How a few online complaints about a S’pore politician escalated & led to the vilification of her

Chain reaction.

Fasiha Nazren |
April 3, 2023, 10:39 am

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

We’ve all had moments where we go on a full-on rant on Instagram.

Most times, it’s just that — a moment to blow off some steam. But other times, it can blow up into something bigger.

Like, say, an apology from a senior minister of state?

That’s what happened when a couple of Instagram users expressed their disappointment at a politician for reportedly interrupting a music performance.

Screenshot from Instagram.

The context

On Mar. 25, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann was at the Esplanade as the guest of honour for the WWF Earth Hour Festival.

However, an Instagram user highlighted that she apparently:

  • Came late for the show
  • Distracted the audience as she was shaking hands and taking photos
  • Did not show respect to the performing artist by doing the above-mentioned

A photo also shows Sim Ann metres away from the stage where local singer Bernice Lee, also known as Benny’s, was performing.

The Instagram Story was widely circulated online, causing many to criticise Sim Ann as having “no manners”.

How did the performer feel?

Benny’s was performing as part of the Soul Jam event organised by Panik Records, an independent production house in Singapore.

Camera shutters could be heard going off just as the singer was performing a soft acoustic piece.

Benny’s had been “very affected” by the incident, Panik Records founder Ian Lee told The Straits Times (ST), the first media that broke the story. He added that she is “coming to terms” with what happened.

What actually happened, according to organisers

Since the incident has caused quite the hoo-ha, organisers WWF Singapore and Esplanade issued a joint statement to set things straight.

She was not late. In fact, she was early.

As reported by ST, the statement mentioned that Sim Ann wasn’t late.

She was actually invited to the event’s Switch Off ceremony at 8:15pm and arrived early.

Ushered to watch performance

Thus, the people from WWF Singapore and Esplanade then ushered her to the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre to catch part of the performance, which was still ongoing.

Didn’t intend to disrespect artistes

The statement further explained that when Sim Ann arrived, some members of the audience rose to greet her.

It also emphasised that there was “no intention” to disrespect the artistes, performers or audience.

“We regret any disruption that we may have inadvertently caused,” the organisers said.

Sim Ann explained to ST that she had followed the cue of the organisers on when to enter the event space and was greeting guests who were being introduced to her.

“Having seen the social media posts on the subject, I reached out to the artists involved to clarify the matter directly, and told them I was sorry that things turned out this way.”

She stressed: “It was certainly not my intent for the timing and manner of my entry to convey any disregard for the performers on stage and the audience.”

Had a conversation with performer and apologised

On Mar. 29, Panik Records also issued a statement to address the incident.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Panik Records (@pk.records)

The label expressed their appreciation for the “community’s rallying and support”.

It also added that it was not an issue of punctuality for them, but rather the “fundamental respect that is owed to an artist” during a performance.

According to the statement, Sim Ann had spoken with Benny’s and the label over the phone, apologising for what happened.

“Moving forward, we would like to encourage fellow Singaporeans to continue supporting your fellow artists and the many platforms that exist to continue pushing for opportunities and avenues for all artists to express themselves.”

However, Panik Records removed the statement sometime between the evening of Mar. 30 and afternoon of Mar. 31.

Top image from Instagram and Sim Ann’s Facebook page.

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