Published: 13 April 2015
Mr Baey Yam Keng: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs what are the conditions that the organiser of the cancelled Future Music Festival Asia 2015 could not meet in order to address the concerns of potential drug abuse at the event.
Oral reply to Parliamentary Question by Mr Masagos Zulikifli, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
1. The Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) is a spin-off from the Future Music Festival (FMF) that was established in 2006 in Australia. The FMFA was launched in 2012 in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, and was staged there in 2013 and 2014.
2. At the FMF 2013 held in Sydney, more than 100 drug-related arrests were made. The same event held in Brisbane in 2014 saw over 200 drug-related arrests made. The March 2014 FMFA in KL had to be cancelled on its last day after six people died and 14 were hospitalised due to drug abuse at the event. Two of those hospitalised were Singaporeans. This incident was widely reported in the media. Most recently, 177 concert-goers from the Sydney FMF 2015 in February are facing charges for possessing or supplying drugs at the event. Australian police seized 7,500 Ecstasy tablets believed to be bound for the Brisbane FMF 2015 in March. This was followed by over 50 drug-related arrests at the Melbourne leg of the event.
3. Given the track record of drug-related activities associated with past FMF and FMFA events, the Police had serious concerns with potential drug abuse at the proposed FMFA event to be held in Singapore. The Police and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) engaged the organisers on several occasions to assess their security plan for the event. However, the organisers were unable to assure the authorities that they could put in place adequate measures to prevent drug-related activities at the event. Considering the repeated drug-related incidents, including deaths and serious illness, that had occurred at the FMFA and FMF events in KL and Australia respectively, it would have been irresponsible to allow it to be held in Singapore without adequate safeguards and assurances. The event would also not have been consistent with our zero-tolerance stance towards drugs. Therefore, the Police decided to reject the application for this event to be held in Singapore. However, I note that the impact of the cancellation of the event by the organisers was made greater because they had gone ahead to advertise and market the event before they had obtained approval to hold it.
4. Singapore has managed to keep drug abuse under control precisely because we have taken a firm zero-tolerance stance towards drug abuse. This approach should extend to any event that is to be held in Singapore, particularly one that is associated with a worrying track record of drug abuse. We want a reputation for Singapore to be a place with music festivals where people can enjoy themselves in a safe and trouble-free manner. We welcome music events that can provide such an environment. There are many events held in Singapore, which do not present such serious drug-related concerns. In fact, in the same week that the FMFA 2015 was supposed to be held in Singapore, there was a sold-out concert at the Sports Hub which attracted an audience of 30,000. This was larger than the estimated daily attendance at the proposed FMFA 2015.
5. I note also that Australian media had reported on 2 April that the FMF group in Australia had announced that it will no longer be holding FMF events in future, citing financial viability as the reason. The media reports on the issue also mentioned the serious drug incidents that had repeatedly been associated with this event in Australia and Asia.