Government prepared to sue over ‘Count on Me, Singapore’ saga if needed: Edwin Tong

Vernon Lee
·Senior Editor
·3-min read
SCREENSHOT: YouTube
SCREENSHOT: YouTube

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government was prepared to initiate legal proceedings to protect its position arising from its ownership of the song “Count on Me, Singapore”, said Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, on Monday (5 April).

Speaking in Parliament, Tong said that when addressing the use of copyright in Singapore’s national songs and symbols, the key consideration is to ensure that the country protects its ownership and interest in its national songs and symbols.

Tong was replying to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai, who asked about the actions that the government had taken to protect Singapore’s copyright in the case of Indian composer Joey Mendoza plagiarising “Count on Me, Singapore”.

The controversy arose after a video of "We Can Achieve" began causing a stir among local audiences, who pointed out its striking similarity to "Count On Me, Singapore". Described as "practically identical" by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), the main difference between the songs was the use of "India" instead of "Singapore" in the lyrics to "We Can Achieve".

Mendoza later claimed that he had written "We Can Achieve" in 1983, a claim MCCY said is "untenable" as "Count On Me, Singapore" was written by Canadian composer Hugh Harrison in 1986.

Tong said, “If his claim was right, it would be a direct affront to our own ownership and interest in the national song ‘Count on Me, Singapore’. We thus pressed Mr Mendoza to substantiate his claims. If he could not, then he should withdraw them. We were prepared to initiate legal proceedings, if necessary, to protect our position.”

Mendoza later changed his position and admitted that he had no evidence to support his claims. He then wrote to withdraw his claims, give instructions to remove “We can Achieve” from all social media platforms, and state that he had no intention of attacking Harrison’s integrity or professionalism.

“Our national songs hold a special place in the hearts of Singaporeans. MCCY takes any challenge to our proprietary rights and interests in our national songs and symbols very seriously, and we will take the necessary steps to protect them,” Tong said.

The minister pointed out that the current legal position for Singapore’s national songs and symbols includes the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem legislation, or Safna, as well as the Copyright Act. The legislation around the use of the national symbols and the government’s stance on copyrights of the national songs are intended to prevent misuse that might diminish or denigrate the standing of such symbols and songs, Tong said.

The minister also responded to a question from Aljunied GRC MP Gerald Giam on whether MCCY regularly checks for possible infringements of Singapore’s national symbols.

Following MCCY’s announcement last September that it is reviewing the rules governing the national symbols, it is also looking into whether there is a need to enhance intellectual property protection for these symbols, Tong said.

MCCY has also convened a citizens’ workgroup on national symbols to seek the public’s feedback and views in this review, he added.

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