|'Hunks in trunks'
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By Lim Say Heng
WE DID not intend to offend anyone and we are sorry if we did.
That was what the designers of the swimming trunk worn by the Singapore men's water polo team said yesterday.
"There is no doubting the loyalty of the Singapore players," said team manager Samuel Wong, one of the four designers of the swimming trunk that has raised eyebrows.
The other three were players Kelvin Ong, Lin Diyan and Paul Tan.
Wong added: "We did not even have the slightest of intentions to do anything funny on our trunks to insult Singapore.
"We have always been focused on doing Singapore proud and bringing glory to the country at the highest level."
Lin said: "If we have offended anyone in any way, I offer my sincerest apologies.
"But we are all here to do Singapore proud and we meant no offence to anyone at all."
The crescent moon and five stars - symbols of the national flag - adorn the front of the controversial attire, with the word "Singapore" printed in white at the back.
According to the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act, "no person shall use or apply the Flag or any image thereof as or as part of any costume or attire except in such circumstances as may be approved by the Minister, being circumstances wherein there is no disrespect for the Flag".
The only period when the permission of the Information, Communications and the Arts Minister is not needed is between July 1 and Sept 30 every year.
Anyone found guilty of misusing the flag can be fined up to a maximum of $1,000.
Singapore Swimming Association's vice-president (water polo) Ivan Tan said: "Initially the position of the crescent and stars were more towards the side in front.
"But during production we found out that the stars could not really be seen properly, so we shifted it.
As for the need to seek approval for the usage of the symbols of the national flag, Tan admitted that there was an "oversight" on the association's part.
"We were ignorant about the need to get approval first."
He also said that "at least 80 per cent" of the countries around the world display national symbols on their trunks.
For example, Hong Kong - beaten 14-6 by Singapore in yesterday's 5th-8th placing match at the Tianhe Natatorium - displays the bauhinia flower on both the front and back of their competition trunks.
The same bauhinia design also appears on the Hong Kong flag.
Japan, who beat Singapore 25-3 a day earlier, have their national flag in its entirety at the back of their trunks.
The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (Mica) released a statement yesterday on this issue.
Mica's director of resilience and marketing division Carol Tan said: "Unfortunately, the team did not seek our advice on the use of the crescent moon and stars when they designed their swim trunks.
"We would have told them that their design is inappropriate as we want elements of the Flag to be treated with dignity.
"This is because many Singaporeans recognise these elements as representing the Singapore Flag.
"We have spoken with SSC (Singapore Sports Council) and was informed that the team is apologetic and has meant no disrespect."
Singapore will play Kuwait in the 5th/6th placing match this afternoon.
Under competition rules, the team cannot change trunks midway through the competition.
As such, Mica is not insisting that the team changes its trunks for the final game.
But the water polo boys know that this would be the last time that they use this particular design.
Said SSC deputy director (media relations) Jose Raymond: "We have informed Mica that the team will be reviewing the design of the trunks immediately after they return to Singapore following its final match against Kuwait."
In other words, said Tan: "We will not be using the trunks any more after this game."
This article was first published in The New Paper.