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Singapore Police approves procession permit for St Patrick’s Day with no restrictions on the playing of musical instruments

The Singapore Police has announced that a procession permit has been issued for St Patrick's Day happening this weekend and a public entertainment licence has also been granted for the festival.

The procession is scheduled to be carried out between 3pm to 5pm on Sunday (18 March), and there are no restrictions on the playing of musical instruments.

The police said in a statement, "The St Patrick’s Day Parade is a cultural procession with no restrictions on the playing of musical instruments, similar to the Chingay Parade and Utsav Street Parade," but noted that no foreign national flags or religious elements should be displayed, as part of the permit conditions.

The parade will cover a distance of about 300m near Boat Quay and will take place on pedestrian walkways. There will be no road or lane closures for the celebrations.  Gathering point is at Empress Lawn (nearest MRT at Raffles Place) and will end at UOB Plaza, Boat Quay.

Police added that street festival and parade are cultural celebrations organised by the Irish community in Singapore and Singapore River One, a not-for-profit organisation working to increase the vibrancy of the Singapore River precinct.

No musical instrument or amplification device for Thaipusam

A Facebook user Pradeep Thana earlier posted an incident of the police and Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) officers who followed the devotees in Thaipusam procession held on 31 January for as long as 30 minutes, recording and questioning the participant, actions which are said to have brought inconvenience for the devotees.

One of Pradeep Thana's footage showed a girl by the name of Vaishnavi singing hymns in support of her father, who was carrying a Kavadi, a bamboo pole clad in yellow or ochre clothes, carries milk and flowers on a pole to the temple, along Serangoon Road and Selegie Road. The devotees then got into heated argument with the police and a HEB member, who stopped the Kavadi and accused them of singing too loudly. The officers asked the devotees to show the musical instruments that they were using during the ceremony.

The post has been shared for more than 3,000 times. Most of the netizens commented that such thing should never happen in the country which motto is  'One nation One people' as the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race religion. Some also said that most of the ceremonies held in the country are noisy and they do not mind as it does not happen on a daily basis.

In response to the outrage over the incident, HEB clarified in a statement to the media that Police had spotted members of the group using portable loudspeakers, which is not permitted under the Thaipusam permit conditions and reiterated that while the singing of religious hymns is allowed, no musical instrument or amplification device can be used along the procession.

Nothing in law states use of musical instruments during procession is illegal

In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote that the ban on musical instruments applies to all religious foot processions. It noted, "However, musical instruments have been allowed at events that do not involve foot processions including at social, cultural and community events. These include drums for Chinese lion dances, kompangs at Malay events, and Nathaswaram and Thavil for Hindu community events such as Pongal. Musical instruments have also been permitted at events that might involve a limited foot procession in a certain locality, but are primarily cultural and community events, such as the Chingay Parade and the St Patrick's Day Parade. The scale, duration, and nature of these events are very different from Thaipusam, and they pose smaller law and order risks."

However, nothing in Singapore law states the use of musical instruments is illegal. The only thing in law is that the Police must grant a permit in order for a procession to take place. Therefore, it is the Police which dictates that the permit to hold procession will only be granted under the condition that musical instruments are not played during the procession.

When drilled by Members of Parliament who were concerned over the ban of musical instrument in 1973 and 1981, Former Minister of Home Affairs Chua Sian Chin gave a different answer from what the Police has been saying.

Mr Chua said that the ban of music is due to traffic consideration, "In the years prior to 1973, music en route was permitted for the kavadi procession. However, the Police observed that with the accompaniment of music, the pace of the procession was slowed down. Further, the supporters, relatives and friends accompanying the devotees tended to dance to the beat of the music and occupied too large a portion of the road. The music also attracted large crowds of spectators. The result of this was that traffic flow was completely disrupted, creating huge traffic congestions in the city. Hence, the ban was imposed in 1973."