Why is a controversial foreign blogger allowed to organise a massive gathering at the Botanic Gardens?

In case you haven’t heard, travel vlogger Nusseir Yassin of Nas Daily is organising a fan meet up at the Botanic Gardens this Saturday (20 April) between 4pm to 6pm.

In an announcement on his Facebook page, the 27-year old asked fans to meet him near the MRT exit at the lawn by Eco Lake. He added, “Bring a towel and friend — it’ll be one giant picnic. Rain or shine, we’re doing it live!,” the vlogger, whose real name is Nuseir Yassin, wrote.

The event will apparently include a stage and sound system to accommodate several special guest creators such as Dear Alyne (Yassin’s girlfriend), Project Nightfall and Franco Dubini. Limited addition Nas Daily Singapore t-shirts will be given away as well.

The Palestinian-Isreali known for his travelling around the world making daily, 1-minute Facebook videos, had announced in March that he will be moving to Singapore with his girlfriend along with their video production firm, Nas Daily Corporation.

The meet up was announced earlier this month but the venue had yet to be confirmed. However now that it’s been confirmed that the event will take place at the Botanic Gardens, there are concerns.

The Public Order Act (POA) 2017 specifies that foreigners are not even allowed to assemble or participate in events such as those in Hong Lim Park which is an approved and designated venue for assemblies and protests. Organisers are being burdened with the responsbility of ensuring no non-Singaporeans partake in the event else an offence is committed. Furthermore, big scale events are required to engage private security to ensure the safety of the participants and the security of the venue.

According to the Ministry of Law, the POA was amended in 2017 to ‘prevent foreigners from advancing political causes in Singapore’. The Commissioner of Police can refuse to grant a permit for public assembly organised by or involving non-Singaporean citizens.

The changes led to the radical shift of how the annual Pink Dot at Hong Lim Park was conducted, where non-Singaporeans are not allowed to be in the Hong Lim green during the Pink Dot event, limiting the number of attendees due to the available space and the need to spend up to five-figures in terms of security deployment and checks upon the participants.

Speaking in Parliament when the bill was passed, Minister K Shamugam said:

“It has been the Government’s long-standing position that foreigners and foreign entities should not import foreign politics into Singapore; nor should they interfere in our domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature,”

“This ensures that Singapore is not used as a platform by foreigners to further political causes, especially those that are controversial or divisive.”

“Let’s say you have Malaysians financing an event in Singapore, encouraging Singaporeans to take part, which says shariah law ought to be imposed. Do you think we should agree? The answer is obvious, isn’t it?”

When Minister Shanmugam was asked whether the police commissioner would have the institutional competence to make decisions on the definition of “political ends”, and whether political neutrality would be compromised in the process.

“Any attempt to define upfront a political or nonpolitical event will run into shades of complexity,” Mr Shanmugam responded. “All you will end up doing is creating alleyways and byways in which your definition will be made useless and you will be a made a laughing stock.”

Therefore discretion has to be given to the executive – in this case, the Commissioner of Police, he said.

In addition to political events, the POA also prevents foreign involvement in ‘controversial issues with political overtones’. Even before the change in POA, foreigners are not allowed to be speakers or organisers of events at the Hong Lim Park, not to mention gatherings outside of the park.

Whether directly or not, Nas has consistently stroked controversy by commenting on controversial social issues, sometimes with political overtones. These include his video on the caste system in India, about Muslims and pigs which was made in Papua New Guinea, and about the aboriginal people in Australia.

As for Singapore, Nas has made several videos in which he has commented on Singapore’s multi-racial housing policy, limits on the number of cars, and Singapore’s water treatment system.

So given all that the Law Minister has said, how is it that a controversial foreign vlogger allowed to conduct a massive event (the Facebook event RSVP is at 3.7k attendees) at the Botanic Gardens, with a sound system and stage to boot?

Why is a foreign vlogger who has consistently stoke controversy allowed to involve himself in Singapore’s domestic issues? Doesn’t Singapore have law specifically designed to prevent that foreigners from influencing local social and political issues?

On Thursday morning, TOC has reached out to Nas Daily, the police, and National Parks on whether a permit has been granted for this meet up but we have yet to receive a reply.

*Note that Nas did not firm up exact location of the event is to be held till much recently. Prior to this, he had been contemplating an indoor venue and an ticketed event. The Police has a minimum 14 days for any permit to be submitted and to be approved. Given Nas’ foreigner status, it would be a miracle if the Police would ever approve the permit if not for some “divine” intervention.