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If MHA was consulted by IMDA on Swedish metal band WATAIN before it approved the performance, what made MHA revised its assessment?

The Info-Comm Media Development Authority (IMDA) confirmed that the Ministry of Home Affair (MHA) was among the ‘relevant parties’ that were consulted on the WATAIN concert before it was given the green-light.

IMDA’s cluster director of communications and marketing Karen Low said, “Given the band’s history and concerns expressed by MHA, IMDA allowed the Watain concert with a rating of ‘Restricted 18 (R18)’.”

She added that this is how IMDA has treated similar performances in the past. “In assessing and classifying content for arts performances and concerts, IMDA aims to protect the young from unsuitable content, maintain community norms and values, and safeguard public interest, while enabling adults to make informed choices,” she said.

However, after the concert was cancelled hours before it was to be held on 7 March, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugan said to the press that he couldn’t see how the Swedish black metal ban could have been allowed to perform in Singapore given their anti-Christian lyrics.

IMDA pulled the plug on the concert after MHA advised IMDA against allowing the concert to proceed. MHA, on the other hand, insisted that the online petition with over 16,000 signatures created on 6 March calling for the government to ban WATAIN had no bearing on the MHA’s decision.

“I saw the lyrics – it’s four-letter words on Jesus Christ, on Christianity, on religion, abusing the cross – everything that is so far out that I can’t see how we could have agreed to it,” said Mr Shanmugam.

He said, “The Christian preachers, when they talk to me, say ‘you are very, very strict when it comes to anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic messages…They said: ‘You treat the Muslim community differently than the Christian community.’ I looked at it and I thought that there is some truth to what they say, I won’t say that it is completely true but it is an approach.”

The thing is, since IMDA confirmed that they did in fact consult MHA before approving WATAIN’s concert, we can presume that the lyrics and background of the band would have been made known to MHA beforehand.

However on the day the Watain concert was due to take place – MHA asked IMDA to consider cancelling the performance due to “new and serious concerns about public order, and ground reactions relating to social and religious harmony.”

So we can see that the IMDA’s stance hasn’t changed and the band certainly didn’t change their lyrics. On the other hand, the two evolving factors are MHA’s “new and serious concerns” about the concert and the last minute online petition to ban WATAIN.

When you look at it that way, can we really be certain that MHA’s wasn’t influenced by the petition to reverse its initial decision?