Minister Grace Fu explains withdrawal of grant from author Jeremy Tiang

The National Arts Council (NAC) withdrew a grant from Singaporean author Jeremy Tiang because the content of his book changed from his original proposal, said Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

In a written response to Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Fu said that in Tiang's case, "the project did not meet the funding requirements mutually agreed upon as the content in the book deviated from the original proposal".

Non-constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan had asked why the NAC had withdrawn its funding for the book and how Tiang had failed to comply with the council's requirements for funding.

Tiang, 40, had been awarded an NAC Creation grant of $12,000 in 2010, of which he had already received $8,600.

But after he sent the council the first draft of State Of Emergency, which traces leftist movements throughout Singapore's history, the remaining grant was withdrawn.

He was not made to return the amount already disbursed to him.

State Of Emergency went on to be shortlisted for last year's Epigram Books Fiction Prize, earning Tiang a $5,000 cash prize.

The novel follows the fortunes of a Singaporean family caught up repeatedly in political intrigue over the years, including the Hock Lee bus riots of 1955, Operation Spectrum in 1987 and the long-drawn guerilla war of the Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1960.

Ms Fu said in her response: "As with all NAC Creation grants, artists and arts groups sign an agreement with NAC upon successful application. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions for the grant.

"Based on these agreed terms, NAC then disburses this grant in stages. In certain cases, NAC may only be able to partially support projects.

"For instance, when the artist is unable to meet project milestones that include mutually agreed deliverables and timelines; or when the artist is unable to secure copyright and other clearances; or when the work is assessed not to meet NAC's funding requirements."

She noted that the book has been published in Singapore and is in circulation in bookstores. She added: "NAC may support an artist or arts group in other areas, even if it is unable to support a specific project."

Tiang, who is based in New York, said in an e-mail that he was not sure if he could respond because the statement was "bland and irrefutable".

He added: "It would be nice if we'd taken this opportunity to have a debate about whether arts funding ought to be affected by political concerns, but I suppose that is not a discussion the authorities are interested in having."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline Minister Grace Fu explains withdrawal of grant from author Jeremy Tiang. Subscribe