Wildlife Reserves S'pore apologises to President

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) has apologised to President Tony Tan for using his comments when announcing the decision to cancel its award-winning Halloween event.

Chief executive Isabella Loh said in a statement on Saturday, "I would like re-emphasise that (the) President had nothing to do with Wildlife Reserves Singapore decision to cancel Halloween Horrors.

"I would like to apologise for bringing in his comments from the Mid Autumn Festival 'Moon Night' celebrations into this issue," she was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

Reiterating that the decision was due to feedback and "not due to any religious beliefs", Loh added, "The decision to review and reset the calendar of events was discussed and decided even before Moon Night."

While previous media reports quoted sources saying she called the activity "devil worship" and online forums speculated that she cancelled the event because she was a Christian, Loh clarified to The Sunday Times she is a Buddhist.

She said when she took over from Fanny Lai in July, she already felt Hollaween Horrers did not fit in and there were not enough family activities.

After visiting the haunted house, which was part of the spook fest, she felt "uncomfortable with the idea because it was too scary".

While explaining to some members of the team why the event did not fit into a family theme, she said in an e-mail that it's "a lot of money spent on an infrastructure (Haunted House) of devil worship".

"That's the context of my remarks," she said, adding that she also alerted the team to controversies about the 31 October festival, where some U.S. schools even ban Halloween events.

Loh also issued a clarification on WRS' Facebook page on Saturday, repeating her apology to the Singapore Polytechnic students involved in the planning of the event.

Meanwhile Principal Private Secretary to the President Tan Eng Beng issued a statement on the president's Facebook page on Saturday evening.

"The president's comments were made in the context of a visit to the Zoo's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations," the statement said.

"Wildlife Reserves Singapore is an independent company. Its operations and programming decisions rest with its management and board without external intervention."

In last week's announcement, Loh said WRS agreed with comments made by Tan that "WRS' parks should have more family-bonding and wholesome activities".

Tan made the comments last Sunday at the Singapore Zoo while celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Halloween Horrors, an annual Night Safari event since 2006, was supposed to be held on weekends between 30 September and 30 October.