Government Looking At Legislation To Protect Name And Image Rights Of The Late Lee Kuan Yew

The Government is looking at introducing legislation to protect the name and image of the Republic’s founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, against commercial exploitation and misuse.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong revealed this while speaking to the media at the sidelines of the National Community Engagement Programme Dialogue on Saturday (May 23).

Mr Wong said the move comes as many members of the public have raised concerns over the misuse of Mr Lee’s name.

Mr Wong said: “I should make it very clear that the intent is not to restrict people from coming up with their own creative ways to pay their tribute to Mr Lee. Our intent is in line with public concerns.”

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death on March 23 triggered an outpouring of grief in Singapore. Some also came up with creative ways to pay tribute. However, it seems not all were well-received by the public.

Mr Wong said: “The first example that you can easily see was what happened with the company that tried to do the buns, right? So again at that time there was a lot of public reaction about how this was distasteful and it was commercially exploitative and it was probably bad and not the right thing to do.

“There have been concerns of people, also of potentially printing T-shirts, selling them with his name and images, and figurines that can be sold for profits or commercial gain.”

So the Culture, Community and Youth Ministry is looking at safeguards, even though there are already some similar laws in place.

The minister said there are already existing laws to regulate the use and display of national symbols, such as the Singapore flag and anthem. This comes under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act, which states how Singaporeans can use the symbols to identify with the nation.

The Act also seeks to ensure that national symbols are treated with dignity and respect. Mr Wong said one possibility is to expand the Act to include names, and his ministry is studying provisions in other countries.

Mr Wong said: “There are similar provisions in their Act which go beyond crest, and anthem and flag. Some of the other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, cover names as well, specific names which they think ought to be accorded the status of a national symbol and ought to be protected particularly against commercial exploitation.

“And so we are looking at these different examples. We have not decided whether we should have a separate law or whether we should expand the current SAFNA but we are looking at the possibilities now.

“In the other countries that we have seen, the provisions are there and then they would gazette the names in a separate gazette so that they can add on if and when the need arises, so they have a list of names which they protect but the provisions are the same, so we can do similarly.”

Mr Wong said the legislation will not restrict the public from coming up with creative expressions of tribute to Mr Lee.

He said: “There is a very clear distinction between somebody who does it for charitable reasons – somebody who does it to pay tribute without making a profit out of it – and an individual or company that’s doing this specifically for profit, for commercial gains. I think there is clear distinction and I think it is not difficult to distinguish between the two.”

Mr Wong said it is not a total ban, but a restriction where approval is required. “So there can be variations of it. We are still studying it, so there can be ways where you could put safeguards,” he added.

Mr Wong said the aim is to ensure Mr Lee’s name and image are used in appropriate ways.



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