Download A Singapore man is facing charges of incitement of violence due to comments he made on Facebook about the government’s handling of the Youth Olympic Games.
The 27-year-old urged other users of the social networking site to ‘burn’ the head of the Games committee.
There has been a lot of online criticism of Singapore’s handling of the Youth Games that saw low crowd numbers.
But the Government insists it was a resounding success with nearly 4,000 young athletes taking part.
And as Monica Kotwani reports they don’t want to hear anything else.
Abdul Malik is a 27-year-old project officer in a construction company.
He is also a member of the Facebook page ‘I hate the Youth Olympics Games’ Organising Committee’.
“A sizeable internet community is not happy with the way it was organised… the budget went over by quite a bit. We did tender for a much lower budget proposal in 2008 - 105 million and it rose to three times more. People are not happy with that because it is public money.”
The Games cost nearly 300 million US dollars.
On the Facebook site, Abdul called for ‘us to burn Vivian Balakrishnan’ who is the head of the organising committee and also the Sports Minister.
It was this word ‘burn’ that led to his arrest for inciting violence.
Malik says he meant the statement as a metaphor - to vote out the ruling party, of which Minister Vivian is a member.
“I used it to express anger at the way the management handles it. It is supposed to be figurative speech. The language is strong - vitriolic, but at the end of the day, when the whole paragraph is read, the idea comes across, and I don’t know how that was actually the basis of my arrest. Because I still maintain that I’m innocent and that I had no intention of doing any criminal acts, and no intention of physically abusing anybody.”
It was meant to be a celebration on an epic scale as the International Olympic Committee announced Singapore as the host of the first ever Summer Youth Olympic Games, beating Moscow’s bid.
Michael Palmer is a member of the Singapore parliament, and a member of the Organising Committee of the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
“We haven’t had a major sporting event in Singapore for a while and the YOG is a game that comes along once in a lifetime.”
Michael says that the budget did rise because this was the first Youth Olympics the world has seen.
“Unlike your Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics, there is a template. Countries know what the basic requirements are for hosting the Winter and Summer Olympics. I know the basic cost. I just have to add on the cost of inflation and what it’s going to be in eight years, twelve years time when my turn comes around. But the Youth Olympics, there is no template. Even the IOC wasn’t sure. So it was a sort of a feel your way along. It started off with IOC mandating that there will be no new venues, and no new stadiums built etc. But then when you get international federations, sporting associations coming down to assess the actual venues, they’ll then tell you: ‘oh no, we need this; we need that; or this pitch is not up to standard and this ground is not up to standard’.”
The Youth Olympic Games was also marred by reports of poor quality food and that 21 volunteers suffering from food poisoning.
Reports also surfaced of a canvas roof collapsing at a basketball venue and a reporter from China falling off scaffolding.
Online Critic Abudl Malik says it was not good enough.
“The YOG could have been better managed, and the crisis control was lacking. And it’s what gets me irked up. Even if we are not perfect these are things are preventable.”
Another problem was that despite the huge amount of tax-payers dollars going into it Singaporeans were not interested in watching the Games.
“At the Jalan Besar Stadium in central Singapore, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe’s boys are vying for the 5th spot in the football event of the Games. I’m not allowed any recording equipment inside the stadium, but even from the outside, the enthusiasm is clear. And once inside, you can’t but help cheer on these promising athletes. But as soon as half time arrives, I see a mass of teenagers in school uniform leaving the stadium. I am told the Ministry of Education has bought a large amount of tickets for students to attend. At the start of the second half, the atmosphere is more subdued. Spectators now only make up a quarter of the initial number.”
Alex Au is a prominent Singaporean blogger and social commentator.
“The government tries to manufacture enthusiasm. But let’s not discount the fact that there are people who are genuinely enthusiastic. The unfortunate thing is that they are not as numerous as they could be which is a shame because the athletes are really top of the class. They deserve all the support, encouragement and applause they can get. But unfortunately we are in this environment where people almost don’t want to show their enthusiasm lest they be seen as government stooges.”
But Michael from the Games organising committee insists most Singaporeans have shown an interest, and that the Games have been a success.
“For the older Singaporeans, the interest took a while to generate. Once the opening ceremony took off and the Games started, Singaporeans of all ages really suddenly said, hey this is really a world class event, and now the stadiums are packed. So I think it took a while, but they really came out in full force. I’ve been to most of the venues. The atmosphere is scintillating. And certainly not people sitting there because they’ve been made to sit there.”
As for Malik, his case is still ongoing, and it might be a while before he gets closure.
But he stands by his words.
“Emotionally, I’m pretty alright because I know my conscience is clear. There is a lot of support online, and some people have written in to the Ministry of Communication, Youth and Sports, demanding the reasons for this arrest. I had no intention of doing harm to anybody. Why they came after me, is still a question.”
1) incitement of violence : hasutan untuk melakukan kejahatan
2) resounding : bergema
3) food poisoning : keracunan makanan
4) scaffolding : perancah
5) genuinely : dengan sungguh-sungguh
6) closure : mengakhiri
7) intention : niat, maksud
8) public money : uang masyarakat
9) figurative speech : kiasan
10) prominent : terkemuka
1) Who recently faced charges of incitement of violence and where does he come from?
2) Why was he charged?
3) How many athletes competed in the Youth Olympic Games?
4) Which two countries were vying for the fifth position in soccer?
5) When did some Singaporean people become excited about the games?