MHA among “relevant parties” consulted by IMDA prior to approving Watain concert; MHA cited “public order” as grounds for cancellation: IMDA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was among the “relevant parties” consulted by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) prior to approving the licence for Watain’s concert, the Authority said in a statement on Tue (12 Mar).

The statement was made following several letters published on The Straits Times‘ Forum, which criticised the last-minute cancellation of the Swedish band’s concert in Singapore on Thu (7 Mar), namely “IMDA’s initial green light for band baffling“, “Why didn’t IMDA check with MHA regarding concert?“, and “Tighten concert approval process“.

IMDA’s statement read: “IMDA had consulted relevant parties including the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) before classifying the Watain concert.

“Given the band’s history and concerns expressed by MHA, IMDA allowed the Watain concert with a rating of “Restricted 18 (R18),” said the Authority.

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

“After careful consideration, IMDA agreed to do it,” said the Authority.

Touching on the grounds behind the initial approval granted upon Watain to hold their concert in Singapore, IMDA said that it has “imposed stringent requirements, including the removal of songs which are religiously offensive, that the band could not make references to religion or use religious symbols, and that no ritualistic acts were to be performed on stage”.

Such requirements, said the Authority, are “consistent with IMDA’s treatment of 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,” IMDA added.

In its earlier statement on Thursday, IMDA said: “Watain is known for its Satanist views and some of their previous controversial performances involved animal carcasses and throwing pig’s blood on its audience.

“The band also espouses anti-Christian views and advocates Satanism through their songs, and endorses violence.

“MHA has therefore asked IMDA to consider cancelling the concert for reasons of public order, and IMDA has agreed,” the Authority concluded.

Govt decision to cancel concert part of “self-righteous attempts to govern other people’s lives and decisions, as if all our supporters in Singapore were incapable of deciding for themselves”: Watain frontman

Responding to the sudden cancellation, Watain frontman Erik Danielsson told AFP: “We have been touring around the world for nearly 20 years and believe it or not, never have we encountered such old-fashioned retardation,” adding that the decision was a part of “self-righteous attempts to govern other people’s lives and decisions, as if all our supporters in Singapore were incapable of deciding for themselves”.

The band had strongly condemned the Government’s abrupt decision to cancel their concert in its Facebook post on Thursday.

Watain, in their post, had sent a “proud hail” to their fans and followers from all over South-east Asia who had travelled to Singapore for the concert, but who were instead “robbed of their experience in the last minute by Singapore’s tragic excuse for a government”.

They added that they looked forward to the day when they can perform for their fans without the “interference from lesser men”.

Watain had also left a message to what they have labelled “the honorless rats behind the ban”, stating: “[…] rest assured that you in your cowardly act have only stirred the cauldrons of your own misfortune”.

“If these men and women didn’t already feel mistrust and contempt towards ”authorities”, they sure do now,” warned the heavy metal band.