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Free Sticker Lady

It seems Samantha Lo (SKL0), the lady who is believed to be behind the stickers found on road crossings (“Press Once Can Already”, “Press Until Shiok”, “Press Once Can Already”, “Anyhow Paste Kenna Fine”), road-crossing and other signs, and private vehicles and buildings, and also responsible for spray-painted phrases on roads and buildings (“My Grandfather Road” [sic], “My Grandfather Building” [sic]), has been arrested and charged with vandalism.

Press Until Shiok sticker, SKL0

Many have been up in arms, accusing the government of oppression, of sentencing the arts to death, bemoaning the inability to be creative in this environment, signing petitions to “free sticker lady”, claiming this is evidence of the empowered bullying the disempowered, threatening that since “they” (probably the government) have tried to crush “us”, “we” will return in greater numbers (to vandalise more public property)?

From a brief glance at things, this attempt to politicise the whole matter (people vs government, Sticker Lady = human rights activist) seems to be the wrong end of the stick altogether. Not sure if i have all the facts but:

  1. Law-enforcers (police) does not equal government does not equal PAP does not equal oppressive dictatorship.
  2. This is the due process of law, not the arbitrary decision of some mysterious nebulous power. The Vandalism Act is clearly written and defines what “vandalism” is.
  3. This isn’t an oppressive law – an anti-vandalism law protects your right not to have your front door or brand new car spray-painted. Ask any person whose property has been spray-painted or defaced – the violation of their property makes them feel much less safe. This law also prevents signs from being obscured so that they can serve their purpose to inform road-users what to do or warn them what to look out for.
  4. Laws are meant to prescribe the boundaries of individual freedom and communal welfare. A union of Ah Longs may protest that they have every right to demand the money owed to them and use creative means to encourage their clients to pay up.
  5. This lady did what she did in full knowledge that it was against the law. Micheal P. Fay, who sprayed paint on cars and stole street signs, was sentenced to four months in jail, a fine of S$3,500, and six strokes of the cane, was less culpable in that sense.
  6. (Have always been fond of Banksy and certainly these stickers are humorous. The UK too has a law against vandalism that includes the prohibition of painting of graffiti (surely the rioting creatives would think them more enlightened that us stodgy Singaporeans!). It’s just that Banksy has never been caught. Just sayin’.)
  7. “Public property” is still someone’s property. The Land Transport Authority or some other body, using public money, paid money to pave the road or set up traffic lights, for the benefit of all.
  8. “What i do is art” has never been a defence for defacing property. Otherwise, the person who spray-painted your BMW would be able to claim the same, and even ask for payment for making your car an art piece.
  9. Treating her as some sort of figure to rally around makes a mockery of those who fight real corruption and injustice around the world. #firstworldproblems

If anything, there should be debate about the balance between individual freedom of expression and collective welfare, not just self-pitying accusations of victimisation. And everyone has to bear in mind that living in a community requires compromise and looking out for the welfare of others, not just demanding that people give in to what you claim are your own rights.

If the Vandalism Act is a sledgehammer approach, well, who is to decide what is “street art” is – the police who have to enforce the law? The Attorney-General’s Office before they decide to prosecute? The courts? A vote by the general public? How much resources would all this take?

If parenting is no easy job (which parent will say to his son,”If you draw on the furniture, I will cane you.” and to his daughter,”Sure, draw on the furniture, I don’t want to stifle your creativity!”?), can’t imagine how much more difficult the government of a people would be. This has been a problem since before the ancient Romans wrote treatises on the matter. And as all this is playing out, we Christians have more urgent and important things to get on with. So Paul in his letter to Timothy urges:

that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

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  1. shiyingl
    September 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for writing this, this was such a good post. The truth is… there are consequences involved and the system would be a broken system if we just let people get away with things for the sake of art!

    Just curious, what do you do for a living?

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