SINGAPORE: A Deepavali banner in Mountbatten SMC calling for residents to  “keep our celebrations litter free” sparked much outrage online at its insensitivity and timing. Responding, local comedian Rishi Budhrani posted a video on social media wondering if there would be ‘indiscriminate parking-free’ Hari Raya and ‘air pollution-free’ Hungry Ghost Festival banners as well.

Since the banners were a Residents’ Network (RN) initiative, which is under the People’s Association, Mr Budhrani’s video mimicked an RN meeting where committee members looked at suggestions on how to wish fellow residents during their festivals “while still maintaining Singapore’s image as a clean-and-green and law-abiding nation”. Along with a ‘litter-free Deepavali’, he joked about an ‘indiscriminate parking-free Hari Raya’, an ‘air pollution-free Hungry Ghost Festival’, a ‘noise-free Christmas’, and an ‘illegal gambling-free Chinese New Year’.



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A post shared by Rishi Budhrani (@rishibudhrani)

On Nov 8, the two banners put up in Mountbatten were photographed and shared on Facebook by Susiilaa Shanmugam. She said that while the message appears to have a “positive intent”, it’s used at a “wrong time.” She also asked if the same message was used during other festivals.

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Several other netizens who commented on her post also said that the message could be seen as insensitive. She took issue with the banner asking residents to clean up after celebrations. Ms Shanmugam wrote: “Though the message appears to have a positive intent, it is being used at a very wrong time, given festivals are a time when those who have endured a tumultuous time come together as one to unite with their family and friends”.

“I hope to see the same message for the coming Chinese New Year”, she added, asking in her post if such a message was issued during Chinese New Year or the Hungry Ghost Festival.

People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lim Biow Chuan, representing Mountbatten SMC, who also appeared in one of the banners, gave instructions to take down a Deepavali-related banner that “gave rise to a misunderstanding”. Mr Lim said that the photo of the banners is genuine and not artificially manipulated or generated. He explained that the People’s Association (PA) put up the Deepavali festive greeting banners on his behalf. However, the contractor who put up the banners did not clear the location with the PA staff.

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The banners were taken down on Nov 9.

He clarified: “There were several Deepavali festive greeting banners which were put up on my behalf by PA. But there is only one location where the festive banner and Deepavali were put up together one above the other. The contractor who put up the banners did not clear the location of the banner with the PA staff.”

He also explained the origin of the anti-littering banners and clarified that it is not an initiative of the Marine Parade Town Council (which oversees Mountbatten SMC). Instead, it is a Residents’ Network initiative under the PA.

“The anti-littering banners were an initiative by the Residents’ Network (RN), which had received many complaints about littering of sparklers and wrappings in the parks after Deepavali. They discussed the littering issue with NEA and came up with the idea to remind residents not to litter after the celebrations. The RNs often on their own initiative, take many other targeted initiatives based on Resident’s feedback e.g. undertaking patrols to deter cyclists from riding on a bridge, noise mitigation measures, traffic management measures. This is not an MPTC initiative”, Mr Lim said.

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When asked by the media if the anti-littering message was previously included with greetings for other festive occasions, Mr Lim said this is the first year it has happened after receiving feedback from residents, as the other celebrations are usually not carried out at the public park. “I agree that the location of the banners side by side had given rise to misunderstanding. I have given instructions to the PA staff to remove the banner”, he said. Mr Lim added that he had conveyed the “negative feedback” to the NEA, and they will be removing “all the anti-littering banners”.

On Nov 8, Mr Lim also participated in a dance for Deepavali. He posted a video on social media and said: “My grassroots leader took this video for me. Thanks to the enthusiastic dancers for accompanying me for the dance. Dancing is also a good form of exercise. Start of Healthier SG exercise program”.

TISG has reached out to Rishi Budhrani for comment. /TISG

Read related: Amid mounting outrage, PAP MP removes Deepavali banners that warned against littering