Possible Explanation: Singapore Mint ‘temporarily suspends’ launch of Lee Kuan Yew medallion range

Orders for medallions engraved with the face of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, as well as busts in his likeness, were stopped hours after their launch on Monday (March 2).

The Singapore Mint said in a statement it had launched the medallions and busts as a part of the Singapore Salute collection to mark the fifth anniversary of Mr Lee’s death on March 23, 2015,

The first issue of the Singapore Salute collection, Founding of Singapore – Sir Stamford Raffles commemorative medallions range, was introduced in 2019, in commemoration of the Singapore Bicentennial. It seeks to remind Singaporeans to be resilient and indomitable to concur challenges and adversity in unity.

In this latest collection, the 1/2 oz 999.9 fine gold and 1 oz 999 fine silver oval-shaped medallions are engraved with the portrait of the late prime minister. The copper and nickel-plated zinc medallions also have sampans and Singapore’s skyline on the reverse side, representing the country’s development from humble beginnings.

The web page showcasing the medallions and made-to-order copper busts, priced between $10 and $1,888, now bears a notice saying “We have temporarily suspended this program until further notice”.

So what happened? What was wrong with the launch? And was it a boo-boo?

We found out that using the image of the late LKY is actually under the purview of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY)

https://www.mccy.gov.sg/sector/initiatives/national-identity-and-symbols

They have drawn up a set of guidelines to encourage expressions of national pride and identity and the appropriate use of Mr Lee’s name and image:

  • The name or image or likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew may be used for purposes of identifying with the nation, including on works of art or publications or items for charitable purposes, in accordance with law.
  • The name or image or likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew should be accorded dignity and respect.
  • The name or image or likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew should not be used for commercial exploitation or be assumed or taken to indicate any kind of official endorsement of products or services.

The third point could shed some light as to why the launch of the medallions by Singapore Mint was stopped.

We think that the medallions could have likely breached this guideline and deemed as commercial exploitation. This refers to the use of Mr Lee’s name or image in mass merchandise for sale. Examples include medals or coins; clothing; household linen or similar articles; furnishing material; paper or any other material that may be used for wrapping or packaging purposes; and adhesive tape.

So there you have it. We don’t see any other reasons why the launch will be abruptly stopped.

No one should be above the law, not even the late LKY face.

What do you think?

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