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Singapore vows to protect name of founder PM Lee Kuan Yew

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Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore: The Singapore government today said it will use the law to protect the name and image of the country’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew from commercial use and exploitation. Ther government intended moves comes after a popular bakery chain Breadtalk sold a line of buns called “Lee bu kai ni,” loosely translated as “can’t bear to leave you,” playing on Lee’s surname in Mandarin. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, said the move was in response to concerns from the public that companies or individuals are trying to profit off Lee’s name and image.

The government shares this concern, he added. The 91-year old Lee, who died in March this year led Singapore government till 1990 and thereafter in various senior positions in the cabinet. He is credited for developing the former British colony into a financial prosperous global city state. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a community event, Wong said that the Government is in the early stages of studying how to protect Lee’s name and image. It intends either to expand the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (SAFNA), which regulates the use of these national symbols, to cover Lee’s name and image, or to write a new law. SAFNA does not currently cover names. Wong said that his officials are looking to the example of other countries like New Zealand and Australia, where there are legal provisions over the misuse of names. The list of names to be protected is then separately gazetted, allowing new ones to be added on in the future. Asked for examples of commercial misuse of Lee’s name and image, Wong cited “the company that tried to do the buns,” as well as individuals and companies printing t-shirts or creating figurines that could be sold. However, Wong said that the use of Lee’s image in the design of the widely-used black ribbon of mourning, or in portraits that were sold for charity recently, were examples of what the government was not opposed to.

“I think there is a very clear distinction between somebody who does it for charitable reasons, somebody who does it to pay tribute without making profit, and an individual or company who is specifically doing it for profit or commercial gain,” The Straits Times quoted the Minister as saying. “We are not saying it’s banned or not allowed, it’s just a restriction,” emphasised Wong. “Not a blanket disapproval, but approval is required,” he added, making clear that the Government is still studying the best way to move forward on the issue.