MARUAH's event, go where?

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Following human rights organisation MARUAH’s forum on migrant workers on Monday, the Marketing Institute of Singapore (MIS) has issued a press statement claiming they were unaware of the nature of the forum and would have declined the booking.

We were merely a venue provider,” Honorary Secretary Roger Wang said. “We would like to further clarify that MARUAH booked our training room without stating the exact nature of the forum to us.”

MIS had informed MARUAH that political and religious activities were not allowed on the premises. However, the organisation viewed the forum as a “socio-political, socio-economic and social issue”.

Ms Braema Mathi, President of MARUAH, called the statement “reactive”, and wondered why MIS would have rejected her application. “It’s impossible to understand. They know we are a human rights organisation.”

Ms Mathi added that the booking forms only asked what kind of event it was, which MARUAH responded with “public forum”. On the day of the event, MIS’ staff also provided technical support and helped set up the equipment needed for the presentations. 

They allowed us to hold our Nelson Mandela event and were fine with it,” she said, referring to the event MARUAH held in July to commemorate Mandela’s birthday. “Is [the forum] problematic? What is the big problem discussing foreign workers? I don’t know.”

She said commercial venues, and MIS’ Executive Council in particular, needed to clearly define which groups and activities they deemed were acceptable.

Ms Mathi also highlighted the implications of this statement, saying this will affect the organisation’s future venue bookings, and those of others. “Many CSOs (civil society organisations) expressed interest in booking MIS’ rooms because of the location.” If landowners “keep pushing”, she asked, “then where can CSOs find space?”

She wondered what motivated MIS to issue the statement in the first place. If they had concerns over the event, she said MIS could have approached the Registrar of Societies for clarifications. Instead, MIS simply released its statement to the media.

As of press time, MIS has not responded to enquiries.

Update: On 30 December, MIS issued a response.  “MIS is a membership organisation. The statement has been issued in the best interest of its members. We have no further comments on the matter.”