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Singaporean Street Artist Arrested for Vandalism

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A Singaporean street artist has been identified by authorities as a vandal and arrested. If convicted, she could receive up to three years' imprisonment or a S$2000 (approx. USD1553) fine.

Over the past month or so, stickers began appearing on traffic lights, buildings and vehicles. The simple, round black-and-white designs carried slogans like "no need to press so many times," "press once can already," and "so kancheong for what," (translation: "why in such a hurry"), familiar phrases to any resident of Singapore and speaker of Singlish, a popular Singaporean creole.

Photos of the words "My Grandfather Road" spray painted at road crossing were also circulated.

The phrase refers to a common saying in Singaporean culture; when a pedestrian crosses a road particularly slowly, or jaywalks, drivers often yell, "Hey, your grandfather road ah?" implying that the pedestrian is acting as if he or she owns the road.

These pieces of street art that intrigued, amused and entertained many Singaporeans were the work of an artist who calls herself SKL0, who shares her designs for free on her blog.

Officers from the Central Police Division and the Police Intelligence Department investigated and identified SKL0 after the Land Transport Authority reported the spray-painted words and stickers.

In Singapore, vandalism is seen as a serious offence. In 2010 Swiss national Oliver Fricker was convicted of vandalism after he spray-painted a Mass Rapid Transit train. Fricker was sentenced to five months' imprisonment and five strokes of the cane. When he appealed his sentence, his jail term was increased to seven months.

Even if convicted, SKL0 will not receive caning as corporal punishment is prohibited for women.

Upon hearing the news, Singaporeans began tweeting with the hashtags #freeskl0 and #freestickerlady to protest the authorities' action, identifying SKL0 as an artist rather than a vandal.

"The authorities must understand, if #freestickerlady is convicted, a part of Singapore culture dies along with it," tweets Pat Law. "How is Singapore's culture supposed to grow creatively because of fear?"

"It seems you can only create art within boundaries in #Singapore. I see no harm done. PRESS NO CHARGES!" Rafi Dean adds.

Although SKL0 is still under investigation and no charges have yet been laid, the fact that she has been arrested at all has angered many who see it as a stifling of artistic expression, and hypocrisy on the side of a government that has often spoken of promoting arts and culture.

Ironically, Singapore was recently designated as the ASEAN City for Culture for 2012 -2013 at the fifth Meeting of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Culture and the Arts.