Dealing with nasty detractors has become a daily affair since the Israeli born vlogger, Nuseir Yassin (Nas) stepped foot in Singapore late last week. His scheduled meet-and-greet-session with his fans at Botanical Gardens on Saturday 20th April 2019 was met with 2000 adoring fans. Or, so it seems, from the reports coming from CNA and ST.
It was a big turnout given that it rained earlier in the day and the grounds were damp at the gardens and the audience were not dissuaded by the anti-Nas rants of his cynics.
So, what’s the fuss about Nas?
Singapore’s civil society members led by one Kirsten Han took issue with the warm reception that he received from local authorities and with how quickly his permits were granted from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to perform at the Botanical Gardens. The vociferous civil society members further alleged that the SPF has shown preferential treatment to Nas so that the celebrity vlogger can advance the ruling party’s political agenda.
But from the reports coming from other media outlets, it seems Nas was just throwing a welcoming party on Saturday, 20th of April.
Nas Daily boasts a following of over 6M followers on Facebook and he runs a popular travel vlog. In September 2018, Nas met with foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan and later with prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Taking selfies with Vivian Balakrishnan and Lee Hsien Loong got tongues wagging. It was enough to string a theory that the ruling party was recruiting a new media celebrity to boost their performance in the upcoming general elections.
Author Dr Gwee Li Sui, in a Facebook post puts it very eloquently, “Small minds discuss Nas. Average minds discuss the fake news bill. Great minds discuss the closure of Kinokuniya Liang Court.”
However, Gwee’s comments do not reflect the emotional undercurrents in this case. Subject to the various punitive and oppressive laws on speech and public assembly, the civil society members are not taking Nas’s PAP-friendly overtures lying down. They are protesting based on what appears to be double standards in the way the law enforcement agencies have been meting out the law.
In the past, civil society members have been criminalized for holding public talks and forums. Jolovan Wham, another civil society member was convicted for organising an event at Agora, an indoor event space, on “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” for inviting Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist over Skype.
No Double Standards?
SFP released a statement on the 19th of April to say that Nas Daily meetup is a “non-cause-based event” The Singapore Police Force also denied any form of double standards in the application of the law.
But that was not enough to convince all political watchers.
Prominent commentator Tay Kheng Soon has also weighed-in on this issue. In a Facebook post he said, “The State and its Organs must not be the judge whether there is malicious intent to besmirch the reputation of the organs of the state as in the case of the views expressed by members of the public of perceived bias or double standards in exempting a person from holding a massive public gathering when most such gatherings require compliance of regulations… “
Opposition members Gilbert Goh and Goh Meng Seng said that they are considering organising their own picnics at Botanical Gardens to see if they’ll get permits and receive the same warmth and reception from the authorities.
We need to grow up
If we want to be a media hub and invite talents to our shores, then we need to also change the way we operate. This incident gives us an opportunity to do what is right. What we need is an open society, one that embraces changes and lives in accordance with the times.
It is time for the government to rethink its laws, discard the old authoritarian ways and seek to build consensus from both sides of the aisle.
Why is there a need to differentiate cause and non-cause based events? Shouldn’t they be treated equally? All gatherings, big and small, political and non-political, indoors and outdoors need the same treatment of the law.
Otherwise, it come across as one set of laws for the hive and another for the queen.