Music fest axed over drug concerns

The track record of drug-related activities associated with past Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) events, and the failure of organisers to assure the authorities they could implement adequate measures to prevent such activities, led to the ban of FMFA 2015.

Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, replying to a question from Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng on the cancellation of the festival planned for Singapore earlier this year, said police had serious concerns about potential drug abuse at the event. He also reiterated Singapore's zero-tolerance approach to drugs.

The police and Central Narcotics Bureau engaged the event's organisers on several occasions to assess their security plan for the event, but they were unable to assure the authorities that they could put in place adequate measures to prevent drug-related activities at the event, he added.

"Considering the repeated drug-related incidents, including deaths and serious illness, that had occurred at the FMFA and FMF (Future Music Festival) events in Kuala Lumpur and Australia respectively, it would have been irresponsible to allow it to be held in Singapore without adequate safeguards and assurances," said Mr Masagos.

"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."

The impact of the event's cancellation was made greater because its organisers had gone ahead and advertised and marketed it before approval was obtained.

FMFA, launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 and staged there in 2013 and last year, is a spin-off from FMF, established in 2006 in Australia.

More than 100 drug-related arrests were made at FMF 2013 in Sydney, and the number of cases doubled at the event in Brisbane last year, Mr Masagos noted.

Closer to home, the FMFA event held in March last year in Kuala Lumpur 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 the people hospitalised were Singaporeans.

Most recently, 177 concertgoers from the Sydney FMF 2015 in February are facing charges for allegedly possessing or supplying drugs at the event. This was followed by more than 50 drug-related arrests at the Melbourne leg of the event.

"Singapore has managed to keep drug abuse under control precisely because we have taken a firm stance - zero tolerance 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," he said.

"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."

Many such events are held in Singapore, which do not present such serious drug-related concerns, added Mr Masagos.

The same week FMFA 2015 was to be held, a sold-out concert at the Sports Hub attracted an audience of 30,000, he said.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.