LETTER SENT TO PERMANENT SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION & THE ARTS, SINGAPORE; NATIONAL VOLUNTEER AND PHILANTHROPY CENTRE, SINGAPORE; AND
FEEDBACK UNIT, MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, YOUTH & SPORTS, SINGAPORE.
I write to you about some recent incidents that have been brought to my attention about how your team administers approvals for arts entertainment licences - a requirement of the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (Chapter 257).
SAMA-SAMA ART EXHIBITION
According to one source, "The Media Development Authority (MDA) informed curators of the Sama-sama art exhibition at 5pm on the day of its opening that their application was successful although they objected to several photographs depicting a man in a Police uniform sitting on a toilet, someone in a school uniform sitting on a toilet to preempt any school(s) from complaining about how the uniform was being depicted as well as photos of two women and another of two men (each pair sitting on a toilet) - for being sexually suggestive."
PLAY - "SMEGMA"
One source linked to the play has shared, "The esteemed MDA has created a mess for a small minority theatre group, by issuing the licence and then cancelling the licence, and also changing their reasons for the cancellation, the same day. MDA had a month to vet the play. They claim on their website that they would usually vet a play and respond after two weeks. MDA had sufficient time to vet the play and inform us. We would have made the necessary amendments if MDA had informed us earlier. If MDA had cancelled the licence much earlier, we would not have proceeded with our production. We would have saved our finances but now we have lost so much."
The MDA plays an important role not just as regulator of arts entertainment but also as facilitator to help arts entertainment thrive in Singapore. The above incidents appear to unfortunately highlight that your team pursues the former more actively than the latter.
This can come at great cost to arts groups, who already face great difficulty raising funds in Singapore. And since many of these initiatives are run by volunteers, it can have serious adverse effects on volunteerism in Singapore.
I would like to suggest two ideas for your team:
1. MDA should consider compensating arts groups that suffer losses arising from such late decisions; and/or
2. MDA can learn from the Singapore judiciary's experience in clearing court cases, and be more efficient in administering arts entertainment licences to prevent similar incidents above.
I am copying this letter to the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre and the Feedback Unit - who by their obligations to Singapore have a vested interest in proactively pursuing this matter with your team.