Hard-selling Beijing 101 not accredited by CASE

From ’15 complaints lodged this year against Beijing 101′, 15 Nov 2014, article by Melissa Lin/Amir Hussain ST

Singapore’s consumer watchdog has received 15 complaints against Beijing 101 so far this year. This includes the one made on Monday by Madam Susan Koo Moi, 75, who said she was pressured into signing a $15,600 package with the hair-care centre last month.

Most of the complaints were about its hard-sell tactics to persuade consumers to buy more hair-related packages, said Consumers Association of Singapore’s (Case) executive director, Mr Seah Seng Choon. Beijing 101 could not be reached for comment.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that Madam Koo had gone to Beijing 101′s Funan Mall outlet last month hoping to use a $50 voucher, but ended up paying $4,000 as a deposit for a package.

…Beijing 101 is not accredited by Case, which means it does not have to offer a five-day cooling- off period during which consumers can ask for a full refund.

“Businesses should have the conscience to give their clients a reasonable timeframe to change their minds,” said Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore honorary secretary Edward Wong. He noted, however, that firms are not legally obligated to do so.

The multi-million hair care business is not an industry known for its ‘conscience’. Beijing 101 is among the first in the country to sway the gullible public with raving celebrity endorsements, even if the said celebrity’s hair loss was due to breast CANCER  chemo. In 2003, Beijing 101 got ex Mediacorp actor Xie Shaoguang to advertise as a ‘satisfied Beijing 101 client’, who thanked them profusely for his ‘thicker and healthier-looking’ crop. Today, the man is an ordained MONK in Malaysia. Other familiar faces soon followed suit, including the late Huang Wenyong, who was paid to declare that since Beijing 101 uses ’100% natural Chinese herbs…there will be NO adverse effects’. Well I’ll fill a tub with their tonic and just submerge my bloody head in it then.

Giving freebies to snag customers is a sales tactic that has been used since the 80′s. Svenson, the hair experts whose name no 75 year old vainpot is able to pronounce, launched what was known as ‘Hair Week’ with free consultation services. Also, no before and after picture in those days was complete without a full, macho beard. Today, you just have a sad balding face (before) and a happy winner ready to take on the world (after).

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Not much has changed since the swinging 50′s. A luscious, crowning glory has traditionally been viewed as the glorious symbol of a man’s success and attractiveness. Before hair care consultants emerged, you could harvest a head of shiny, healthy hair in the comfort of your home, using a bottle of Vaseline tonic no less, a trusted formula that keeps your hair ‘perfumed, cool and fresh’. Today’s Vaseline can also be used at the other end of your body, for callused toes.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.06.30 AM

For an empire that has been operating for 40 years and having its fair share of complaints, largely unregulated by the authorities when it comes to product effectiveness or safety, the least I would expect as a client who also happens to be an adoring fan of Zheng Guoping or Chen Shucheng, is some form of basic consumer protection. But it’s not just unscrupulous practices that we should watch out for. In 2010, a couple of its hair growth tonics were found to contain undeclared minoxidil, a ‘Western’ drug that has been approved for use in male-pattern baldness. In other words, the ‘natural power’ of premium Chinese herbs as so claimed was horseshit. The typical Beijing 101 customer may be balding, but what our self-proclaimed consumer ‘watchdog’ is severely lacking, despite such incidents, is a set of TEETH. If not, hopelessly DEBARKED.

Hair care centres like Beijing 101 or Yunnam should be classified under the ‘Spa and Wellness’ scheme under CaseTrust, but you don’t find either listed. Instead, the level of ‘assurance’ you get as a customer of Yunnam are brand awards like ‘Trusted Brand’ or ‘Most Effective Brand’. Beijing 101 is more discreet of its accolades, with a tiny ‘Most Preferred’ logo (2012) on the top right corner of its website. How about ‘Most Pushy’ or ‘Shameless brand’ then? We force local news websites like The Independent or Online Citizen to apply for licences but give free rein to shameless ‘wellness’ centres that hawk their questionable wares using Mediacorp celebrities, putting the bank accounts of innocent people at risk. This despite us not knowing for sure if these actors/actresses even HAD a scalp problem in the first place. Maybe they noticed a few strands plugging the shower drain and then suddenly realised: ‘Oh God, I need my confidence back and the wardrobe people don’t have nice wigs to spare!’

Time to get to the root of the problem, CASE. We can’t have our Pioneer Generation getting scalped by unethical business practices anymore.

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Lim Kay Tong as LKY in 1965 movie

From ‘Lim Kay Tong to portray Lee Kuan Yew in SG50 film’, 8 Oct 2014, article by Genevieve Sarah Loh, Today

After an extensive two-year search for the right actor to play the nation’s founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the upcoming SG50 film, 1965, producers of the movie have picked veteran local thespian Lim Kay Tong to fill the role.

The film has been five years in the making, starting off as a biopic about Mr Lee, but evolving into a story about the time the nation experienced racial riots. As the film’s executive producer Daniel Yun told TODAY last month, it was about “how fragile racial harmony can be and how we can take it for granted”.

In their search for a leading actor, the producers spoke to almost 20 people, including local actor-turned-Hollywood mainstay Chin Han.

Interestingly, Lim Kay Tong was cast in the lead role of the 2004 local film Perth as a taxi driver prophetically named HARRY LEE. Though LKT seems to be a shoo-in for the role despite the lack of physical resemblance (LKY is taller, for example), I would be more interested to see who the other candidates were besides Chin Han. I’d expect the criteria to be English-speaking, Singaporean with some Hollywood experience preferred, and I can’t even count the number of other local actors who could meet the minimum standard with one hand. In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, Chin Han in fact beats Kay Tong hands down if you go by number of appearances in movies, though his roles were largely restricted to bit parts, with the exception of the Dark Knight where he played a typical Asian scumbag (which LKY is so obviously not). Chin Han’s age of a youthful 44 also matches that of LKY in 1965 (42). Maybe having ‘Masters Of the Sea’ as part of his filmography was the deal-breaker.

I can only think of a total of 3 other actors who could fit the bill. Edmund Chen, for example, is effectively bilingual, though Hollywood may only remember him for his role in Street Fighter:The Legend of Chun Li, where he gets a few kicks in with the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s Balrog. I’ve a feeling he may be too good-looking for the role too. Adrian Pang, a solid dramatic actor and recognised thespian himself, worked alongside Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in Spy Game. The last one is the just married Ivan Heng, who was in Luc Beeson’s Fifth Element. So who were the other 15, I wonder. Could Mediacorp staples Pierre Png or Tay Ping Hui possibly have cast their lot in the mix? If Huang Wenyong were still alive, could he have been considered for the role despite the language handicap?

Before LKT, there were rumours that HK acting god Tony Leung would be chosen for the role. LKY was also depicted by Chinese actor Zhang Guang Bei in a Deng Xiaoping drama series. LKT’s heavyweight role may very well overshadow all the other aspects of the 1965 movie, the fact that Joanne Peh and hubby are in it but not playing lovers, that there’s a Singapore Idol in it (the last one, perhaps), and 2 of the main cast are not even Singaporeans (Qi YiWu and Deanna Yusof). But most telling of all is that 1965 is bankrolled by none other than the MDA and MCCY, and PAP bigwigs like the PM himself and Yaacob Ibrahim will be invited to the movie premiere and, regardless of how bad the movie actually turns out to be, praise the film not just for LKT’s powerhouse performance but that it is an ‘objective portrayal’ of events, not in the least ‘self-serving’, ‘one-sided’, nor does it contain a single ‘distortion’ or ‘untruth’. Not like some other film about other people fighting for independence. 1965 is a film immune to criticism or censorship, and I sympathise with the reviewer assigned to rate it once it’s out.

I’m just surprised that the responsibility of directing didn’t go to Jack Neo. Maybe he’d have come up with a more interesting title than the boring ’1965′. Like ‘Lao Lee’,  ‘Ah Lee to PM’ or ‘Where Got Riots?’. If the PAP decided to make a movie about the ‘watershed’ 2011 GE, I have my own selection of actors to play the ministers/MPs.

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And of course Baey Yam Keng. As himself.

 

Fann Wong’s National Day baby named Zed

From ‘It’s baby Zed for Fann Wong and Christopher Lee’, 9 Aug 2014, article in CNA

Baby Zed’s National Day (Aug 9) arrival was announced to the world via social media. A post on Fann Wong’s Instagram account @fannaiaiwong showed off the new addition to her and husband Christopher Lee’s family, with a bib saying “Worth the wait!”

The sex of the child had not been known, until now. Fann’s accompanying message on Instagram said, “Daddy and mummy felt indescribable happiness when we saw you. Our family is now even more complete. 9 August is the best day of our lives!”

Mediacorp celebrities have a tradition of giving their children bizarre names, in the spirit of international superstar choices like ‘North West’, ‘Blue Ivy’ or ‘Shiloh’.   ‘Zed’ is the British pronunciation of the letter ‘Z’, and sounds like the name of a techno DJ, if not an evil planet-raiding robot space lord. Superman’s nemesis is one General ZOD. It could also be short for the Hebrew ‘Zedekiah’, which makes me wonder if the 43 yr old Fann is going through a Madonna Kaballah phase. Maybe the happy couple will name their next kid ‘X’.

Zed, sounding similar to the more earthly Zac or Zack, is far from being the wackiest local celebrity kid name ever. Somehow only males have become victims of this nomenclature madness. If there’s one way to make your teenage kid hate your guts forever, this is it. It also makes your children instantly searchable on Facebook or Google to the benefit of kidnappers or pesky reporters (or, erm, bloggers). So long privacy.

Here’s my rundown of the most unusual celebrity offspring names ever.

8. DASH (Ivy Lee)

The ex-Mediacorp actress named her boy after the lightning-fast superhero kid in the Incredibles. Imagine if you became fat, got enrolled in the army and can’t complete 2 rounds during your IPPT 2.4km run. It’s like calling your kid ‘EINSTEIN’. Never give your baby a name that creates expectations of superhuman abilities. If you insist on something snappy, consider ‘CURT’ or ‘SPIKE’ instead.

7. WAY (Evelyn Tan+Darren Lim)

This doubles up as the Chinese equivalent of ‘HEY’ or ‘OI’ (wei) and an actual name, but gives rise to awkward sentences like ‘Way is on the way’, or ‘No way Way is doing that’. I’d imagine the parents crooning ‘My Way’ while he was an infant. I wouldn’t want to subject my kid to pun overkill. Luckily his surname isn’t ‘Ang’.

6. MAKSONN (Mark Lee)

I’m guessing that this is a cooler version of ‘Mark Junior’ as in ‘Mark’s Son’, and rhymes with ‘Jackson’. It falls under the list of names with ‘unnecessary double consonants’ (like Sherilynn, Vivvian or Alexiss), and sounds like the name of a Japanese otaku store.

5. CALVERT (Hong Huifang+Zheng Geping)

This is what I could call a portmanteau of ‘Calvin’ and ‘Robert’. It sounds like a scientific unit of measurement for how popular a name is, as in this name is 0.5 Calverts. It’s also the kind of name I would imagine an eccentric professor with a polka-dot bowtie would have. Change one vowel, however, and it becomes ‘a drain that diverts water’ (culvert).

4. RITZ and REGENT (Jack Neo)

Named after posh hotels, there was a running joke/rumour that Jack may just name his next kid ‘Raffles’. While there’s something lordly about ‘Regent Neo’, ‘Ritz’ also reminds me of the biscuit namesake. ‘Regis’ may have worked better, though it’s THIS close to just calling the kid ‘PRINCE’, or if your skin is thick enough, ‘EXCELLENCY’.

3. BRAYDEN (Zoe Tay)

Zoe was a pioneer of the ‘Something that rhymes with AY-DEN’ name craze that hit Singapore mums (Jayden, Cayden etc). According to a wiki, Brayden originates from ‘Braden’, Gaelic for ‘Salmon’. I wonder if he’s good at swimming. If I ask a primary school kid today what he thinks a ‘Brayden’ is, he may just guess a collective term for donkeys, as in ‘A brayden of donkeys were grazing on the hill’.

2. KYNASTON (Pan Ling Ling)

A name of surprisingly ancient English origins according to the ‘surname database’ website. The problematic ‘KY’ makes the pronunciation of this ambiguous. ‘KAI-NASTON’ or ‘KEE-NASTON’? Either way, it sounds like something nuclear physicists would name an exotic subatomic particle, or ‘Canesten’, an antifungal cream for the treatment of vaginal candidiasis.

1. BECKHAM (Pan Ling Ling)

The original bizarre celebrity baby name, and another Pan Ling Ling creation, one that made headlines at least 15 years ago. No prizes for guessing who inspired this name. I wonder how many times people ask the kid if he plays football. The only thing worse than calling a kid Beckham is if you use a megastar footballer’s name ENTIRELY as first and middle names. Like David BECKHAM TAN, or LIONEL MESSI CHEW. Today if you name your kid ‘Suarez’, the teachers at childcare may just decide to muzzle him before letting him anywhere near a ball.

Ivan Heng is a happily, openly married man

From’ Ivan Heng weds his partner of 18 years on a perfect British summer’s day’, 3 Aug 2014, article by Boon Chan, ST

Cultural Medallion recipient Ivan Heng has tied the knot with his long-time partner Tony Trickett in London. It took place on Aug 1. Heng, 50, is the founding artistic director of Wild Rice theatre company and Briton Trickett, 57, is its executive director. They were married at the Chelsea Old Town Hall in London on the 18th anniversary of the day they met and fell in love, according to Heng’s Facebook post.

…Growing up, he explained, there were no positive gay role models to look up to, nor were there happy endings in gay-themed entertainment. With marriage equality now a reality in the United Kingdom, Heng and Trickett decided to tie the knot at a ceremony attended by “our family and our closest friends”.

Heng wrote: “Our marriage is a declaration of our love, and we invite the world to share in our joy. In closing, I would like to report that your fellow Singaporean, Ivan Heng, is now ‘openly married’.”

A law graduate with Honours and one of our theatre pioneers, Ivan broke into cinema with a bit part in The Fifth Element, a Luc Beeson film that featured a gay-ish ‘Ruby’ character (Chris Tucker) that Ivan himself would have felt perfectly comfortable in. Since then, he’s gone from subordinate to evil mastermind Gary Oldman to a bartender and most recently, a pole dance competition judge. His ode to his husband Tony on Facebook reads like a Richard Curtis feel-good movie script, though if it were adapted into film or play, you’re unlikely to ever see it in Singapore.

MDA must be desperately looking for the ‘balance’ in Ivan’s love story to justify it suitable for print in the ST, of all places. After recent crackdowns on comic characters getting married, male penguins rearing a chick together and Mandarin songs about Rainbows, it’s surprising that the media decided to announce our theatre doyen’s happy marriage to another man, a union that’s still illegal here. There was no official ‘coming out’ prior to the ceremony to the extent of Vincent Wijeysingha’s confession on Facebook last year, but to many familiar with Ivan’s cross-dressing tendencies from Emily of Emerald Hill to M Butterfly and his Pink Dot involvement, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise either. He even appeared on the ST front page in almost full-frontal nudity with Glen Goei, which was, well, super-gay.

Somehow we managed to ban fiction like Archie and educational material like ‘Who’s in my Family’ from shelves, but not block a real life same-sex marriage story from our newstands. Some years back, we even had a real life ‘And Three Makes Tango’ situation when we named an orchid after Elton John in the presence of his partner and adopted child, much to the dismay of some critics. There will be at least 2 famous people we know who won’t be giving Ivan his blessings, the imam behind the Wear White campaign and fellow Christian Lawrence Khong, both probably concerned that this piece of news would encourage gay Singaporeans to tie the knot overseas and give the LGBT/Pink dot community a glimmer of hope at claiming marriage equality, though I doubt Ivan may be the first Singaporean to do so.

LGBT site Fridae reported the marriage of Nic and Tim in 2012, both of ‘Singaporean Chinese heritage’ possibly living in Australia now. The same year, some viral video (that turned out to be ‘fake’) featured Naresh proposing to Clement in the middle of Orchard freaking Road. It was only a matter of time before a flamboyant personality like Ivan Heng decides to take the right to love one step further.

When Ivan met Tony, they were at a gay bar called, ironically, ‘Brief Encounter’ and a disco song titled No More Tears (Enough is Enough) brought them together. A song that wouldn’t strike me as a gay anthem, but a great choice as a dedication to wet blanket naysayers like Lawrence Khong, or those spouting vicious slurs about how ‘unnatural’ this all seems. More importantly, it has Barbara Streisand singing in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea Old Town Hall starts swelling with Singaporean bookings as we speak. In any case, there’s no reason why we should continue to ban narratives about ‘alternative families’ if our dear ST has already put such a positive spin on Ivan’s life event before the censors could do anything about it. Speak now, MDA, or forever hold your peace.

Mediacorp New Year Countdown too cheena

From ‘Why Mandarin segment on Channel 5 show?’, 3 Jan 2014, ST Forum

(Maria Alice Anthony):WHILE watching Channel 5′s countdown show on New Year’s Eve, I was shocked to see a host speaking in Mandarin during the programme. I had to switch between channels to check if I was tuned in to Channel 5, an all-English channel, or Channel 8, the Mandarin channel.

If the hosts were present to translate the English-language segments into Mandarin, where were the hosts to do translations into Tamil and Malay?

Why was a national celebration turned into a bilingual event catering to only one ethnic group?

Maria’s party-pooper rant about the TV50 spectacular is mild compared to theatre actor Ivan Heng’s scathing Facebook complaint about how ‘cheena’ the programme was, where MCs send greetings in Mandarin and you have singers like Wang Lee Hom headlining the event instead of homegrown artistes. To be fair, the show kicked off with a multiracial mix of talents including legend Dick Lee and the original Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah. But you’d soon realise how barren the Channel 5 ‘English-speaking’ talent pool is when you have Gurmit Singh coercing people to ‘make some noize’ as host. FOR THE 7823th TIME. The last time I remember anyone doing MC duty for BIG parties in English was Moe Alkaff.

Gurmit’s partners Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong are themselves ‘cheena’ veterans, but if you look back at the history of our 50 years of television, cheena has clearly dominated the scene, and the fact that two-thirds of the MC lineup were Channel 8 artistes suggests that national television, not to mention NYE countdowns, is unsustainable without Channel 8 celebrity. In one PCK/City Beat/Under One Roof skit, Gurmit was trading jokes with 4 ‘cheena’ artists and 1 Pierre Png, technically now a Channel 8 regular after crossing over from 5. In the final minutes of 2013, the hosts interviewed in succession a who’s who of Channel 8′s star roster, from Zoe Tay to Jack Neo, all of whom didn’t even attempt to say three simple words of Happy New Year in English. Not a single Suria or Vasantham personality was in sight. It was probably the most-watched sequence on stage when everyone’s ready to ring in the new year, yet it almost felt like Cai Shen Ye on a golden steed could ride in at any moment. And where the hell was James Lye? Or the fabulous Muthu?

Critics didn’t just pick on the language bias in the past, but even racial quotas. In 1999, Mediacorp, then known as TCS was accused by a forum writer of being a ‘Totally Chinese Station‘, where English dramas have mostly Chinese as lead actors, or foreign talents with mixed heritage (but still look Chinese). Nothing much has changed since. Think of a current Channel 5 hunk in a leading role and he’s most likely to be Chinese. Or half-Chinese. That’s if you can even think of such a programme in the first place.

It’s really all business and eyeballs for Medicorp, a company that has to struggle to reflect the ‘inclusivity’ of the real world by selling ‘make-believe’. I wouldn’t want to pay money to watch a mash-up of PCK and Moses Lim doing Dick Lee’s rendition of Rasa Sayang on NYE, especially when there’s always catch-up TV. But diehard fans will flock just to watch Jeanette Aw pirouette in a shimmery dress.  If you want a REAL Singaporean year end party, you should have been at Boon Lay instead of sitting at home miserable and wasting time channel surfing. As for Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong, see you in a few weeks’ time at the Lunar New Year Countdown then. I doubt anyone could complain about that being too ‘kantang’.

Ilo Ilo child actor physically assaulted on set

From ‘Why was child actor caned’, 8 June 2013, Mailbag, ST

(Teo Eng Swee): I refer to the article, As Real As It Gets (SundayLife!, June 2), on the award- winning film Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen.

It is stated that the child actor was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene. I was taken aback to read that the child was physically assaulted in the name of achieving realism in the film. Even though his mother appeared to have consented to the caning, this seems to be wrong. Animals are humanely treated during filming. It seems to me that children should be treated to a much higher standard.

I hope that the relevant authorities, such as the Media Development Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Manpower, will set high standards that safeguard children who are working in the entertainment industry

Koh Jia Ler, 12, had no issue with being whipped on set. In fact, in the interview he said it was a ‘small thing to him’ and admitted that Mommy used to trounce him when he was younger. Which means some parents are still using the old fashioned method of discipline as recently as 2000. I believe a TWELVE year old actor should be mature and professional enough to deal with a little pain for the price of stardom. After all, this could be the very last time he may experience the once familiar hot sting of tough love. These days, men either have to PAY, or go on a graffiti rampage, to get some spanking dished out.

Only time will tell if being flogged for everyone in Cannes to see would leave psychological scars on a growing boy. Protective parents and human rights activists could be up in arms over Ilo Ilo for being too ‘gritty’ for its own good, but forget that they live in a country where even adults are systematically caned as a form of punishment. Foreign audiences familiar with our barbaric penalties would view the scene as a commentary of Singapore’s medieval caning ‘culture’, though modern parents, Singaporean or otherwise, generally shun the rod and spoil the child instead. Better they turn out to be brats who sleep with their iPads than hooked on Prozac and listen to goth. If a stern voice, fierce scowl and ‘reasoning’ works for your kid, then congrats. But if the little bastard turns out to be a problem child from hell, then perhaps a ‘light touch’ which celebrity parenting gurus rave about may be as useful as placing a crucifix on Godzilla.

But this isn’t the first time the dreaded Cane is featured in a local movie. Jack Neo unleashed his fury with one in ‘I Not Stupid Too’.

In the original I Not Stupid, Jack slapped the boy actor playing his son (Shawn Lee) till he BLED FROM THE NOSE. It was almost comical in its brutality. Damn it Jack, either you’re paying your child actors too well or you’ve hired budding masochists for your films. Today, Shawn Lee seems like a normal young adult in a relationship according to his Facebook page despite being viciously attacked by Neo before puberty. Didn’t think he needed ‘safeguarding’ by the likes of MDA, an agency known for doing more damage ‘protecting’ the public than doing nothing at all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 12.39.22 PM

Tough love Jack Neo style

You don’t hear anybody complaining about I Not Stupid’s violence against children, nor children inflicting violence on themselves (Shawn’s character considered SUICIDE by jumping) because its attempt at sociopolitical satire overshadowed all explicit depictions of child abuse. In fact, Neo’s film was lauded by the British, for whom caning or smacking children is ILLEGAL. Most locals tend not to gasp and cover their eyes at such scenes, not because we routinely mete out corporal punishment ourselves, but we can understand why some parents resort to smacking Singaporean kids about. For those at the end of their tether but struggling to hold back, you could even say they’re envious of it. But why harp on tortured child actors when women are getting slapped left-right-centre in Taiwanese soap operas?

Let’s hope it’s not just a case of forbidden fruit and Western parents’ secret desire to throttle their unruly kids that earned Ilo Ilo its 15-minute standing ovation triumph at Cannes, that the movie won its prize not because people are drawn to Singaporean kids being ass-whipped as they are to North Korean kids playing hopscotch. If MDA censors Ilo Ilo because of scenes depicting child cruelty, perhaps another Hong Lim protest is in order. We could call it #FreeMyIloIlo, but that would sound too much like a protest about pasta.

Doh’mestic violence

Malaysians protesting at Merlion Park

From ’21 Malaysians arrested at protest’, 12 May 2013, article by Amelia Tan, Sunday Times

Twenty-one Malaysians were arrested yesterday for staging a protest at the Merlion Park against the outcome of last Sunday’s Malaysian general election. The rare police action followed earlier warnings that such gatherings are illegal, and after nine Malaysians were warned for participating in a similar protest last Wednesday.

In a statement last night, the police said that “while foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by our laws”. “They should not import their domestic issues from their countries into Singapore and conduct activities which can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views. Those who break the law will be seriously dealt with.”

….Last week, the police warned nine Malaysians for “actively participating” in an illegal gathering at Merlion Park on Wednesday, when about 100 people went to protest against the Malaysian election results.

…Separately, the police also reminded migrant worker rights activist Jolovan Wham of his responsibilities as organiser of a Speakers’ Corner demonstration today, also related to the Malaysian general election. He has been told to take appropriate measures to ensure that the event complies with Singapore laws. The police said they were informed that Mr Wham had posted on Facebook that he was organising the demonstration to show solidarity with Malaysians calling for fair elections and that “he had invited foreigners to observe the event“.

“The Speakers’ Corner is a designated site for Singaporeans to freely speak on issues as long as they do not touch on matters which relate to religion or may cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different racial or religious groups in Singapore. Only Singaporeans and permanent residents of Singapore are allowed to participate in demonstrations held at the Speakers’ Corner,” the police spokesman said.

The terms and conditions of the use of Speakers’ Corner is ambiguous on what constitutes a ‘demonstration’, or if you may be just an ‘observer’ and not a ‘participant’ in the event. In 2001, when public demos were banned from Hong Lim Park, the police described such activities as coming together for a ‘specific cause’, ‘chanting slogans’, ‘displaying placards’ and showing gesticulations such as ‘CLENCHING OF FISTS’. I’m not sure if clapping furiously and going ‘Hear, hear’ in response to a rousing speech constitutes participation, but standing from a distance and folding your arms with an expressionless face may have protesters suspecting that you’re a plainclothes police officer instead of a supporter or observer. You may even get crowd-surfed involuntarily if things get out of hand.

The earlier Merlion Park protest had special appearances from two Mediacorp actors, namely Zhang Yaodong and Shaun Chen, who in the image below, are clearly seen ‘participating’ in an illegal activity. Not sure if it’s stated anywhere in their Mediacorp contract if celebrities (and role models to our ‘impressionable youth’) are allowed to engage in political protests. They may inadvertently get innocent bystanders into serious trouble if screaming fans at the scene who have no idea what ‘Ubah’ or ‘Bersih’ are all about get rounded up by the cops for disrupting public order. You may, however, be part of a campaign to ban shark’s fin soup, though that may upset more people than your political beliefs.

Careful, almost a clenched fist there!

It’s not the first time that our Merlion has seen gatherings of this sort. In 2011, a petition for an SMTown Kpop concert was held in the form of a flash mob. Not sure if a police permit was applied for in this case but amazingly (also unfortunately), it turned out to be successful. These kids with their sick dance moves and placards look dead menacing. Slogans on A4 paper? Amateurs. If you want to get something out of your protesting, choreograph a mass-dance, dammit!

Thanks a lot too, Singa the courtesy lion, for giving Malaysian activists ideas for a venue.

There are other ways to show solidarity for a political cause if you’re a foreigner. You could blackout your Facebook profile for a couple of days before reverting it to a pic of your baby. If you’re a Myanmese you could join fellow countrymen to book entire theatres and watch Rambo viciously gun down junta villains (with permission from the authorities of course). You could even have a sit-down dinner in a nice restaurant with face-paint, sing patriotic songs in unison and get nothing more than dirty looks from diners without having a ring of police surrounding you like a phalanx in a Roman army ready to charge a castle.

Screengrab From Martyn See's 'Speakers Cornered'

Screengrab From Martyn See’s ‘Speakers Cornered’

But if you insist on venting your frustrations on crappy governments outdoors, you could do it ‘picnic’ style, like the Bersih 2.0 get-together in 2011 at Speaker’s Corner, where instead of slogans you could hand out yellow roses as a nod to the days of ‘Flower Power’. Just make sure you keep your friendly neighbourhood Police in the loop so they can send their stakeout/riot police team to defuse an ugly situation in the event you start marching around with burning stakes, flipping cars over and then torching them. Singaporean protesters can do without such police permits having been cowed into submission over generations. It’s the foreigners with their campaigns and balls who’re viewed as potential threats (But our government welcomes them with open arms anyway). I mean just look at them, dressed in matching black garb and holding up what looks suspiciously like secret society code numbers.  My God, our riot police have their work cut out for them!

The 8 is upside down. Maybe that symbolises something. Hmm.

Maybe it’s time we drop the name ‘Speakers’ Corner’ and just call it Hong Lim Park instead, since nobody goes there just to ‘speak’ anymore without some fist-pumping or incitement going on. Maybe we should have a demo at Speaker’s Corner to protest against the name ‘Speaker’s corner’. We could sit in unwashed, loving huddles, have a feast of organic tofu and sway holding hands to a live ukelele rendition of ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear some Flowers in your Hair)’.

Here’s a sample of events which render the title invalid and outdated:

- Pink dot (2009)

- Give Vuikong a Chance (a petition signing event, 2010)

- BRING BACK MY MCDONALDS PIG TOY (2010)

- Slutwalk  (2011)

- M Ravi dancing (for no one) (2012)

And of course, a recent May Day event about some white paper. Wonder what’s all that fuss about.

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