The People’s Association (PA) has removed the controversial Hari Raya standee at Tiong Bahru Orchid which used a wedding photograph of a Malay-Muslim couple without permission.
The photograph of the couple in traditional Malay wedding attire was used to create the standee, displayed on a platform next to a banner depicting Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong and his seasonal wishes.
When she was alerted by a couple of friends that her wedding photo was used for this, Ms Sarah Bagharib took to Instagram on Saturday (29 May) to note that neither her, her husband, or the photographer were approached for permission.
She wrote, “Using a wedding photo to depict Malays/Singaporean Muslims celebrating Hari Raya is inappropriate. Using my wedding photo without my consent is unwarranted. Using my wedding photo as a caricature of Malay people is unacceptable.”
She also told The Straits Times that she felt the whole thing was “rude”, regardless of whether it was done by a third-party vendor or the PA itself.
“In the larger scheme of things, what does this reflect? The PA is meant to be a statutory board that seeks to promote social cohesion and harmony in Singapore,” she said.
In its statement apologising for the incident, the PA said: “This should not have happened. Neither our vendor nor Radin Mas CO obtained any permission to do so. This is against the policies which have been put in place. We have since spoken to the vendor on the seriousness of this infringement, and will follow up with the appropriate steps.
“Nonetheless, the PA, including Radin Mas CO, takes responsibility for this error as we had oversight of the matter, and the decorations were allowed to be put up.”
However, netizens on The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia Facebook pages are not quite ready to forgive this error in judgement of the PA. Many were upset over the PA’s shifting blame to the vendor instead of taking on full accountability for its mistake.
Several people pointed out that while the vendor may have been the one to print the standee or suggest the idea, the PA is still the client that would have had to give its stamp of approval for anything to happen in the first place.
Netizens also called out the PA for its cultural insensitivity and ignorance at not knowing the difference between Malay-Muslim wedding attire and Hari Raya, as well as for the lack of research they put into this. One person described it as “tone deaf”.
A few people pointed out that the lack of diversity in the PA staff might have led to this, and suggested that the PA should start hiring people of different races so as to avoid such mistakes in the future.
One netizen pointed out how this incident highlights the “failure of our racial harmony program”, and slammed the PA for not understanding the festivities, culture and values of Malay-Muslim Singaporeans despite its over 50-year history.