For a few years now, busking has been regulated in Singapore. It is not so much that Singapore is living up to its reputation of being a sterile and straightjacketed country where spontaneity and impromptu outbursts of creativity are frowned upon, but because at one point, there were so many buskers plying their `talents’ that one could not walk along the streets or underpasses without being inundated by tone-deaf performers blowing trumpets and strumming guitars and what not, singing out of tune; noises disguised as art. Most of them were in actual fact beggars. Thankfully, with the regulation on busking, we now have buskers who are actually good and pleasant to the ears.
And now we are seeing a new breed of buskers; the political kind.
Every government in the world, not only Singapore, has its fair share of detractors. There will always be groups of people who disagree with certain government policies. While some might just sit quietly and rue the situation, others will make sure that their voices are heard and will try to work within the system to have the policies reviewed and changed. Thus we have groups, associations, organisations, lobbyists and political parties being formed to ensure that their interests are being represented. And they will argue their cases and bicker among each other in situations where their interests clashed, to appeal not only to the government, but most importantly to win the hearts and minds of those who matter the most; the people.
In Singapore, contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of such groups. Pinkdot, AWARE, Nature Society, the various political parties, clan associations, the various religious organisations and many more. One thing they have in common is that they organised themselves into legitimate entities with their own objectives, constitutions, regulations and organise activities to showcase their interests and through petitions, appeals, working papers, recommendations et cetera, they will try to influence government policies and decisions. And they are open in what they do and subject themselves to audits and scrutiny.
And then we have people like Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui. They are not affiliated to any groups but identify themselves to a loose movement with the pretention to pressure the government to return the CPF. But increasingly, this movement has strayed from its original course and is becoming just a menagerie of anti-government cartoon characters whose sole purpose is to spew popular anti-government slogans to win the support and sympathy of those who are disenfranchised by government policies, and to profit from it. What is more disconcerting is that they are becoming bolder and more blatant in their attacks and if you heard what was uttered in their monthly protest at Hong Lim Park, it was bordering on slander and sedition.
Why are they so brazen? Because it is what their supporters and donors want them to do. For those who are, for one reason or another, disenchanted with the government, what Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui do is music to their ears. Just like street buskers, the better the performance, the more coins will be thrown their way. And it is not a coincidence that at each and every one of their protests, appeals will be made for donations and there will be someone who will carry a `donation’ sling bag for on-the-spot cash donation. If you replace that sling bag with an opened guitar-case that you’d see in front of a guitar-playing busker on the streets, you will see the connection. Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui are nothing but political buskers.
And there is practically nothing to stop their antics. So what if they are being charged in court? So what if they are being charged for slander? All they need to do is to ask for donations and any financial repercussions of their actions will go away, with some leftovers for their daily expenses perhaps.
But the most discomforting part is not that other people might see this as an easy way to make a living and follow suit, but that people with agendas; foreign powers might want to use this to support mischiefs against the country, to cause problems and hopefully to create chaos.
That is why political buskers must be regulated. At the very least, they must declare their source of donations, the purpose and the spending breakdown. In fact, we would go as far as to suggest that as long as they dabble in politics, that is, to exhort the government to be voted out, then they should be considered as a political entity/movement and should be governed as such.
There is a big difference between a social entity and a political one. Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui et al, through their antics, clearly belong to the latter.