Instead of loose references, it would be helpful for PUB to clearly explain why fishing is prohibited in Merlion Park

I am heartened that the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has taken the decision not to name the boys that have allegedly been caught fishing in Merlion Park. I am also relived to hear that the PUB will not be prosecuting the boys in question.

It would be helpful if the PUB shares comprehensive reasons as to why fishing is prohibited publicly. In its Facebook post, it referred to potential dangers to the public and noted the injury to a young girl who had a fish hook lodged to her cheek.

While these incidences are unfortunate, they are incidences that can occur even in areas zoned for fishing. Also, while regrettable, accidents will always occur no matter what. Is the risk to the public great enough to prohibit fishing in a public space? What’s next then? Should we ban the opening of umbrellas in a public place as it could hit someone in the face? Or the question can be asked if one can fish if one does not use a fishing rod to fish but of other means, as it addresses the said concern of PUB.

The PUB further hinted at potential hygiene reasons for the fishing ban, referring to the fact that the water might be used for drinking. I fail to understand how fishing could be unhygienic? Besides, isn’t drinking water treated before consumption?

It has said that it will work with the school which the boys attend to counsel and educate them on the rules. While this may be helpful, it is limited in use without also properly explaining the rationale behind those rules. Telling someone what the rules are is not as helpful as explaining clearly why the rules are there in the first place. If people understood the reasoning behind the rules, they would be more inclined to obey those rules.

As an objective third party looking at the situation for what it is, this is just a question of boys going fishing, a harmless past time. Surely, better than aimlessly gallivanting the streets. I can’t see why it is a crime at all. Nor can I understand why it has become such a big issue that has garnered headlines and videos.

Perhaps I don’t understand the deeper reasons behind it but then if the PUB don’t fully explain what they are, how would I or anyone else for that matter know?

All the press has done is to tell us that it is illegal with hints at what the potential rationale is. It hasn’t told us why clearly. Surely something cannot be illegal just for the sake of it? And if it is, then well something has got to change.

Singapore is a small country with not much wildlife pursuits for school children. If they want to engage in a little bit of harmless fishing, what is the big deal? Singapore bangs on about innovation. Innovation is a way of life fostered from childhood. How can innovation and creativity be encouraged if kids can’t even engage in a harmless spot of fishing at a public park?

If there are genuine reasons why this is forbidden, it would be helpful for signs to be put up explaining why. For example, “fishing is strictly prohibited to ensure that the ecosystem is balanced”. Not just “Fishing is illegal”. With understanding, there would be better adherence to rules.

This incident exemplifies the relationship between the authorities and Singaporeans. The authorities are used to instructing without having to justify why and this mold of thinking spills over to all aspects of public service. This is counterproductive in many ways. Not just that it stunts a questioning and creative mind but also that the government has to justify the rules it makes. They can’t just be made at the whim of the statutory board in charge. Rules and regulations affect the way we can enjoy a public space. As such, we deserve a proper explanation as to why we cannot do something.