PA Statement on the Use of Photo in Hari Raya Decorations

14 Jun 2021


PA Statement on the Use of Photo in Hari Raya Decorations

Background

On 28 May 2021, PA was alerted by Ms Sarah Bagharib that Radin Mas Constituency Office (CO) had used her wedding photo without permission, and inappropriately for a Hari Raya occasion. We immediately removed the standee, and apologised to Ms Sarah and Mr Razif Abdullah for our mistake. We also posted a public apology on our social media platforms. 

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The People’s Association (PA) had offered to meet with Ms Sarah Bagharib and her husband, Mr Razif Abdullah, to apologise to them, in person, for the distress caused by our mistakes regarding the use of their wedding photo for the Hari Raya decorations at Tiong Bahru Orchid estate. We also wished to clarify our position, elaborate on the steps we have taken to prevent such incidents from recurring, and hear her suggestions of how we might improve at the meeting.

2    In our exchange of emails, we had explained to Ms Sarah that PA values racial and religious harmony in Singapore.  We had also explained that whilst we accept our staff should have been more culturally sensitive, we should not form sweeping conclusions from this incident.

3    However, Ms Sarah has shared claims that this incident “perpetuate the racist culture”. She characterised this incident as “racist”. In her interview with Walid J. Abdullah, she also insinuated that our staff and volunteers did not find anything wrong with the standee as they might be “blind to racism”. 

4    These are accusations we reject. While the error was culturally insensitive, it was certainly not racist. It is not right to raise the allegation of racism, without basis, to stoke emotions and sentiments.   

5    To add to this, Ms Sarah shared in her recent public posts that she will be meeting with us, and has made a public call for anyone to “please share your messages/suggestions to PA here and we’ll share them”.  We find this odd.  We do not see why our meeting should be appropriated as a platform for her to funnel the views and comments of persons unrelated to the incident. 

6    All these lead us to believe her purpose in agreeing to meet with us has gone far beyond the Radin Mas incident. We therefore see no point in proceeding with the meeting.

7    PA remains steadfast in its mission to promote racial harmony in Singapore. That is an essential part of our raison d’etre. Our grassroots organisations such as the Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA) and the Indian Activity Executive Committees Council (Narpani Pearavai) play a key role in representing the interests of the Malay and Indian communities respectively. We regularly reach out to numerous community partners among all our races and religions to ensure that their concerns are actively considered when designing our programmes.

8    Though what happened at Radin Mas was an isolated incident, it nevertheless shows our organisation can fall short.  We agree it is important for our staff and volunteers to be sensitive to and knowledgeable about the cultures of all our ethnic groups.  We are now looking at establishing a resource panel to guide and advise our staff on cultural matters. We will also step up training efforts to enhance staff and volunteers' understanding and appreciation of our different cultures. Singaporeans becoming “one people” is a work in progress – and so is the PA.

9    There is one further point which we would like to reiterate. Ms Sarah’s email of 1 June alleged that we were “hasty in sharing the name of the vendor” in order to “distance and deflect blame” from ourselves.  This is untrue. The vendor had identified himself directly to Ms Sarah on 28 May, and apologised. This was before PA issued our statement on 29 May. 

10    It is regrettable that Ms Sarah did not clarify this point during her Instagram Live interview with Mr Walid J. Abdullah on 7 June. Instead she persisted in conveying the impression that PA had deflected blame from itself. 

11    PA recognises that enhancing our understanding of Singapore’s various races, religions and cultures is a ceaseless effort – this lapse having been a good reminder of this. The vast majority of PA staff and its many volunteers work hard for our community, and are very mindful and conscious of the need to build and strengthen our social harmony, through recognising and respecting racial diversity. We hope that this incident will not tar the other good work which our staff and volunteers have done.

Page updated 14 Jun 2021