Steph's Friend

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Controversial Pianist Melvyn Tan Cancels Concert

Today's papers (Sunday, 04 Dec 2005) stated that renowned pianist Mr Melvyn Tan has cancelled his Esplanade concert and will not judge a national piano and violin competition. Many Singaporeans were unsupportive of him as shown in their comments in the local forums and decided that he should face a harsher punishment. One of such punishments are the cancellation of the concert and the position of a judge in a national competition.

Mr Melvyn Tan went to Sussex to study in the Yehudi Menuhin School at the age of 12. After that he went to stay in England to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music instead of serving his National Service (NS) in Singapore in 1977. He renounced his Singaporean citizenship in 1978 and did not return to Singapore until April 2005 for fear of being charged.

So what were his punishments so far?
He was fined $3000,
lost a $30000 security bond which his parents had to pay when he went overseas to study,
lost his concert due to society's comments on him,
lost the chance of being a judge at a national competition and
fame and reputation in society as a pianist.

Is it still harsh or lenient? Previously the "thought" fine of $5000 (which was $3000 actually), was deemed to lenient for a defaulter who skipped what was known as the "rite that all males need to go through" - National Service.

Personally, I find that Mr Melvyn Tan has gone through a lot and that he has acted in a mature way, knowing his faults and withdrawing himself from the concert and competition. I guess, it's the withdrawal that made me sympathise with him. For a renowned pianist to do that, it really takes a lot of thought. In Singapore we would call it bo bin or no-face.

In his letter, he stated that he"was afforded no special treatment, nor were concessions given [to him] because of [his] profession". This was what many forumners assumed, that he had received special treatment due to his status. He came back to Singapore only because of two things. They are "[his] desire to contribute to the growth of the arts here, and [his] overwhelming need to see [his] parents, who are old and have missed [him]". It's true that he will be charged in court upon return but nevertheless he still returned. In the end he was charged with a fine of $3000.

So is the punishment still lenient? Personally, as a NSF (National Service Full-time) myself, I think that he has gone through a lot and society should show compassion on him and not criticise him anymore. I have been through field camps, live range, IPPT tests, SOC, BAC, BCCT, weekend duties...etc. I know that the 2 years (previously 2 1/2 years) of NS can't be bought with $3000 or even $33000. The tears, blood and sweat are all priceless, not to mention the time spent. However, I feel that society should be lenient and more forgiving to him as he's already 49 and will not be able to do NS in his current age. Going to DB (Detention Barracks) would be pointless as he had paid for his defaulting according to the court with a fine of $3000. Since he has already been punished by the law, we should just accept him and see him as one who has helped Singapore in the arts scene and not someone who has defaulted his NS.

(Previous article on Melvyn Tan)

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Blogger DK said...

I think he made the right move to defer his concert.

11:42 AM, December 04, 2005  
Blogger code22x said...

The fine of only S$3,000 is fault of our system and not his. I do not blame him and think that heavier punishment would not make any difference. It is simple patriotism, loyalty, nationalism, etc. For it was his CHOICE to give up the Citizenship while not facing obvious difficulty or situation. He could have easily continue to study, work, live and marry in UK while retaining his Singaporean Citizenship.
How can he expect any respect from Singaporeans? But this event made me proud as it confirms that Singapore has become a nation and home, instead of just trading port or colony.

Lastly, I took think that he made the right move to cancel his public appearance in Singapore, at least for the time being.

1:25 PM, December 04, 2005  
Blogger Steph said...

Hey, glad that the both of your agree with me. I think that he has gone through enough and that society should see him as someone who has helped Singapore in the art scence and not see him as one who skipped his NS.

I believe in second chances for everybody and he isn't an exception.

7:19 PM, December 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this blog was posted a LONG time ago. But I only just come across it. I am not Singaporean, although I have Singaporean friends. My humble opinion is that you can't have it both ways. You can't expect glory in the art world (I am thinking not only of musicians but dancers and painters etc.) and expect these artists to risk demaging their tools for their artistic endeavors - their hands, legs, eye sight etc. Missing 2 years of training in music or dance is not like missing 2 years in school. Your prime can be gone forever, and to reach the height that Melvyn has reached is not easy. You are at the top of 0.000001% of the best musicians. Do you think it is fair that you want to have Singaporean artists at this level but also want them to risk demaging their fingers? Hands? Legs? It is an unfair competition if you do want this. As top artists from other countries don't have to risk this, and Singaporean artists are competing with them at that level.

2:56 PM, May 29, 2008  

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