28 April 2006

Mr Wang is Highly Displeased

This time it is the Land Transport Authority that offends me. I sent them the following email this morning:

Dear Sir

I refer to the recent media reports about LTA requiring Crime Library Singapore to remove its "missing persons" posters at bus stops and pedestrian walkways.

As a member of the general public, I am writing to register my strong displeasure and disapproval with the way LTA is behaving. I urge LTA to stop obstructing the highly laudable efforts of kind-hearted and well-intentioned volunteers. They are only trying to help solve crimes and reunite families with their missing loved ones.

Even if you have no compassion, please exercise a little common sense and be more flexible with your rules. Why do you wish to inflict a PR disaster on yourself?

Click here if you also wish to give feedback to the LTA. I shall also be calling the LTA public hotline to give them a good scolding. Call this number 1800 - 2255 582 if you want to scold them too.

This ST article provides the background:

April 28, 2006
Remove missing persons' posters: LTA Crime Library not budging; LTA warns it could be fined
By Khushwant Singh

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) has ordered Crime Library Singapore to remove the thousands of missing persons' posters that its volunteers put up at bus stops and pedestrian walkways.

However, the Crime Library said it would not be taking the posters down. When contacted on Tuesday, the charity's founder, Mr Joseph Tan, 40, said: 'They are not advertisements but are notices seeking information on missing persons.

'We are performing a public service and it would be disheartening to get our volunteers to remove the notices they so painstakingly put up.'

He stressed that the volunteers often paid for printing costs out of their own pockets and that the notices have proved to be very effective. Since last December, the posters had helped locate about 110 of the 143 missing persons reported to the Crime Library.

In a letter to Mr Tan's organisation dated April 19, the LTA said it had found a Crime Library advertisement affixed to a bus stop column along Dunearn Road two days earlier.

LTA said: 'You are to refrain from displaying such advertisements on public streets, road structures and road-related facilities. Please also remove all other banners and posters that you may displayed without approval at other locations immediately.'

It warned the Crime Library that offenders could be fined up to $2,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine of up to $100 a day may be levied.

Mr Tan could not say how many posters have been put up but estimated that his 230 volunteers had pasted them at over 3,000 venues, including bus stops.

He set up Crime Library Singapore in 2002 as a free service to help with unsolved crimes and disappearances.

It was registered as a charity with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore last September. At the same time, it was accepted as a member of the National Council of Social Service.

Its website features 36 missing persons, including 14-year-old student Wong Yu Ting, who has not been seen since Feb 24.

The Straits Times talked to the girl's 43-year-old father, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong.

He said: 'The Crime Library is doing a good deed ... 'I would feel terrible if it got into trouble by helping people like me.'

I remember watching a TV programme about Joseph Tan. What made him start the Crime Library? Years ago, one of his loved ones (his brother?) was kidnapped in another country. Ransom negotiations with the kidnappers failed, and the brother was murdered. The body was never found. The kidnappers were never caught.

This traumatic incident led to Joseph founding Crime Library Singapore, a group which helps to solve unsolved crimes by publicising missing persons and asking the public to provide information if they have any. Last year, Joseph Tan also coordinated a massive island-wide search with his volunteers in an effort to help find the missing little girl Huang Na (murder victim of Took Leng How).

Look at LTA's very poor explanation of why they are doing what they are doing to Crime Library Singapore:

In reply to queries from The Straits Times, an LTA spokesman said that the indiscriminate display of advertisements mars the streetscape and causes damage to roadside railings, bus stops, pedestrian bridges and lamp posts.

She added: 'The illegal advertisements may also obstruct passersby or distract drivers and pose a safety hazard.'

Then take a look at this picture of what Crime Library is actually doing:

Those three little A4-sized posters - do they mar the streetscape? Damage roadside railings or bus stops? Destroy pedestrian bridges and lamp posts? Obstruct passersby? Distract drivers? Pose safety hazards?

Mr Wang applauds and celebrates Joseph's fighting spirit in standing up to the authorities. Strangely, Joseph's resistance reminds me of my previous post on how to deal with traditional authorities if you need to do great things.

As for LTA - Mr Wang spits on LTA. So should the parents of all the missing children whom Crime Library is working hard every day to find.


Anonymous said...

Good work, Mr Wang. Keep on fighting the good fight.

Those stupid LTA folks - they're probably soooooo concerned about wanting their bus-stops to look nice & neat. But if those posters can help just one family to find a missing loved one .... well, it's obvious what is the more important consideration here.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is my email to them.

I refer to the latest reports with regards to LTA ordering the Crime Library Singapore to remove their notices and posters of missing persons from bus stops and pedestrians walkways.

I find the attitude and handling of this issue highly unsatisfactory. The reasons given by LTA for removing the posters are superfluous and unacceptable, the notices are concentrated on where there is the highest level of human traffic. I do not see why would drivers of motorised vehicles be possibly affected especially when the notices are not particularly large and not obstructing any views of the drivers.

I have seen for myself the Crime Library's posters and notices, I find it non offensive and it is actually heart warming to see such volunteer efforts by my fellow Singaporeans. What LTA is doing may be in line with your policy with regards to notices on walkways and bus stops however some exceptions can be made. And if the political parties are allowed to put up large size placards and posters of their candidates on lampposts located in busy junctions with high levels of traffic, would not this be violating LTA's logic in that such posters would distract drivers on the roads? Why should the political parties be exempted from this logic if road safety is of paramount importance?

Anonymous said...

GOOD ON YA, MR WANG! I was actually going to pen an email to the forum too. Stupid PAY AND PAY government!

Anonymous said...

You see from the LTA's reply that it mentions the word 'advertisements'. But of coz the Crime Library is not paying LTA for such advertisement spaces, in fact Crime Library's effort to do good is depriving LTA a source of revenue! NOW WE KNOW!!!

Dr Oz bloke said...

Wait till one of the LTA bigwigs has his child missing and then the Crime Library says they cannot put up posters cos of the LTA!

It's so ridiculous to suggest that the posters obstruct pedestrians and distract traffic!

I mean I'm sure people will put up with a little inconvenience. We must not forget that these are not advertisements put up by some company selling the latest water purifying machine or something.

LTA have some sense lah!

dopcombo said...

My guess would actually be that Crime Library might have hired volunteers who weren't too smart in putting up the posters and some of the posters started getting put up over advertisements and other "paid" notices.

Then the people who paid for that eyeball space are obviously unhappy about the situation and notified LTA according to their contract.

LTA might have tried to close one eye in the beginning, but has now been forced to react according to the law, as expected by the paying clients. And its reaction is typical of what they call "when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

I think the best way forward is for them to work out some sort of agreement between Crime Library, and the paying customers.

Anonymous said...

It's ever so inconsiderate for Crime Library to display its posters in public spaces. Makes it look like Singapore is a crime or kidnapping haven or something...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm from Thailand and I was in Singapore for some time. I saw 2 of these posters at bus stop. The posters did not make me feel that your country is unsafe, actually they made me feel that your country is very serious about solving crimes. I felt that Singapore is very good in solving crimes, finding missing persons etc. The posters are a very good idea actually. Sorry to hear that the government does not approve.

Anonymous said...

very very bad public relations department LTA is doing. lack of sensitivity, no social picture, no overall feel for community.

not a good reply. and i wonder which moron used the word "advertisements". bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, well done, Mr Wang.

Glad to see the young and highly educated ones, sticking out their heads for good and just causes.

You can make a difference, unlike the 40s and above, esp. those not highly educated or rich and have no voice and unwanted by society.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I was driving along the road yesterday and was looking at the election posters and nearly got into an accident. Hmmm maybe LTA should remove all the election posters to prevent accidents.

Medusa aka expiringpoet said...

yup, its probably paranoia that made them do it, thinking that maybe it makes singapore seem like kidnappers heaven or something. They dont want to undermine the tourism board efforts at making singapore seem safe and cleannnnn.....

Anonymous said...

I think the initiative is excellent, but I think Crime Library's planning needs more work.

I don't like rubbishy administrative replies, from any organisation. Amazingly, we seem to get more crap replies from certain agencies.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to criticise, why don't you volunteer to help do their planning better? (referring to the post above).

bigsurf said...

i had a visceral reaction when i read this article today... firstly, it's quite sad that LTA's PR reply is so template. No choice, can't blame the civil servants. secondly, it is real bad publicity for Singapore because it really shows the lack of compassion for civil issues like this, especially when the first part of the article had mentioned that Crime Library was actually benefitting society. The fact that applying commercial standards blantantly on an obvious non-profit further adds to my perception that LTA's reply was a template reply. i belief LTA fears that Singapore's image will be marred if there are too many missing persons around, but the way they have reacted has and will cause even more damage. i do hope that they will show more sense and to find a middle ground. it doesn't help to raise an issue like this during election period, it really shows the glaringly missing education in human rights that we lack here.

Merv said...

Put missing persons notice? Cannot.

Put Big Big banners of your political party logo on the lampost? Can.

How nice to know that.

Anonymous said...

One way to do 'damage control' is for LTA to 'adopt' or sponsor Crime Library and give them space at bus-stops to put up their posters for free.

Now do you think they will do that?

Anonymous said...

I was driving past Potong Pasir and saw the horrible face of a lightning logo candidate on a poster. Shit, it nearly caused me an accident. LTA should remove the face of that candidate.

TheJourneySoFar said...

I sent this to LTA:

I am sad to heard that our LTA has replied to queries on why the Crime Library needs to remove their posters, with totally unreasonable replies like this:

"In reply to queries from The Straits Times, an LTA spokesman said that the indiscriminate display of advertisements mars the streetscape and causes damage to roadside railings, bus stops, pedestrian bridges and lamp posts.

She added: 'The illegal advertisements may also obstruct passersby or distract drivers and pose a safety hazard.'"

Has ANY LTA people actually looked at what was being posted? Firstly, those were NOT ADVERTISEMENTS, but posters for a missing person. Have any of your LTA staff actually took they time to study and understand the situation, instead of just sitting in your aircon office repeating brainless policies, ad nauseum?

Also nobody else other than your own LTA staff seems to think that an A4 sized poster could post safety hazard, distract drivers and obstruct passersby.

Please don't waste my tax dollars to feed paper pushers only in the LTA. If this is how LTA is, I know which government I DON'T WANT to be running policies for the public.

Anonymous said...

haha if indeed that was steve chia, is photography with domestic workers still a hobby? Don't think you mention about that!

Plse la, Mr Wang is doing something good about LTA and some weird decision not to allow notices from Crime Library. That is a good cause.

Anonymous said...

this is what you get what you give carte blanche to the gahmen - stiff necked, legalistic, high handed bureaucracy devoid of social conscience. Singaporeans only have themselves to blame.

Credit however, to ST for printing a story that's a major PR disaster for a gahmen body.

Anonymous said...

LTA stands for:

Let Them Anguish (in relation to the poor families with missing love ones)

Little Talent Anyway (that is why they are where they are. So much so you can't even get foreign talent into that place),

Lack The Authority (as I don't want to know or better still, to know)

I wonder sometimes what are civil servants?