6 things that made us go WTF in Singapore this week

Just when we thought it was just the rest of the world that was filled with ridiculous events like Trump’s epic press con and the huge Oscar boo-boo this year, we got hit by a wave of questionable events right on our home ground. Here are the things that made us go WTF in Singapore this past week.

A gallery was renamed after public outcry

On Feb 15 this year, the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) presented a revamped permanent exhibition, Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies at the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant, which was gazetted as a national monument in 2006. The Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies exhibition drew some strong opposing views online and offiline about the name as many felt that the word “Syonan” was insensitive and appeared to honor occupiers. A spokesperson from NLB (which NAS is under) then explained their rationale, saying that the word is a “historical name easily recognizable and associated with the Japanese occupation in Singapore when the nation was renamed Syonan-to after the surrender of the British”. However, they soon changed the name to Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies, and will be replacing the nine signboards bearing the original name. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim apologized, and PM Lee made statements about the whole incident on Facebook in Chinese and English. 

Increasing in prices of water = raising awareness

One of the biggest takeaways at this year’s Singapore Budget forum was the increase in water prices, a first in 17 years. Obviously citizens are not thrilled by the huge 30 per cent change which will occur over two phases in the next two years starting Jul 1, and took to the Internet to air their frustrations. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned that water production costs have increased because more desalination and NEWater plants have to be built. He also said that these costs are “necessary investments”. And then MP Lee Bee Wah said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia, “I think the increase in water prices is just to bring up awareness of the importance of water.” This poorly worded statement obviously brought about snarky comments online with one saying, “They should discount the water bills for households who consume water below national average as shown on our bills. Do not penalize those who use water prudently. Not everyone lives in condominium and landed property.”

A bike sharing company is spoiling the market

This is why we can’t have nice things. While we were cautiously excited about the introduction of a third bicycle sharing company, Ofo, wheeling its way into Singapore, they’ve gone ahead to do something that has ticked off many Singaporean business owners. They’ve already released 1,000 of their bikes to neighborhoods like Punggol and the CBD, and boast a super competitive fee of 50 cents per trip, as compared to oBikes’ $1 per half hour. But recently, about 40 of the company’s striking yellow bikes were found illegally parked in Pasir Ris Park’s motorcycle parking spaces, and owners of bike rental stand nearby are not having it. Ofo bikes have since been removed from the motorcycle spaces. It’s all a bit reminiscent of the uproar of cab drivers when car ride services like Uber first came into Singapore.

Xiaxue made a transphobic slur

Over the weekend, controversial local blogger Xiaxue got into a spat with K-Pop fans in both Singapore and around the world. She and popular South Korean boy group Monsta X shared the same flight, so at the airport, she commented on the fans she saw waiting for the band on Twitter. After a quick Google search, she casually tweeted, “I didn’t know who Monsta X is but when I googled imaged them, I genuinely thought they were a group of trannies”. She has since been adamant about not being transphobic, listing shows featuring transgendered figures that she watches, on Twitter. While her opinion on the band was taken out of context, it doesn’t take away the fact that she used “trannies”, a word that’s considered a derogatory and dehumanizing term that is very uncomfortable with the transgender community. Members from the Inter-University LGBT network have since spoken out about the entire debacle and made a statement that “the term ‘tranny’ usually understood by many transgender people as a dehumanising slur and we urge allies to err on the side of caution and compassion to avoid using such a term”. You can read the rest of the statement here.

Intellectual property rights came to the forefront in a cringe-y way

Three of our favorite entities somehow got themselves into a sticky situation. They were: Balli Jaswal, Singaporean fiction writer and author of books such as Sugarbread and the forthcoming Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, both by Epigram Press. Hot local film production house Akanga, behind both The Apprentice and A Yellow Bird last year, entered talks with Jaswal to have K. Rajagopal direct an adaptation of the latter book for SIFA this year. Except Epigram, which holds the film rights to both books, didn’t find out until they read it in a newspaper story. Oops. After a round of “I didn’t know” and “We didn’t know” and “You didn’t know” it seems like all parties are on the same page, but not before some major awkwardness.

PM Lee hits back at BBC’s Hardtalk host, Stephen Sackur

This week, PM Lee appeared on BBC HardTalk with Stephen Sackur, a show that’s infamous for its tough questions and interviewees walking off stage mid-conversation. Sackur grilled him on freedom of the press, section 377A and other contentious issues. While much of the Singapore Facebook-o-sphere was pleased that the prime minister stuck it to the great Western power by saying things like “Why should you presume to tell me how my country should run?”, others felt the rhetorical acrobatics failed to address real questions. Singaporean journalist Kirsten Han said on BBC’s Facebook thread that while the PM rightly pointed out that the UK is hardly beyond reproach, he “essentially took the question and went in the direction he wanted, to deflect the real issue, which is a commo n enough trick. That many people here seem to think he addressed the question fully and well just shows how much it worked.” The full interview will air on BBC news tomorrow (Mar 1) on BBC World News at 12:30pm, 5:30pm and 11:30pm.