The fifth in line to the British throne, Prince Harry, is visiting Singapore in June, during what would be one of the hottest times of the year in our tiny island.
The Prince is scheduled to take part in an iftar – the breaking of fast during the Muslim month of Ramadan, according to statement from Kensington Palace.
Singaporeans who are old enough would breathe a sigh of relief that Singapore will not be hosting the Prince to an “exhibition” of what our average heartlanders do in the afternoon when the heat is at its most merciless.
In September 2012, Prince Harry’s brother, Prince William, the second in line to the throne, paid a visit to Singapore, accompanied by his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
One of the events planned for the couple was an “exhibition” of “activities” in Strathmore Green estate in Queenstown.
The royal couple were being hosted by Indranee Rajah.
The “activities” included uncles (apparently) asked to “perform” tai chi under S’pore’s sweltering heat, children pretending to be playing, aunties doing their best to look like they are actually exercising, etc, as a crowd gathered to steal a look at the couple who did not know better.
The display was soon castigated online for being a “wayang” (a show). The critics were merciless and targeted the organisers, not the participants, for putting on an unrealistic display of life here in sunny Singapore.
No one in his right mind exercises under the afternoon sun here.
Ms Indranee tried to explain the “wayang”.
“One was to showcase HDB living,” she said. “The other was to showcase the various cultural and community activities of Singapore.”
The criticism online led to Minister Lawrence Wong expressing “some heaviness” in his heart as he watched it unfold.
“More importantly, when decent people step forward to be part of a genuine national effort to welcome our overseas guests… and yet get vilified by their fellow citizens, then we really should pause and reflect, and ask ourselves whether this is the kind of society we want,” he posted on his Facebook page then.
He added: “Politics can drive a wedge between us and divide our society. Or it can be a force for good, to bring our people together, and to build a stronger and better Singapore.”
Writer Alex Au was not convinced.
“Wong either didn’t understand what people were saying or was trying to pit citizen against citizen in order to let the government off the hook,” he wrote in a blog post.
“The ridicule was not directed at those who took part, but at those — and now we know it’s the People’s Association and the Housing and Development Board — who came up with the foolish idea and put it into action,” Mr Au said. “And since the People’s Association has become an arm of the People’s Action Party, and the HDB is an arm of the government, the ultimate object of the mocking is none other than the party and government that Wong represents.”
Whatever it is, it looks like the organisers have learned their lesson and Prince Harry is spared the embarrassment of such a fake display.
It is great that he will instead be participating in iftar, to break fast with our Muslim brethrens in the Holy Month of Ramadan.
We wish the prince a most enjoyable visit, away from the blistering afternoon sun.