SINGAPORE — Netizens have expressed harsh criticism in relation to the recent controversy over an incident at an Esplanade event on 25 March involving Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann, even after organisers of the event issued a joint statement to take the fall for the SMS.
The event organisers had directed Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann to be introduced to other attendees in the reserved seats at the front row while singer-songwriter Bernice Lee whose stage name is Benny’s was performing metres away on the stage.
Photos of the incident were shared on social media, with some saying that Ms Sim’s actions were disrespectful to the performing artist.
An Instagram story by Singapore jazz musician Daniel Alex Chua wrote:
Context: ministers came late for show, stood up to shake hands, take photos,
chatter, distract audiences who actually wanted to watch and do watever Cetf formalities, not showing respect to our sg artist @bleuebyrd performance at all
Pls give every artist, local or not, the respect and love they deserve, at a time
where local music’s potential is at its highest to grow and be appreciated, it is
The post was meant to be a disappearing message on Instagram but was screenshot by a netizen and shared on Twitter.
The Twitter user who shared the post, went further to criticise that the minister represents traditional values, which include respect. The user suggested that the minister should have sat behind so as not to obstruct the view. Alternatively, they could have met somewhere else where it wouldn’t disrupt the art.
The event last Saturday – which is part of the Earth Hour festival – involved a Switch Off when the Singapore skyline went dark for an hour in support of Earth Hour at 8.30 pm.
Mr Ian Lee, the founder of local music collective Panik Records, which showcased artistes at the Soul Jam event that preceded the performance, told the Straits Times that Benny’s who was performing when Ms Sim arrived, had been very affected by the incident but is coming to terms with what happened.
Mr Lee said Ms Sim was standing at the front row to shake hands with other attendees, and had blocked the view of some other guests as the stage was quite low.
He added that several audience members appeared to be upset, with someone at the back shouting at Ms Sim to sit down.
In response to queries from the Straits Times, WWF-Singapore and Esplanade issued a joint statement saying Ms Sim had been invited for the Switch Off ceremony at 8.15 pm and had arrived early.
They also said that there was no intention of disrespecting the artistes, performers or audience, and they regretted any disruption that they may have inadvertently caused.
Ms Sim said she had followed the cue of the organisers on when to enter the event space and was greeting guests who were being introduced to her.
She said she was glad that WWF-Singapore and Esplanade had provided an explanation for the incident and had reached out to the artists involved to clarify the matter directly.
Ms Sim apologised and said she had learned something valuable from the incident.
Netizen emphasized the importance of concert etiquette and respect for performers
However, some netizens in the comment section of Mothership’s Facebook post criticized her for her lack of social etiquette in disrupting the artist’s performance.
While some netizens appreciated Ms Sim’s apology, they also suggested that, as a public figure, she should be more mindful and exercise her own judgement to assess the situation.
They further emphasized that she could have informed the organizer that she would enter later to avoid disrupting the ongoing performance.
A netizen emphasized the importance of concert etiquette and respect for performers, regardless of one’s status.
He expressed disappointment that neither the organizers nor the MP showed a clear apology or remorse for the disruption caused.
Veteran blogger, Mr Brown also noted that even a child knew it was rude for “not sitting down and being quiet”.
‘Can politely decline request of taking photos’
Several netizens suggested that in the future, Ms Sim should politely decline to take photos with people during the performance.
Whether she arrives late or early, she should proceed to her seat as unobtrusively as possible to avoid disrupting the artist’s performance.
‘Use common sense lah’
Some comments suggested the minister should exercise common sense in situations like this. For example, if it were a wedding event and the couple was doing their march-in, people wouldn’t walk in and start socializing with other guests:
One particular netizen urged the minister to stop giving excuse as it it reflects the low level of common sense and appreciation for art that people have.
“No matter what, when someone is performing, you don’t make noise. You don’t distract.”
A netizen also noted that Ms Sim should have waited for the current performance to end before joining in. This incident highlights her arrogance, lack of emotional intelligence, and disrespect towards both the other audience members and the performers.
‘Blaming the organizers makes it worse’
While some comments have questioned if there were any lapses on the part of the organizer, it has been suggested that blaming the organizer for the incident would only make things worse.
Ultimately, netizens believed that the Minister should have been aware that she would be entering the event during the performance and should have refrained from doing so.
Netizen claimed there was no indication of remorse from Ms Sim herself
A netizen expressed his disappointment that instead of Ms Sim offering a full and sincere apology, it was left to the organizers to explain and take the blame.
“Not even a hint of regret in Ms Sim’s voice. She was sorry but she is not sorry. Every time some ministers screw up some events, it’s the third parties that come up with explanations and apologies.”
PAP Ministers “lack of etiquette”?
Some netizens have gone further and criticized PAP Ministers for appearing “lack of etiquette” and believing they are entitled to arrive late based on their status. They believe these are the snobbish MPs that the public is voting for.
A netizen used a satirical tone to write a comment directed at Ms Sim, resembling the way Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam typically interrogates critics:
One netizen mocked that Ministers are “always right” and perfect, and citizens should “always accept whatever reasons they give and never argue”. A comment disagreed with the musician who made the incident public and argued that it was a public performance in a public space, and when the Minister walked in, people rose to greet her.