Yusof Ishak turned into God of Fortune? Prayer offerings store says they meant no disrespect

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook

It looks like the seventh lunar month is off to a less than auspicious start for one prayer offerings company.

Following backlash from netizens, Goldpaper.sg, an online store selling prayer offerings and supplies, told Lianhe Wanbao it has ceased the distribution of its controversial vouchers appearing to portray former Singapore president Yusof Ishak as the Chinese God of Wealth since yesterday (Aug 12).

The store's employees had reportedly been spotted handing out the vouchers at Waterway Point on Monday (Aug 10), dressed up as mythical figures including Chinese vampires and guards of the underworld Heibai Wuchang.

PHOTO: Lianhe Wanbao

The voucher, which contained a promotional code for use with the store's seventh lunar month packages, resembled a $10 bill, save for several key differences.

Instead of "Singapore", the store's vouchers featured the non-existent country "Xingapore".

Goldpaper.sg's logo was also printed where the lion head symbol would usually appear on a regular banknote.

But what had most netizens raising their eyebrows was the seemingly doctored portrait of Yusof Ishak.

The late president appeared to have been given a full beard, long, flowing sideburns and a traditional Chinese headdress reminiscent of that worn by the God of Fortune.

The online backlash came swiftly, with one Facebook user slamming the store and calling their actions "racially offensive".

"As a Malay person, I would like this to stop. I don't care [about] the context because you are vandalising the face of a Malay president, period. You are allowing the Chinese-washing of a Malay person. Period."

Another commenter said the voucher was "unacceptable and disrespectful on so many counts".

This is so racially offensive.

Posted by Zulkarnain Sadali on Monday, August 10, 2020

In response to the criticism, Goldpaper.sg said in a statement that they had no intention of defacing Singapore's currency, nor did they mean to disrespect any race or religion.

Denying accusations that they had altered the president's portrait, they claimed that they had used a picture resembling the God of Fortune on the voucher instead.

The promotional material was designed to resemble $10 notes in order to attract the attention of the younger generation and remind them that the seventh lunar month is coming soon, the store explained.

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Speaking to the Chinese evening daily, the owner of the store added, "Even though the design is very similar [to actual banknotes], we printed it ourselves, using a material that is completely different from real notes."

"Many young people nowadays are not familiar with the many prayer rituals. Therefore, we wanted to use this modified banknote to pique their interest."

The company was ordered to recall and cease the distribution of the vouchers as of Wednesday morning, the owner said, although he did not provide further details on the notice.

According to the Currency Act, those who wish to reproduce Singapore currency images for purposes other than education, factual reports, or to illustrate the function of machines designed to receive currency notes or coins are required to seek approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

They should also adhere to the conditions for reproduction — one of which states that the image of the president or any national symbol should not be distorted.

Additionally, reproduced banknotes should include the word "SPECIMEN" in black and bold lettering.

Those who contravene the law may face a fine of up to $2,000, up to three months' imprisonment, or both.

kimberlylim@asiaone.com