It was faster to persuade an Indian composer into withdrawing his claim over a patriotic Singaporean anthem than taking him to court, a top culture ministry official said today.
Weighing in on the cross-border brouhaha over the misappropriated song Count on Me, Singapore, Minister Edwin Tong said in parliament that legal proceedings would have taken much longer than it did for the ministry to cajole the musician, Joseph Mendonza, into withdrawing assertions he was the original composer of the song made for a National Day in the 1980s.
“[I]n this case, it was far more efficient, quicker and more effective for Mr Mendoza to be persuaded that his own position was untenable for his claims to be withdrawn by himself and not in any way removing the Singapore government and for all Singaporeans interests in the songs to be preserved,” Tong said, referring to the composer by his stage name, Joey Mendoza.
“That I believe in this context, is a far more efficient outcome that was achieved in the matter of several days as opposed to being caught up in protracted legal action that would potentially take a fairly long period of time,” Tong added.
The online squabble over the song’s provenance erupted last month after Singaporeans discovered a video of a teacher and students in India singing a song identical to Count On Me Singapore, except for the words “India” or “Mother India” replacing “Singapore.” It was titled We Can Achieve, a song Mendonza quickly retorted that he had written at an orphanage in Mumbai – three years earlier than Singapore’s version.
Singapore’s Culture, Community, and Youth Ministry, which owns the rights to the Singapore song, had initially said that they were investigating the matter for potential copyright infringement before taking back their words when the Indian media company which had paid to license the Indian version from Mendonza, agreed to remove it from their platform. But Mendonza continued to defend his alleged ownership of the track, sparking a beef with Count On Me Singapore’s credited composer, Hugh Harrison.
The dispute ended soon after the ministry challenged Mendonza to substantiate his claim. Mendonza had no physical evidence to do so, but insisted there were hundreds of orphans who could back up his claim.
“In response to our request for proof of his claims to substantiate his position, Mr Mendoza then changed his position, he subsequently withdrew his claims. He had admitted that he had no evidence to support his claims,” Tong said.
The minister delivered his statement in response to questions raised by non-constituency MP Leong Mun Wai on why the government did not “press the issue further.”
“At the same time, we should not take umbrage at every such use and resort to legal remedies each time, a careful judgment is made in each case as to whether and what action needs to be taken,” Tong said.
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