Dear reader,

How did the oil spill affect you? Not since the 2015 regional haze crisis, I think, have Singaporeans been this connected by an environmental disaster. I was quite surprised, and then relieved, to read about oil absorbent booms being deployed in the waters off Pasir Ris Park, on the opposite end of the island, and near where I live.

I felt the pain of the birds and lizards covered in black slick, as if wearing an unctuous cloak of deathly shame to atone for our developmental sins, and felt sorry that our foreign workers had to toil under the sun, initially seemingly without full PPE. But I do admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude about the Masters of the Universe, including at least one mining tycoon, who live in Sentosa Cove. Bentley in the driveway, sludge on the beach. Try as they might, they can’t escape, they can’t insulate themselves from the worst side-effects of this exploitative capitalist model that we all, like it or not, are a part of.

What has changed since 2015 is the level of environmental awareness and activism in our city. So we should expect urgent interrogations not only into the incident itself, but our chosen growth model. Does Singapore need to be one of the world’s petrochemical hubs, the “Houston of Asia”, as journalist Tilak Doshi called us in 1989? (Jonathan Chan’s “Postcard from Houston”, scheduled for July 5th, will explore it in even more detail.)

These, and many other aspects of the oil spill are the subject of two blurbs in Singapore This Week. Elsewhere, we discuss students on the internship hamster wheel, IS adherents across the Causeway, a spiritual swindler, the travels and travails of Tempo magazine, the CITRUS fest, the fate of Oddle, and more.

Our essay of the week is a profile of Prashant Somosundram, general manager of The Projector. We’ve subtitled it “space creator”, because in many ways Prashant’s work there— alongside that of co-founders Blaise Trigg-Smith and (sisters) Karen and Sharon Tan—represents one of Singapore’s most notable attempts at placemaking.

“We have all these different people coming to watch other films that may not be even interested in these topics, but then they get forced to see it. I’m all for putting people that you don’t expect to be together in a space and then seeing what comes out of it…I find that it stems from us not being too precious about the space. We are comfortable with a bit of messiness and chaos…we kind of feed on that chaotic energy sometimes.”

This profile first appeared in our print issue last year, which you can still buy here, especially if you want a hard copy of the gorgeous photographs of Prashant by Charmaine Poh, my co-founder. We’ve updated the piece a little for web publication. It’s a fitting time to read it. This is Prashant’s last month on the job (he recently announced that he’ll be taking a sabbatical), and it’s Pride month too. Among many other contributions to the community, Prashant has handled security and concert at Pink Dot for many years. 

On that note, one of our Jomrades will be at Pink Dot next Saturday, June 29th, to record sound bites for Jom’s first ever podcast, hopefully out early next year. We’d love to interview some Jom readers! Reply to let me know if you’re keen, and I’ll put you in touch with them.

Jom cakap,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

p.s. Next week is our usual mid-year Jom break. As you may know, we take two weeks off at the end of the year, and a week off in the middle. We’ll keep doing this until we have a large enough team, and we appreciate your patience as we build Jom together. The only thing we’ll be publishing next week is the first newsletter by Abhishek Mehrotra, our new head of content. Look out for that!

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