‘Why call the police over everything?’

Belmont Lay
The Flipside

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society in his weekly musings.  To be taken with a pinch of salt and with parental permission advised.  In this post, he talks about the furore over the Escape Chapel Party.

Barely a month ago, the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCSS) came out publicly to slam two articles published in the March edition of FHM Singapore.

The articles were deemed to have made fun of Christianity and the result was that the magazine for testosterone-laden men (and some women) was pulled from the shelves island-wide and the Media Development Authority got wind of the case.

This week, the Catholic community here took it upon themselves to denounce the Escape Chapel Party that was supposed to take place at Chijmes over the Easter weekend and that had been promoted using girls in nuns clothing modified to look provocative.

Naturally, police reports were made. The Ministry of Home Affairs was notified. Investigations are underway.

However, there are at least a few viewpoints that need some airing.

Why call the police?

First and foremost, I can never understand why people feel like they have to resort to calling the police, especially when no crime has been committed.

If religious people are unhappy with secular event organisers, they should sort it out among themselves privately like adults.

Such matters involving taste and values lie completely outside the purview of the men in blue or any state official, for that matter.

Look, I'm not even trying to argue from an academic position at all.

I've spoken to friends who work full-time in the police force, and they are baffled as well.

For them to suddenly become an arbiter, naturally puts them in a tight, unwanted spot. How should they rule without receiving public backlash? From where should they derive their authority to be a judge of religious matters? They are the police, for goodness' sakes!

The rationale has always been that the police is notified of a problem and they show up to keep the peace and intervene to maintain law and order by arresting culprits and perpetrators of crime.

But that is conditional on the fact that there actually exists a crime, or a potential threat of one, that is worth reporting.

This means that you call the police only when someone has broken into your house, or if your car gets stolen, someone punches your face or threatens you in some manner.

Any other attempt to get the police involved otherwise, is a waste of taxpayers' money and an unnecessary strain on resources.

Unwanted publicity

And then there is the paradox of denouncing anything publicly.

You will inevitably call more attention to the very offending thing by virtue of denouncing it for all and sundry to witness.

The offending FHM articles would have come and gone without anyone realising it if no attention was brought to it in the first place.

They are just irreverent, tongue-in-cheek articles that shouldn't even have been taken seriously.

Now, if you Google it, erm I mean, Yahoo! it, you would find those offending articles easily.

And what could have been a senseless night of partying, like any other night on a Saturday, has turned into a publicity bonanza for Chijmes and upped the searches for "Escape Chapel Party nuns pics", and got even more people than originally intended hot and bothered for non-religious reasons.

Leave the police alone

As a religious person, let's just assume you're guaranteed the right to feel offended, although I'm pretty sure not everyone will agree with this.

So, since we've that out of the way, what needs changing is just the matter of dealing with things in the future.

Next time, try to leave the authorities out of things.

Tell the ministry to back off.

Especially the police, who should be better off spending their time and precious resources solving real crimes.

Let a private matter between citizens be just that -- a private matter.

Don't give up the turf for private negotiations so easily and allow the authorities to step in. It sets an unhealthy precedent.

If Singaporeans are indeed mature enough to wear grown-up pants, fill those big shoes of responsibility and wean ourselves off the milk of our nanny state, then let us all demonstrate it.

I mean, GE 2011 was like our war cry for progress, right? That was our awakening and we've broken some new ground, no?

No crime to report? Great. Put that phone down, and walk away from it.

Belmont Lay is one of the editors of New Nation. He has only reported a crime once in his life, when he was 15 years old and mugged by a group of misfits.