual representation of how much love we have for the country, or a scoreboard of how well the PAP is doing. You can imagine the various MPs checking each others’ constituency colours out like students comparing test results. Our MND minister Khaw Boon Wan is particular proud of his Sembawang residents. CHECK THIS SHIT OUT, BITCHES!, this post seems to be saying.

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The government is partly to blame for setting the standard in the first place. With RCs doing the dirty work for us all this years, we never learned how to buy a flag or even hang it up ourselves, not to mention coordinate them in a single perfect file down the block. It’s like parents holding a massive birthday bash for their kid with clowns, magicians and firestarters in one year, and then ordering miserable McDelivery at home for the next. This year, nobody even bothered to compose a new birthday song. You’d think your folks love you less as you get older, when the truth is you can’t measure love by how festive every birthday gets. Think of N-Day as Singapore’s Valentine’s Day, and the display of flags as the gesture of giving an obligatory bunch of roses. Not giving one this year doesn’t mean I love her less. Conversely, putting one up for the past few years doesn’t mean I won’t migrate to goddamn Perth the next.

There are all sorts of personal excuses not to do so, of course, namely:

1. Don’t have the time
2. Lazy
3. I don’t want to stand out if I’m the only one
4. My flag is faded
5. Don’t know where to buy the flag
6. I already draped my car’s sideview mirror in flag
7. I was away on vacation
8. I forgot
9. The dog ate my flag

There are also those who try to explain the phenomenon by summoning the tired ‘too many foreigners’ argument, while some of us would only put up flags as a show of defiance on days other than N-day, like a certain ‘Gulam’ who hung a Palestine flag to ‘raise awareness’ about the Gaza situation. Or another Singaporean flying a China flag for some damn reason.

Flags on flats or not, this is still home, truly. Happy National Day, Singapore.

 

 

Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.

No water splashing allowed at Songkran festival

From ‘Singapore’s 1st Songkran water festival goes dry’, 25 March 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

There will be no water pistol fights, celebrity dunk stations, or really, any kind of water fun at Singapore’s first Songkran water festival on April 12 and 13. The organisers of Celebrate Songkran 2014 at the Padang have taken heed of the national campaign to conserve water and nixed the water-based activities.

Instead, they will host a Water Conservation and Water Heritage Exhibition in conjunction with national water agency PUB. The organisers said this was appropriate in view of the recent dry spell and current moves to cut back on water usage.

Though lighting designer Sanischaya Mankhongphithakkul, 25, agrees with the rationale, it still feels a little odd. “What’s a water festival without water?”

The whole point of traditional Songkran is to get soaking wet, as dousing is symbolic of washing away bad luck. It’s also the Thai New Year, usually accompanied by Buddhist activities such as prayer sessions, as what took place back in 1999 during Singapore’s first open-air Songkran near Paya Lebar MRT. In 1988, Songkran was held at the now defunct Big Splash, where other than getting wet and wild, participants would be expected to burn joss sticks and bathe statues of Four Face Buddhas. Otherwise, Golden Mile Complex is the place to be if you want to mingle with Thai workers ringing in their New Year with water fights. It’s a religious festival, not an excuse to get fashionably drunk and watch Far East Movement.

No wonder Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Ms Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn, had reportedly (according to the ST article) threatened to sue festival organisers for ‘undermining the values’ of the Thai festival, not so much that we’re cutting out the real star of the show for conservation reasons, but because we’re twisting the agenda to suit our needs and flying in entertainers, turning it into yet another outdoor pop music festival that’s really a B-grade cousin of the F1 megaconcerts, headlined by a band who’s not even Thai to begin with. How would you feel if Westerners adopted our version of Chinese New Year, but just went around eating dim sum, making fortune cookies or ‘lo hei-ing’ over meatballs and spaghetti instead of yusheng?

The ‘CelebrateSongkran’ website continues to run misleading images of drenched people with Supersoakers, oblivious that the banning of water activities has, in a manner of speaking, rained on everyone’s parade. Conservative Christians who refuse to fold paper ingots at their grandmother’s funeral should not attend by the way because of its religious (i.e ‘paganistic’) origins.  Yes you can’t have water fun because your God forbids it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.05.19 PM

Dampnation!

Songkran in Singapore used to be an intimate, simple, even holy affair, celebrated only within a niche community, now commercialised and rebranded as a pseudo rave party like how the Indian ‘festival of colours’ Holi has turned into a rainbow powder orgy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Water Wally prancing around on stage either, blind to the irony that by completely overturning the theme toward water conservation just to avoid cancelling the damn thing, you forget that you’re also splurging on electricity and raking up carbon miles flying in celebrities. I mean, we could just run another ‘Keep it to 5′ campaign rather than bullshit our way through someone else’s New Year celebration, and with the $60 price tag for 2 nights of partying, you’re more likely to see rich teens and expats there than the folks who appreciate the true meaning of Songkran, the homesick Thai workers. The only sprinkling of any sort you’ll see there will be drunkards taking a piss by a bush, or the buckets of sweat produced by the people cleaning up after your mess when the night’s over.

It also sets an awkward precedent for future events which have the slightest implications on the natural environment. Should we stop people from burning incense during Qing Ming because of the haze? Stop circulating new $2 notes or printing ang pows in the event of worsening global deforestation? Scrape F1 during an oil crisis? Ban St Patricks Day or Oktoberfest when there’s an epidemic of hops infestation? Put a stop to Hungry Ghost Festival offerings during a famine? If you want to enjoy REAL Songkran without some event organiser messing it up and turning it into a poor man’s foam party (without the foam of course), yet don’t want to be seen wasting water, you can do it at a pool or beach where you can splash all you want. More importantly, it’s FREE, and you don’t have to listen to bloody annoying Far East Movement while at it.

 

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