Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Came across an interesting article: "SingPost apologises for "acts of vandalism" on mailboxes" (By Jeremy Koh, 938LIVE | Posted: 06 January 2010 2216 hrs) on Channel News Asia.

A good number of things hit me about this article. I'll attempt to distill my thoughts from the random streams the article generated in my brain the first time I read it (outside of sheer humor - it made my day).

1. Bureaucratic mindset in Singapore. Priorities, priorities, priorities!:

The police is certainly not amused, saying it will take the matter up with SingPost as the episode had caused unnecessary public alarm and wasted valuable resources.

They said the organiser did send an email query to one of their units about the need for a police permit for a possible advertising event they were holding. But the organiser did not provide the full picture and details of the publicity stunt.

SingPost said it will be working closely with the police on the matter.

Perhaps I am wrong, but aren't those mailboxes owned by SingPost? Why should the police get upset if SingPost is not? To me, it seems that Singaporean officials and maybe Singaporeans are so used to the spartan aspects of their lives that they butt into trivial issues that really are none of their business.

Of course, the Singapore police appears to work in an, imho, counter-intuitive manner. This is what I think ought to be the "normal" approach: Your property gets vandalized; You report it to the police; and the police investigates. Here, we have the police pro-actively "protecting the public good" (from what!?!) and *yet* when someone reports they had been assaulted on an MRT, they refused to even investigate!

If they are so concerned with graffiti and vandalism "alarming" people, why aren't they dealing with the following pictures with the same zeal and passion?

If the Singapore police is so upset about the "wasted valuable resources" *reacting* to the "vandalism" on that mailbox, then *surely* they must be spending *fortunes* handling each and every case of the above pictures (for those readers who are not from Singapore, they are graffiti by Loan Shark gangs trying to psychologically terrorize their "clients" or family into paying up. These graffiti are practically ubiquitous in public housing in which the majority of Singaporeans live.). I am being sarcastic, of course. The police certainly handles loan sharking problems ... just not with the kind of enthusiasm I saw from the article about SingPost.

2. What is wrong with graffiti? When does it become vandalism?

Here is the image from Channel News Asia (Used without permission. I am reproducing this to illustrate what I mean. If this is a problem, let me know and I'll remove it):

To be fair, the "art" leaves much to be desired (still better than loan shark "art"). Still, as planned by SingPost, it hardly interferes with the functionality of the mailbox to be considered "vandalism". It is, however, kind of an eyesore and of course, the police thinks Singaporeans will be so outraged and "alarmed" that the "public good" will be harmed.

Here is some graffiti in Sao Paolo, Brazil (taken with implicit permission from Wikipedia and attributed to Lukaaz - Marcelo. Link:

Frankly, I think this graffiti actually beautified this wall. From my experience in my part of the US, graffiti is extremely uncommon (ie. they are not all over the place). They can be easily found, however, but are quite unlike their counterparts in the well-known parts of New York. Here, they tend to be simple and crude (more like the ones on the SingPost mailbox and nowhere close to the ones on that Sao Paolo wall). For the most part, they are not acts of vandalism. None of the graffiti here were crude or attempted to incite violence or hatred. None of the graffiti hampered the functionality or effectiveness of the objects on which they were painted. Private property tended to be respected (nobody's car, fence or doors were painted on). The graffiti, while not beautiful, also tended not to be garish and unsightly. All this in the "land of the free" where Singaporean authorities have warned Singaporeans about for decades about "too much freedom".


Shiok Shiok said...

Singaporean just cannot take jokes! and police are a fool!

Shiok Shiok said...

Singaporean just cannot take jokes! and police are a fool!

Chee Wai Lee said...

Heh, looks like spammers are showing up on my blog. Hence the deletion of message #3.

From now on, posts will require moderation. Am just trying to eliminate nuisance posts that are distracting rather than censor anyone (the last one was a long series of links to websites), so please continue to feel free to comment.