BY JOY FANG
IT WAS a publicity stunt gone wrong.
It turned out that blatant acts of vandalism of post boxes over the New Year weekend, which had angered several onlookers, were not carried out by criminals.
my paper understands that the "rampage" had actually been a publicity stunt by Singapore Post, to reach out to youths here in conjunction with the Youth Olympic Games to be held from Aug 14 to 26 this year.
Onlookers first noticed a masked man spray-painting mailboxes around the island on New Year's Day.
Riled netizens then flooded streaming site YouTube and Singapore Press Holdings' citizen-journalism website, Stomp, with photos and videos of the "vandal" - who wore a white long-sleeved shirt, black pants, gloves and a black hat - openly defacing the post boxes.
He was seen spray-painting phrases such as "boomz", "inkman", "break out" and "live life" all over the mailboxes.
Police were called in to investigate.
Mr Leong Weng Luk told Stomp that he spotted police officers talking to members of the public near a vandalised mailbox at Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
Now Singaporeans are up in arms over news that the spate of cases was a publicity stunt.
Zomg wrote to Stomp: "Vandalism or graffiti is an anti-social act in many countries...How can a national institution like SingPost associate itself with an unlawful act that is punishable by caning here in Singapore?"
Another Stomp contributor, SmarterThanYou, commented that the stunt was a waste of precious public resources, and a tasteless publicity gimmick.
Mrs Judy Yeo, 46, a lawyer and a mother of three children all aged below 20, disapproved of the "stupid" campaign."I don't see the stunt as having any relation to the Youth Olympics. It doesn't make sense. And it doesn't give out any message except that it is doing something wrong," she said.
Student Nur Sherillin, 19, was worried that youngsters might get the wrong message from the stunt.
"Youths, especially those who are 14 to 15 years old, might look at it differently. They might be influenced in the wrong way and think that if SingPost can do it, they can do it too. They may pick up a marker and start drawing on bus stops and billboards," she said.
Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said: "I personally feel that it is a bit outrageous, and it could work against them instead of for them.
"There are certain people in the public who might take offence and react badly to it, and the whole thing is all wasted energy and wasted time."
Such methods of gaining attention and publicity might influence youths to experiment and try it out themselves, she
"Right now I see it as teaching youths a bad example of how to get publicity," she said. Yesterday, when my paper
contacted SingPost for its comments on the publicity stunt, it declined to respond.
It said that it would address the issue at a press conference that will be held this afternoon at Killiney Road Post Office.
In its media invite, it said that SingPost "will be announcing its youth-themed campaign centering around the Youth
"In conjunction with this, SingPost will also address the issue of a mysterious masked man who has appeared from out of the blue to leave his handiwork on six post boxes scattered throughout the island," it said in the invite.
In an earlier report in The New Paper yesterday, a Sing-Post spokesman said that six mailboxes in six different locations were vandalised between New Year's Day and Monday.
They included post boxes in Holland Village, Bukit Batok MRT station, Ang Mo Kio MRT station and Orchard Road.
The spokesman had added then that SingPost has "lodged police reports and we are also investigating the incidents".
The police said yesterday that it will be taking the matter up with SingPost as this whole episode has caused unnecessary public alarm and wasted valuable resources.
They noted that the organiser did send an e-mail query to one of their police units about the need for a police permit for a possible advertising event, but it did not provide them with the "full picture and details of the publicity stunt".
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