When the story first broke, what struck me most was the focus on lesbians. It is far more common in anti-LGBT speech for the reference to be either directed at gay males or framed with reference to gay male sex, at least in Singapore and the West. But coming from a lecturer in Malay Studies, I wasn’t surprised.
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It’s difficult to make sense of what Pastor Lawrence Khong is trying to do. In the past few weeks, he’s taken the lead in attacking the Health Promotion Board (HPB), and now the Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, over the HPB’s FAQ on sexuality. Khong accused the HPB of disseminating a message that “condones same-sex relationships and promotes the homosexual practice as something normal”.
When Gan answered a parliamentary question from Lim Biow Chuan (PAP, Mountbatten) in a manner not to Khong’s liking, Khong turned his guns on the minister too. You can read Gan’s parliamentary reply here. Lim, in case people have forgotten, gave one of the most homophobic speeches in Parliament in 2007 when Section 377A, the anti-gay law, was debated. Continue reading ‘Is Lawrence Khong’s battle flag for victory or for show?’
Singapore is behaving like a petulant child again, throwing a temper tantrum over the Indonesian Navy’s decision to name a warship after two Indonesian marines whom Singapore hanged. Harun Said and Osman Haji Mohamed Ali bombed MacDonald House on 10 March 1965. Three people died and many more were injured. The frigate KRI Usman Harun is named after them. Continue reading ‘Let others have their heroes’
I am sure there are denialists just as there are creationists zombie-ing among us. But I dare say for most Singaporeans, it is as clear as day that the People’s Association is and has always been, an affiliate of the People’s Action Party, in effect if not in name.
The currently trending story about former PAP stalwart and independent presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock having his invitation to a tea party withdrawn throws a spotlight once again on (a) the issue of the politicisation of the People’s Association, and (b) the question of what purpose it serves — even for the PAP.
I had a sense of deja vu when Law Minister K Shanmugam said that allowing migrant workers to challenge deportation orders through the judicial process would mean that “every foreigner is entitled to stay here at taxpayers’ expense, housed here at taxpayers’ expense” (source), while the cases wend their way through the courts.
The same “it costs too much” argument was regularly deployed by supporters of the death penalty in previous years. It goes along these lines: society should not be burdened with having to feed and clothe a prisoner on a life sentence; it’s more economical to hang him. However, the government itself did not, to my knowledge, use this argument. It came from various members of the public. Continue reading ‘Not at taxpayers’ expense’
I see bad English all over Singapore, but because I don’t want to sound like a language Nazi, I hold myself back, seldom writing about it. On the other hand, I don’t think I need to be apologetic about it. Getting language right takes the same attitude — attention to detail — that stands a person in good stead. More generally, a culture or economy that devalues the striving for excellence shortchanges itself. I sometimes think a widespread neglect of language quality in Singapore reflects a neglect of perfectionism, which shows up in a myriad ways from train breakdowns and bus delays to stark gaps in the social safety net. Continue reading ‘From words to deeds, attention to detail matters’
It’s taken me a while to think of a theme for this end-of-year post. Just in time, I have it: Space. Or rather, the ever-tightening amount of space in Singapore. The space I speak of is not just physical space, but also expressive space. Continue reading ‘As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate’
I look forward to this being a great play in its version 2. Version 1 contains promising seeds.
My take-away from this play, written by Wong Souk Yee and directed by Peter Sau and performed 20-21 December 2013 at the University Cultural Centre, is this: When a state has acquired instruments of non-democratic control, merely changing parties in government is not good enough. It takes a revolution to clean up its act. Continue reading ‘Theatre review: Square Moon’
Just like what happened in the days following the Chinese bus drivers’ strike November last year, the government is bringing out the artillery to pound Singaporeans’ minds with their preferred framing of the riot that occurred in Little India 8 December 2013: It’s wanton mayhem, monstrous criminality, pure and simple. The small riot (blown up big for its usefulness as bogeyman) is entirely a law and order issue. No sociological enquiry should be entertained, the message insistently says, especially any that asks questions whether the prior behaviour of the the ruling class (both government and business owners) contributed to the state of mind of the underclass. Continue reading ‘Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage’
There rarely is any definitive explanation of any riot. There won’t be one of the brief incident — it lasted barely an hour — at Little India last night, Sunday 8 December 2013. The reason why definitive explanations are elusive is because there is always an element of chance and irrational behaviour. Moreover, riots are complex events involving many actors with many contributory factors. Continue reading ‘Riot in Little India: spark and fuel’