BY MAYO MARTIN, TODAY
PUBLISHED: MARCH 18, 5:53 PM
SINGAPORE — A public spat has erupted between the two main figures behind the Singapore International Festival of Arts, with its Artistic Director, Mr Ong Keng Sen, accusing Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lee Chor Lin, of “hijacking” the festival, which is slated to run in August.
The conflict was aired in an email sent on today (March 18) by Mr Ong to Ms Lee, as well as to the Ministry Of Community, Culture And Youth, the National Arts Council and members of the press.
In the email, Mr Ong accused Ms Lee of not responding to his emails regarding the content and design of the festival brochures and described her as being “unprofessional and unethical”.
“I don’t think you should be treating the festival director in this way. I am not just your content provider. I have been providing materials but nothing has come back to me for review,” he said in the email.
Mr Ong is referring to the vetting of text and designs regarding the brochures and programmes of the Festival as well as the pre-Festival event OPEN, which takes place in June. He has been unable to do this, he said.
According to him, there has been a communication blackout since March 11. “I’ve sent 20 emails asking for information and there’s nothing coming back. It’s a hijacking of material and for seven days, they have been refusing to give me anything,” said Mr Ong in a phone interview.
“I have been appointed by the (National) Arts Council to deliver a vision of the Festival and this vision is being frustrated,” said Mr Ong.
“The bottomline is that the CEO has not encountered any of the artists at all — any of the films and productions I’ve watched. So how can she (come up with the brochures containing) these productions (without consulting me)? The CEO runs the business side and not to ‘project’ (a festival’s) content,” he added.
When contacted, Ms Lee denies that it was a case of “hijacking”. “There is an understanding way back in June (about the) division of labour. I’m in charge of the PR, marketing and collateral, and he agreed to it. It’s a process that is not creative anymore. We’re down to page number, figuring out the ticket prices, making sure what goes into the brochure will make sense to readers.
“Artists have a view of things, but this particular product goes to the audience, and this has to be taken into consideration. The whole design and graphic process is one that he is not familiar with.”
As to claims of not responding to Mr Ong’s emails, “We have responded. It’s just at some point there is a cut off line. It’s really a simple thing.”
She added: “Despite these very obvious creative combustions, I think we’re on our way to having a very good festival and producing a brochure will be a very important milestone because that’s when the information will be disseminated. I’ll just let this blow over then we pick up and go forward. It’s a very interesting relationship we have.”
Noting that it is "not uncommon for differences of opinions to emerge" in the lead up to any major event, National Arts Council Chief Executive Kathy Lai said: "Despite these differences, we acknowledge that both Keng Sen and Chor Lin have unique strengths and experiences that they bring to this partnership.
"We have spoken to both of them and we have their commitment that they will move beyond this episode and focus on their vision of a world-class festival."
Former Attorney-General Walter Woon. TODAY file photo
Society must accept compromise, learn to disagree without being disagreeable, says former AGC Walter Woon
AMIR HUSSAIN, TODAY
12 November 2013
12 November 2013
SINGAPORE — With more interest groups jostling for public space and a citizenry more inclined to challenge the Government, society will need “more rules, not fewer”, said former Attorney-General Walter Woon yesterday.
“You cannot expect, when you live with 7,400 people in the same kilometre, to have your way all the time. You must accept compromise, you must accept that, even if they (other people) do not agree with you, there has to be a form of adjudication ... uphold that rule of law ... learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Speaking in his personal capacity at a session of the Institute of Policy Studies’ Conference on Civil Society at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel yesterday, Professor Woon, who is a National University of Singapore law professor, cited four factors that will lead to greater interaction between the various interest groups and the Government, as well as among the groups themselves.
He pointed out that with 7,405 people per square kilometre, Singapore is “the most crowded society in human history” with no “pressure-release valve”, which other countries with a countryside possess.
The population density is expected to increase to 10,000 people per square kilometre by 2030, the former Nominated Member of Parliament added.
Secondly, it will be “inevitable” that “different interest groups will increasingly find themselves in competition for public space, in opposition to Government, in opposition, in fact, to other interest groups”.
Technology, meanwhile, also facilitates the creation of interest groups, he told the conference. “The existence of the Internet allows the lone wolf to join the pack. And the pack then also (fights) for that public space.”
Fourthly, as a result of rising education levels, people will “have a perspective that there are things that can be done better”, Prof Woon said.
In the past, he noted, the Government’s approach to clashes with interest groups had been to wield “the iron hand in iron glove”, and to say “we will make the decisions”.
However, it can no longer do this, as “it is quite clear that the electorate is now willing to vote against the Government”.
Prof Woon noted that, anecdotally, there have been more challenges to the Government in the courts within the last five years than in the past 30 to 40 years, such as the two constitutional challenges to Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between males.
Speaking at a dialogue session later, Law Minister K Shanmugam said the Government has to work with civil society. He described the relationship between the two sides as one that is “by and large ... working quite well”.
However, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that not every engagement between civil servants and civil society results in a positive experience, adding that “there are areas where, maybe, agencies have been less than forthcoming”.
“My own belief is that civil servants believe, like us, in engagement, but when the rubber hits the road in terms of specific proposals, in terms of specific meetings, in terms of specific agencies, there can be a difference in perception and one can be wrong ... both sides can be wrong,” he said.
Citing the Government’s work with animal welfare groups as an example, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore cannot be governed without the active participation of people and civil society in today’s modern and complex economic and civil situation.
He said: “If you ask (the animal welfare groups) today, look at what was accomplished in the last two years. At their suggestion, the government formed the animal welfare law reform group — they came up with fairly revolutionary set of suggestions, very, very substantive suggestions. The government accepted all of them this year.”