Complain Kings And Queens
Did you know that there are many kings and queens in Singapore? For the longest time, they have been renowned for just one thing. Complaining.
Some may find it cathartic to draft a long, unpleasant e-mail to whomever it may concern, or wind up making an excessively long rant to some poor customer service personnel. The question to ask is — should action be taken over every complaint that is lodged?
The people who lodged some complaints made us question humankind’s insensitivity and blatant bigotry.
Here are 10 complaints that should not have been entertained.
1. Culling Of Chickens
This might be the most talked-about saga the past few days. But if you’re out of the loop, here’s what its all about.
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) put down free-roaming chickens around Thomson View condominium and Blocks 452 to 454, Sin Ming Avenue after receiving complaints about their “noise”. But the chickens they put down may have been endangered red junglefowl.
The AVA said it received 20 complaints from residents about the chickens last year, most of which about noise. Today interviewed 10 residents at Sin Ming Avenue and received mixed responses — three thought the chickens were noisy, while seven lamented the chickens’ demise.
A Polytechnic student Marc Loh, 18, said he grew up hearing the chickens’ crows and it never bothered him nor his family. Another resident Stella Lourdes, 62, added that the kindergarten brings children there to look at the chickens.
Could AVA have handled the situation better? Associate Professor Donald Low, associate dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, thinks so.
On his Facebook page, the former director of fiscal policy at the Ministry of Finance cites three reasons why AVA’s decision is “deeply disturbing”.
The first was, how AVA arrived at its decision:
The main rationale seems to be the 20 complaints it has received about noise caused by the chickens over the past year. This is an extremely filmsy justification.
Pandering to a few, while ignoring the preferences of those who are tolerant of animals, is policy-making driven by the complaints of a few.
Second, if more people had complained, it doesn’t make culling them the right decision to make:
The real question AVA should ask is whether the stray chickens pose real harms and risks to public health.
In land-scarce Singapore, it is terribly important Singaporeans learn to live with the inconveniences that are sometimes caused by nature and the (shrinking population) of animals in their midst. Unless these are pests that pose a real harm to public health, mass culling is an extremely myopic response.
Lastly, he brings up the point of pandering to populism:
The point is not that we should treat the two species (domesticated chickens and red jungle fowl) alike; it is simply to highlight the internal contradictions in a policy that is driven not by a careful analysis of risks, but by knee-jerk populism.
The road to populism starts with ignorance and inertia on the part of citizens. We should ask to see much stronger evidence of the real harms caused by stray chickens in our island before we acquiesce to AVA’s mass culling.
We agree with Prof Low. AVA first defended themselves claiming that the chickens were culled due to noise complaints, but the public would have none of that.
So they said there might be a potential threat to public health. Following that, they said the chickens pose a threat (once again), but this time, to the pure-bred red junglefowls, i.e. the endangered species that they were accused of culling in the first place.
We see nothing but feeble attempts to justify their pandering to the 20 complaints. So much for 2017 being the year of the rooster.
For a comprehensive explanation on the saga, read our article Sin Ming Chickens Culled By Residents’ Complaints Were Endangered Species Native To Singapore.
2. Football Team Silenced
In another case of noise-related intolerance, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) decided to suspend football activities at the Home United Youth Football Academy on weekends and weekday nights.
Today reported that said the suspension was enacted due to a petition signed by just five families living at Block 126 Aljunied Road. They complained that the noise levels were too high.
Here’s an aerial view of the area:
The SLA restricted operations on two 11-a-side pitches during weekends, meaning football activities can only be conducted up to 7pm on weekdays. Netizens protested the decision:
Suggestions on getting the SLA to urge residents/their kids to join sound like a plausible idea, so is being more tolerant just so the kids can have some fun.
We think that the complaints were unnecessary — nothing wrong with letting the kids have some fun. And the 7pm restriction is way too early; it should be revised to 10pm at the earliest. Are we supposed to believe that with the Internet, people still sleep at 7pm in this day and age?
Residents who purchased the property also ought to know what they were signing themselves up for.
But if these attempts to persuade the authorities to reserve their decision fail, one Facebook user reminds us that things could be worse.
The children at the primary school near my home cause a ruckus during assembly and P.E. classes. Someone do something ASAP. Thanks much~
3. M1 Fringe Festival
Two performances had to be withdrawn from the M1 Fringe Festival 2017 due to complaints. Naked Ladies, a performance lecture, and Undressing Room, an interactive piece, were accused of representing pornography instead of art. Both featured nudity.
The theme was “Art & Skin”, and in spite of its shows being rated R18, it annoyed some conservative groups immensely. So much so that they slammed it online.
An anonymous blog post by Singaporeaffairs said:
The majority of Singaporeans still pride themselves as conservative and pro-family and have no wish to see our nation sink into an immoral mess. We have no wish for western decadence and LGBT themes to be propagated and poison people’s mind in the name of “progression”.
So according to this person who doesn’t even have the courage to be named for espousing his beliefs, those who appreciate art of multiple forms like that in “Art & Skin” are incapable of being pro-family.
We’re also unsure if the writer is right for claiming he is speaking on behalf of the majority of Singaporeans — we would think they are mostly unaware of artistic endeavors like these.
Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family shared Singaporeaffair’s blog post and added the following comment:
Write to the Ministers to STOP this!
Even as the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) appends a R18 classification for such shows, it still does not negate the fact that they are actually promoting pornography in the public realm disguised as “art”.
We don’t know who this social justice warrior is, but if they don’t know how to appreciate this form of art, then why can’t they just, you know, not go?
Lashing out on the artists and their works and claiming they are promoting pornography disguised as “art” is offensive to the creators, who have said that their purpose was ironically to separate nudity from pornography.
He shouldn’t be forcing on us his (anonymous) views on what universal morality is — people have differing views, in case he doesn’t realise it.
Apparently, they also think that Singapore is a theocracy that prosecutes artists (or “so-called artists”) — we learn something new everyday.
4. Penguin Books Banned
Acting on just a single complaint, the National Library Board ordered three children’s books featuring penguins to be pulped.
According to Time Magazine, And Tango Makes Three, one of the three books, is a multi-award winning took that is real life-inspired by two male penguins who raised a baby chick at the New York’s Central Park Zoo.
The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption features a lesbian couple, while Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families talks about unconventional parental set-ups.
We’d be lying if we said we were surprised by the decision to bar these books; Singapore is, and always has been, a conservative country, despite the younger generation more accepting of homosexuality.
Associate Professor Kirpal Singh from the Department of English Literature at the Singapore Management University) told Time Magazine:
This is a very unfortunate step backwards.
While we try to balance the conservatives and liberal minded, do we remove anything or everything that gives offense, especially if this offense is quite problematic, quite complex?
The #FreeMyLibrary hashtag was created, including an open letter criticising the ban that garnered 4,600 signatories.
Did we mention the order was spurred by just one complaint? According to Time, the library user who lodged the complaint also happens to be a member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot In Singapore” a rabid anti-gay group — coincidence? We think not.
Aside from that, we’re happy to know that the books were not pulped and are back on the shelves. But in the adult section, of course.
5. Anti-Adam Lambert Petition
Every kid born in the 1990s remembers Adam Lambert.
The runner-up in the eighth season of American Idol was expected to perform for Singapore’s 2016 New Year countdown show, until a petition that garnered 20,065 signatures (almost) got in the way.
Channel NewsAsia reported that organisers of “Petition against Adam Lambert performing in Countdown 2016” said:
It is never ‘just entertainment’, especially when the national stage is used. Unfortunately, our concerns to address the probability of lewd acts on a public platform have been downplayed and turned into yet another political LGBT rights issue.
Adam Lambert responded, saying that his performance at the countdown show will celebrate “the entire human family in all its diversity”. In a press release, he added that his show is “based primarily on new material, and it promises to be a thoughtful and sophisticated insight into the pursuit of happiness and self-worth”.
At least five counter-petitions to keep the openly gay singer on the countdown show were launched. According to Channel NewsAsia, the organisers of one of the counter-petitions accused the original petition of “obvious sexual orientation discrimination”.
The American heartthrob ended up performing at the countdown show, and the audience was treated to a concert of incredible artistry and absolutely no “lewd acts” at all.
Adam Lambert performed in a concert at The Star Theatre in 2013 too, and the performance also generated some controversy, as the venue is owned by New Creation Church.
Looks like the singer can’t escape from controversy whenever he comes to Singapore — a sad state of affairs that we hope doesn’t give him a negative impression of our country.
6. Mad Over Madonna
Pop legend Madonna was set to perform her first-ever concert in Singapore on Feb 28, 2016 at the National Stadium. Good news for her long-suffering local fans.
But bad news for some Singapore religious leaders, who according to Today expressed “grave concerns” over the pop diva’s concert, a week before the performance.
The 58-year-old singer uses religious imagery and symbols in her performances, and is considered blasphemous and insulting to the Christian faith. One example is her performance of the song “Holy Water”.
Eight pastors from various Christian denominations sat through a meeting with Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, speaking of their concerns.
So, the Media Development Authority (MDA) took action, rating the concert R18 for its sexually suggestive content, and content or materials that may offend any race or religion would not be allowed. Thus “Holy Water” and a few other songs were not performed during the concert.
Channel NewsAsia spoke to Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian, general secretary of the National Council of Churchs of Singapore, who said it is up to the public to decide if they were going to attend the concert. Well, duh, that’s what people were doing before the religious leaders stepped in.
It is our hope that the authorities will be cautious with performers who are not sensitive to racial and religious issues when they apply to hold concerts in Singapore.
Sure, the concert had religious images, and some Christians were likely to be offended.
However, as the concert was ticketed, and took place in a private venue, we don’t think anybody was forced to attend the concert.
Brainwave: Those who don’t agree with what she stands for can simply not go for the concert. It’s an simple as that.
Religious leaders could simply advise those who follow the same beliefs not to attend the concert — which I don’t think they needed to be told to avoid, in the first place.
The need to express concern to the authorities and censor parts of the concert just seems like treating people in Singapore like silly children who don’t have a mind of their own and need to be told NOT to watch something that will offend them. No wonder people say Singapore is a nanny state.
7. Les Miserables Kiss Cut
The cutting of an extremely short, harmless scene from the world’s longest-running musical Les Miserables, which came to Singapore in May 2016, just showed up the lack of knowledge by both the complainant and the MDA about the context of the scene.
The offending scene featured a peck on the lips between two men, and was cut after complaints from the public / a particular conservative lobby group.
According to playwright Alfian Sa’at’s Facebook post, Facebook user Alvin Ng went on to a Facebook group and posted that he lodged the complaint with the MDA:
That Facebook group was, you guessed it, We Are Against Pink Dot in Singapore.
The MDA advised the company that the kiss meant that it had exceeded the “general” rating given for the show, and the thus the scene was cut.
But this whole incident was ridiculous due to the context of the scene. According to those who have watched it played out without any complaints on New York’s Broadway, the scene was a comical one and in no means a romantic gesture shared between the two characters.
The company said the kiss was a “peck on the lips” during a comical scene. “The kiss was intended to be comic,” Mediacorp Vizpro head Moses Lye said, according to The New Paper.
While the show did not lose anything by having the scene cut out, it really just makes Singapore and the censors look silly.
TL;DR: a peck on the lips was taken out of context to fit the story of a homophobic man and his peers.
8. Curry Cookers Canned
A family from China who had been living in Singapore for three months couldn’t stand the smell of curry that was cooking in their Indian neighbour’s residence.
The Indian family would shut their doors and windows out of consideration for their Chinese neighbours, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy them, so they went to the Community Mediation Centre to resolve the dispute.
According to Singapore Infopedia, both families came to an agreement:
The settlement that was reached following the mediation was that the Indian family would cook curry only when their Chinese neighbours were out. In turn, the Chinese family acceded to their Indian neighbours’ request to try out the curry dish.
The dispute became so widely recognised that it got international recognition — from The Telegraph (Singapore’s ‘anti-Chinese curry war) and Reuters (Singaporean’s culinary anti-immigration protest: curry).
Curry is not just an Indian dish, as many Singaporeans identify with it, and we even have our own recipes for it. So it was no surprise that Singaporeans were enraged to learn that the family from China expected their Singaporean neighbours to give in and stop cooking curry.
Singaporeans also voiced their opinions on a segment on Razor TV:
We think when one is in a foreign country, one should adapt to the culture there, so it’s annoying to hear about foreigners being intolerant of local habits.
That being said, we give props to the Indian family for taking the higher road and coming to a compromise with their neighbours — and a cheeky idea to actually ask them to try out the dish.
It was also endearing to see Singaporeans up in arms, ready to stand up for one of our own.
9. “Big” Bus Interchange
In 2015, residents of Yishun (yes, Yishun again) complained that a temporary bus interchange was “too big”, and the walk to get there was too far.
The temporary interchange is located at the junction of Yishun Central and Yishun Central 1. It was built as previous interchange was demolished to build the Yishun Integrated Hub, which is expected to open in 2019.
So residents of Yishun went on Today‘s Facebook page to express their distaste about the extra road they would have to cross to get to the temporary interchange. Yup, one extra road.
Because of all the backlash, Today wrote a followup article:
Some commuters were also unhappy that the new interchange, at 27,000 square metres, is bigger than the old 20,000-square-metre interchange. “Just walking from one end to the other is very tiring,” said student Dwight Adriel, 14.
So basically the government is nice enough to build a temporary bus interchange, while residents wait for a nice, air-conditioned bus interchange to be constructed, residents instead complain about something they should’ve been thankful for.
Read our article Yishun Residents Complain About “Too Big” Bus Interchange for a more comprehensive explanation.
Disclaimer: We ‘re not targeting the residents of Yishun, if the incident happened in other areas of Singapore, our opinions would stay the same.
10. Water Bottle Wail
On Sep 29, 2014, Tampines GRC member of parliament Baey Yam Keng posted on his Facebook page about e-mail that was sent to him:
The e-mail included photos, and said:
Prime Minister Lee and other Ministers, I have had enough this TAMPINES TOWN COUNCIL (managing agent is CPG).
WHY? PLEASE READ BELOWED
Please kindly open the attached photograph taken by neighbour of the BLK 498L who then send it to me.
BLk 498L – Tampines St 45 – ZOne 7 – water bottle placed on the handrail at staircase from 25th August to today 9th September 2014 and TC never clear !!! Many residents witness it and taken photo.
Prime Minister Lee and Mr Baey , I just want to show you how bad Tampines Town Council (managing agent is CPG) provide service to residents.
A half-filled water bottle was allegedly left on the hand rail of a staircase at a Tampines HDB block, and an enraged resident decided to wait and see how long the cleaner in-charge would take to clear it — apparently it took two weeks. Thereafter, the complainant took a photo and drafted his e-mail.
Yup, apparently that resident wasn’t at liberty to actually lift a finger to throw the water bottle away himself, despite it bothering him so much.
Turns out, we weren’t the only one who thought this matter was blown out of proportion. Mr Baey’s Facebook post garnered many comments:
One comment stood out.
We couldn’t agree more with Facebook user Raymond Huang. Taking pride in living in your estate and playing your part as a resident would not only benefit yourself, but those around you. Why wait for the cleaner to do what admittedly is her job, but would be so much easier if you help her out?
Many senior citizens work as cleaners so they can pay their bills, and they might not be the pink of health. Extending a hand when the opportunity arises — like throwing a water bottle into a bin — isn’t difficult to do.
Take it easy
We’ve all experienced inconveniences that don’t agree with our beliefs or annoy us.
Some times we have to take these minor nuisances with a pinch of salt, and not make a mountain out of a molehill; because not every complaint is worth getting lodged, let alone entertained.
Maybe then, the term ‘complain king’ and ‘complain queen’ can be eradicated from our country, period.