NMP Janice Koh impresses many with her passionate maiden speech

New Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh has already garnered a number of fans following her maiden speech in Parliament on Wednesday.

In her speech, she highlighted the importance and relevance of the arts community in Singapore as well as suggested key strategies to use arts and culture to build a more inclusive country.

The Goldsmith's College graduate also raised the issue of promoting Singaporean art and said, "Being a world-class cultural capital is not just about hosting other people's art or realising their visions."

"For my money, a hundred eye-popping Broadway plays cannot compare to a single poignant local production in terms of what it means to belong in and to Singapore today. In fact, it is because there are powerful local works in Singapore, and a discerning audience for them, that attract international artists to present their work here."

Making arts, culture and heritage a source of civic pride was another main point made by Koh who is a well-known actress currently involved with playwright Alfian Sa'at's politically charged play, "Cooling Off Day."

The 38-year-old actress added, "We need to hear more local music on radio, we need to see more local films on the big screen, we need to see the works of our pioneering artists in our museums, and promote local literature in schools and libraries... If we take pride in our own cultural treasures, we will encourage the production of more high quality work, and the world will take notice."

The former Victoria Junior College student's passionate speech has moved quite a number of those in the arts community, with many posting and forwarding copies of her speech online.

Acclaimed music producer Leonard Soosay said her speech "brilliantly encapsulated" what people in the arts scene have been asking and fighting for in the last few years.

"She will prove to be an effective voice for the scene because she is very serious and passionate about this. Earlier on, she had a meeting with me and others in the arts scene to discuss various issues and since then she's been in touch with us as well. She knows what is happening on the ground," said Soosay.

36-year-old legal counsel Daniel Sassoon told inSing, "She was very passionate, touched on many topics and did an excellent job. As a practising artiste she is in a unique position to scope the ground in the arts community and a give a voice to the scene and she's already started doing that."

Sassoon, who is also the guitarist of post-rock band, 'In Each Hand a Cutlass' was mentioned in Koh's speech when she was citing an example of a ground-up initiative to promote the arts. Sassoon had approached his MP Indranee Rajah about the need to have more platforms for local musicians and a free outdoor gig was achieved thanks to their discussions.

23-year-old actress Esther Low said, "Being an experienced Singapore actress for a long time, Ms Koh definitely knows her stuff, and the struggles and joys of being a Singapore artist. Based on her speech alone, she's clearly a smart and wise woman who can lead the arts and steer us towards a brighter arts future."

Koh told inSing that she wasn't terribly nervous about giving her first speech in Parliament but she was highly aware that her audience was very different from the ones she is used to.

"It wasn't limited to just Parliamentarians. It included arts practitioners and the wider Singapore public in general," Koh said.

"Writing a speech about why the arts matter - one that could resonate with a wide spectrum of people and yet remain true to the spirit and calling of artists - now, that is the hard bit. The arts don't just matter to artists. It matters to everyone. But we have put bread and butter issues above our cultural development for so long, that I don't think mindsets can change overnight," she added.

inSing.com Editor:
Do you think Janice Koh will make an effective NMP who can achieve results for the arts community in Singapore?

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