Zero tolerance to drugs means no-go for fest

Zero tolerance to drugs means no-go for fest
CONTROVERSIAL: The Future Music Festival held near Kuala Lumpur last year. Six Malaysians who were at the event died from suspected drug overdose.

The fate of Future Music Festival Asia has been in limbo this week.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that the dance music festival cannot go ahead as planned on March 13 and 14.

The event, slated as the biggest edition yet with over 50 acts, would have taken place for the first time in Singapore at Changi Exhibition Centre.

But the Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) confirmed yesterday that it has rejected the organiser's appeal received on Tuesday to stage the festival.

This comes after the police had rejected two separate public entertainment licence applications, on Jan 12 and Feb 16, for a permit to hold the festival.

In a statement around 8pm yesterday , an MHA spokesman said that "the Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore Pte Ltd to hold the Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) 2015 in Singapore".

It added that "the outcome was conveyed to Livescape Singapore" yesterday.

When contacted shortly after, Livescape Group chief executive Iqbal Ameer, 28, however, told The New Paper that he was unaware of the decision.

A Facebook post on the FMFA page at 9pm stated that the organisers "have yet to receive any official communication from the Ministry on this matter".

A spokesman later told TNP it would release a statement. But TNP did not receive it by press time at 1am.

Member of Parliament Edwin Tong, who had raised concerns during the MHA's Committee of Supply debate earlier yesterday that drugs were become more accessible to young abusers, mentioned public safety when TNP asked him about possible reasons the appeal was rejected.

"Given what happened last year, obviously the police have concerns about public safety. Once there is concern, it is at the police's discretion not to approve the permit applications," he told TNP last night.

Citing drug-tainted Future Music Festivals in KL last year and Sydney last month, Mr Tong, who is the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, added that because Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs, giving the green light to the festival would be too big a risk.

In KL, six Malaysians who were at the festival died from suspected drug overdose. Another 14 Malaysians and 15 foreigners were arrested on site.

DRUG OVERDOSE

Sixteen people were taken to hospital for suspected drug overdose. Nine people - six of whom were believed to be Singaporeans - were treated at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre after they collapsed.

In the Sydney case, Australian media reported that 177 people will face court after being caught possessing or supplying drugs. One person was taken to hospital for suspected substance influence.

Following last night's announcement that the appeal had been rejected, the question is - what now?

Concert promoters that TNP spoke to yesterday weighed in on possible back-up plans.

These include a refund and splitting the festival into smaller shows at various venues islandwide, the latter of which had also been suggested by Livescape Singapore.

A Live Nation Lushington spokesman said that the "best-case scenario is still a refund".

"When events don't happen as planned - for example, our Foo Fighters gig in 2012 was cancelled (due to frontman Dave Grohl's voice ailments) - promoters work with ticket providers to provide a refund," she said.

She added: "If another promoter takes over, the same permit application must still be submitted. If the festival is split across various venues, perhaps festival-goers can use the same ticket for access to all gigs."

The news of the rejection was met with disappointment by fans.

Malaysian executive Mohd Khir Jamaluddin, 28, said he had spent about RM4,000 (S$1,510) for flight and accommodation, on top of the $208 he paid for a two-day pass for the festival.

"I'm disappointed, but I saw this coming," he said.

ashikinr@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 07, 2015.
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