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PA says use of woman's wedding photo for Hari Raya decor not racist; cancels meeting with her

SINGAPORE — The People’s Association (PA) has rejected accusations that an incident where a woman’s wedding photo was used for a Hari Raya Puasa occasion without her permission was “racist”.

PA says use of woman's wedding photo for Hari Raya decor not racist; cancels meeting with her

A woman said that her wedding photograph was used without her permission as a standee for Hari Raya Puasa decorations (pictured) in Tiong Bahru housing estate in May 2021.

  • PA rejects Ms Sarah Bagharib’s insinuation that its employees and volunteers might be "blind to racism"
  • It said it is "not right to raise the allegation of racism, without basis, to stoke emotions and sentiments"
  • PA is also pulling out of a planned meeting with Ms Sarah

 

SINGAPORE — The People’s Association (PA) has rejected accusations that an incident where a woman’s wedding photo was used for a Hari Raya Puasa occasion without her permission was “racist”.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Monday (June 14), PA also said that it saw “no point” in proceeding with a meeting it had planned with the woman, Ms Sarah Bagharib, because she wanted to use the meeting to share views of “persons unrelated to the incident”.

Ms Sarah had taken to Instagram on May 28 to voice her displeasure after finding out that PA had used her wedding photograph as a standee for Hari Raya decorations at the Tiong Bahru Orchid public housing estate, without her permission.

PA issued an apology the next day. It said that Radin Mas Constituency Office had engaged a vendor, Warabi Enterprise (Art Studio), to design and put up Hari Raya decorations, adding that the vendor came up with the concept and design for the decorations.

PA on Monday said that it had offered to meet Ms Sarah and her husband to apologise to them in person and to clarify its position, elaborate on the steps it had taken to prevent such incidents from recurring, and to hear her suggestions of how the organisation can improve.

However, Ms Sarah has made claims that this incident perpetuated the “racist culture” and has characterised the incident as “racist”, PA said.

The organisation also noted that Ms Sarah has done an Instagram Live interview with Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, from Nanyang Technological University’s Public Policy and Global Affairs programme, on June 7.

In the interview, she “insinuated that our staff and volunteers did not find anything wrong with the standee as they might be ‘blind to racism’”, PA said.

“These are accusations we reject,” PA said. “While the error was culturally insensitive, it was certainly not racist. It is not right to raise the allegation of racism, without basis, to stoke emotions and sentiments.”

PA added that Ms Sarah had also shared in her recent public posts that she would be meeting the organisation, and made a public call for anyone to share any messages or suggestions they might have for PA, which she will help to relay to them.

“We find this odd. We do not see why our meeting should be appropriated as a platform for her to funnel the views and comments of persons unrelated to the incident,” PA said.

“All these lead us to believe her purpose in agreeing to meet us has gone far beyond the Radin Mas incident. We therefore see no point in proceeding with the meeting.”

PA said that in an email correspondence with Ms Sarah on June 1, she had charged that the organisation had been “hasty in sharing the name of the vendor” in order to “distance and deflect blame” from itself.

“This is untrue. The vendor had identified himself directly to Ms Sarah on 28 May and apologised. This was before PA issued our statement on 29 May,” it said.

The organisation said the Radin Mas incident showed that it can fall short.

It is thus stepping up efforts to guide and advise its staff members on cultural matters, and to enhance employee and volunteers’ understanding and appreciation of the different cultures.

“Singaporeans becoming ‘one people’ is a work in progress — and so is the PA,” it said.

TODAY has reached out to Ms Sarah for comment.

Related topics

Sarah Bagharib wedding photo People's Association Hari Raya Puasa Tiong Bahru racism

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