Monday, September 08, 2008

Ho Kwon Ping speaks out ! More prominent Singaporeans should follow lead

Dear Friends,

I am glad that establishment-type leaders like Ho Kwon Ping are starting to make their views heard publicly ( esply if these views do not agree with the officially-sanctioned ones).

I hope that others like Tommy Koh (whom I greatly admire and would like to be the next President) will make public their alternative views about how Singapore should be like moving forward.

There is hope yet as I saw Tommy Koh’s comments agreeing with a recent article about how Malays are feeling like least favorite children in Singapore with respect to National Service.

It is not enough that people like me speak up. Officialdom will just roll-up their eyes and sigh, “ That mad doc again? His bark is louder than his bite-Ignore him! “ . But if people like Ho and Koh and others who have daily breakfasts and lunches with the Lees write something in the papers, bureaucrats cannot ignore and not respond.

Good on you, Ho Kwon Ping.

By the way, I wrote on this same topic (Non-repeal of 377A: Remember Rosa Parks and Don't Give Up!) and got flamed by homophobes and their merry (not gay) friends.

Cheers,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: Ho Kwon Ping's take on the non-repeal of Section 377A below

The Today Article:

Stop making A mockery of rule of law: Let’s accept gays

Why keep such an archaic statute when there’s no intention to prosecute?
Monday • September 8, 2008

HO KWON PING
news@newstoday.com.sg


SINGAPORE is known to be economically liberal, but socially conservative. It is a rules-governed society with clear parameters for behaviour, whether political, economic, or social. And within the “OB markers” (out-of-bounds markers) of these do’s and don’ts, it is a transparent and fair social order, with no favouritism for anyone operating outside the parameters.

This state of affairs governed the issue of homosexuality in Singapore for many years. Not only was gay sex illegal, but every manifestation was openly discouraged — some would say suppressed — and discrimination against gays in the public domain (the civil service, the military, the police, schools, and so on) was commonly accepted. Indeed, because it was public policy to promote heterosexual family life as the only norm, any other lifestyle was considered deviant and handled accordingly. Repressive though it certainly was to gays, it was at least very predictable.

Today, official attitudes towards homosexuality in Singapore are quite different. They are certainly ambivalent and ambiguous — some would even say, schizophrenic. On the one hand, many gay Singaporeans are feted and lauded for their creative contributions to Singapore, and warmly accepted by even senior figures of the establishment. On the other hand, gay sex remains a criminal activity, even after much public debate on the issue, and any kind of activity which is seen to promote a gay lifestyle remains off-limits.

To those who believe that the non-persecution of gays is already something to be grateful for, one could argue that allowing a black person to sit in the front of the bus while legally forbidding it, is something to be grateful for. Or, in an analogy closer to home for the supposedly homophobic heartlanders, should a Chinese person be grateful if the edict forbidding Chinese and dogs to enter parks in Shanghai in the ’20s were relaxed in reality, but maintained in the law?

At another level, my gay friends argue cogently that non-prosecution (or non-persecution, for that matter) signals, at the most, simple tolerance of them, and nothing more. There is a difference between being tolerated because gays are seen to be at the leading edge of the “creative class” — which Singapore is trying to develop as part of its new knowledge-based, creativity-oriented economy — and being accepted because of the recognition that fundamental human rights and the dignity of the individual extends to gays as much as to anyone else.

The somewhat schizophrenic decision to not prosecute an illegal activity has ramifications beyond the gay community, and has disturbed some sections of the larger community, which is not particularly interested in gay issues.

To many thoughtful citizens, Singapore has always openly claimed that the Rule of Law, possibly even more than the formal mechanisms of democracy, is a vital component of good governance. Yet, to criminalise gay sex and, in the same breath, state that anyone breaching this law will not be prosecuted, makes a mockery of the Rule of Law.

Minor though this violation of the principle may be, the proponents of the concept that the Rule of Law is a sacrosanct pillar of the Singapore ethos lament that the Government did not take the bold step to simply decriminalise something which the rest of the developed world has long decriminalised; which most Singaporeans (except, perhaps, the most fervently fundamentalist Christians or Muslims) don’t care that much about one way or the other; which the police, courts, and legal community would welcome simply to remove an archaic, Victorian-era statute; and finally, which the gay community would embrace as an important signal that their right to privacy — a fundamental human right — is considered to be more important than the right of anti-gay groups to proselytise about morality.

Optimists hope that the decriminalisation of gay sex — a yawn to anyone except the homophobic and the gays themselves — will eventually occur. In reality, rather than in law, gays in Singapore today have never had it so good, and should within a short time, become fully-accepted — not just tolerated — members of an increasingly diverse, and therefore vibrant, Singapore community.

But if we pat ourselves on the back for being so “bold” as to accept casinos and Formula 1 events into staid Singapore, why can’t the boldness extend to a simple act to enable gays to realise their dream — indeed, their simple right — to be normal Singaporeans like anyone else, no more and no less.

The writer is chairman ofSingapore Management University,executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and chairman of MediaCorp.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr Huang,

Thank you very much for posting the article contributed by Mr Ho Kwon Ping! It was most insightful. I did not get to read your blog when the subject of repeal of 377A was hotly debated last year. After reading it today, I think you did a wonderful job by comparing the incident of Rosa Parks and the discrimination of gay people in Singapore.

When the repeal of 337A was first raised by our Nominated MP Mr Siew Kum Hong in the Parliament, I was very touched and impressed by his speech.

I certainly agree with you that more prominant figures like Prof Tommy Koh could also speak out on this subject.

The repeal of the outdated 377A is not done yet.

A Senior Citizen

Anonymous said...

Mr Ho better watch out. Such people like Mr Ho should set up their own political parties and seek to enter parliament to change the law. Muahahaha!
AS the ST mentioned today in the article about ISD, like Francis Seow, he better not have any contacts with American interests before joining any political parties. I wait for USA reponse with much excitement!!

Anyway the reply on the public cycling was a hoot! According to the POLICE, Mr Low Thia Khiang is considered a risk and may cause riots, while our feeble PM Lee would not amount to much when in a public place.

Puuuuleeeese. The amount of power given to the police state is scary.
Anyway PAP vs PAPfoundation - is this what Walter Woon talks about when he mentioned about legally corrupt and morally corrupt. Does PAP and the police think that their citizens don't think?

Xtrocious said...

Don't think or afraid to think out loud?

I think it was the latter with 66.6% of our Singaporeans...sigh

Anonymous said...

While I have no interest in the Gay Issue. One comment on the 'Cycling Event' does make me feel that the Law in Singapore can be 'interpreted' too liberally by the Enforcer.

Another aspect irks me more and that is this Country seems interested only in upholding laws but never justices. One example is that one can be 'factually guilty' but 'lawfully acquitted'. Official Oxymoros?

As for the calls for the Famous and intellectuals to speak up, they should do so and stop behaving selfishly. Speak up please when the Needs arise, please do your little for humanity!

patriot

nofearSingapore said...

Hi patriot,

I also want to emphasise the speaking out by Ho on a public issue rather than about Ho speaking about 377A.

I sense that an uneasy dialogue is now starting in Sg. It may be about Serangoon Gardens Dormitory or about whether more Singaporeans should be admitted into our own Uni's. I may not agree with many of the views published in the MSM but at least there are differnt opinions.
Democracy is more messy than autocracy. It is less neat. But let's learn how to find our way through these contentious issues.

I rather the people find a consensus that is not so neat than a neat solution imposed on us by the "all-knowing" PAP.

My greatest fear that the people will find the easy way out and say to the PAP," It is too difficult- we don't want to think for solutions to our problems. Here are the keys to our lives. Think for us. Do anything you need to do".

We then go back to the days of LKY where all us liberal intellectual types would be rounded up and made to look like anarchists or communists and locked up.

I am making hay whilst the sun shines. Doing my bit. Doing NS.

Anonymous said...

Dr Huang;

You have been doing great services to Singaporeans and likely to foreigners as well all these years.

I noted with pride your contributions to humanity!

Yours Respectfully: patriot

Anonymous said...

Following the announcement of the host otak69 that the Otak Stall will be unplugged on 21 September 2008, many of the bros and sis from the Otak Stall have been very anxious about the future destiny of their brotherhood.

Well, the anxiety is understandable. This is perhaps the second wave of boatpeople after the first wave of boatpeople created by Leongsam's unplug of his "Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop" (SBF) on 6 August 2008.

Many people who are not involved in the management of a forum probably do not realize that it is a FULL-TIME job. It takes a lot of sheer hard work and time commitments behind the scene to ensure the continued success of a running forum. In this regard, the decision by otak69 to throw in the towel and shut down his Otak Stall should be respected. Nevertheless, we should all thank him for doing a wonderful job for housing temporarily the first-wave's boatpeople.

With the impending closure of the Otak Stall, Singapore Kopitiam becomes the only surviving coffee shop among the newly created coffee shops following the closure of SBF. Many bros and sis from the first wave of boatpeople who have chosen Singapore Kopitiam as their cyber home can testify the quality of the discussions here.

Today, Singapore Kopitiam is ranked one of the top 20 forums hosted at Delphiforums. The number of registered nicks in our book is in excess of 1,000. The number of daily unregistered visiting guests is in the order of a few thousands. The daily number of pages viewed is in excess of 20,000. It means that Singapore Kopitiam is playing an important role in shaping the public opinions in Singapore via the cyberspace.

With the recent upgrade of Singapore Kopitiam to the premium forum to include chat room and polling, our facilities are equal to the old SBF, if not better.

Forummers can be assured that Singapore Kopitiam remains free from any external interferences and government's pressure. Singapore Kopitiam sees itself as an important forum to shape and mould public opinions through discussions and debates. All walks of life can discussion any topics under the sun without fear or favour. In the one month since Singapore Kopitiam opens it doors, no moniker has been banned or put under moderation. There is no waiting period for any post to appear.

Last but not least, all the bros and sis from the Otak Stall are welcome here at Singapore Kopitiam. Your interests will be well looked after! Singapore Kopitiam is your community forum in the cyberspace. It is up to you to participate and to keep it alive!

Singapore Kopitiam
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sunkopitiam/messages/

Anonymous said...

Dr Huang: "But if people like Ho and Koh and others who have daily breakfasts and lunches with the Lees write something in the papers, bureaucrats cannot ignore and not respond".

I agree with your observation above. It also tells where the real reins of power lie. IMHO, SG is not a democracy.

black feline said...

a rebel who spent 2 mths for controversial writings...isn't that very long time ago? now with a full stomach, good life...writing about 377A..what's his agenda? if he still has the fire burning...SPEAK UP FOR THE POOR!

black feline said...

correction...2 mths in jail...

Anonymous said...

Dr Huang,

it appears that many people have been talking about Mr Tang and the court's compassion on sentencing him for one day jail. However the poor chap who had end stage cancer is still in jail - I am not sure - is justice served to this poor chap (Heng Wa Seng) who probably opened a massage parlour just so to make ends meet and survive, just like Mr Tang bought a kidney to survive.

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7980823109190564557&postID=5615597682537654985

Anonymous said...

black feline: Quite a number of MPs have spoken up for the poor already, whereas the gays/lesbians here need greater acceptance from us Singaporeans. I know of a few closeted gays who keep their sexual orientation to themselves and not even disclosing it to their family members. Why is this so? For fear of being judged and stigmatized by our society. We disapprove of racial and religious discrimination. Yet a great majority of Singaporeans discriminate against homosexuals and treat them as outcasts.

Reading the Straits Times article on Transexuals (Sept 6) helps me to better understand these often misunderstood people. I hope Singaporeans become more open-minded about such issues.

ThreeFinkle

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

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