Farewell – Dr Balaji Sadasivan

This obituary by CSZhou:

27 Sept 2010: I came back from a meeting to find two messages from a couple of hours  ago this morning. I had just met him a few weeks ago, with his  beautiful wife and went over to shake his hand and wish him well. We  had not chatted in two years.

The gay community sometimes treated him as anti-gay but the little  time I have had with him I learnt that he was a man of much  magnanimity, a doctor to the end.

We were at lunch in Sydney where we had gone on a study trip. I made  sure I sat beside him. In the middle of the lunch, I leaned over and  said, “Dr Balaji, remember Jason DMarco? We are planning again to hold  a concert.” He looked startled and a little dismayed. I assured him  that it will be done responsibly. He replied, “Ok. Go through the  regular channels. Get in touch with me if you run into any hurdles.”  And that was it.

When Alf applied for the permit, it began to look like he wouldn’t get  it and the MDA wanted to meet. I wrote to Dr B. He replied, “Get Alf  to meet the MDA and tell them I will be the guest of honor.” The Hope  Concert to pass out the message against HIV went out to 900 people  that night. Jason & DMarco – the openly gay couple singing duo – who  were banned when Safehaven tried to organize the Affect Concert, the  last time, appeared and performed here. Safehaven delivered on its  commitment to him and he to Safehaven.

In Sydney, he spoke about setting up a community centre for gay  people. I don’t fully understand why – perhaps people were afraid the  move would ghettoize gay people – but the team did not seem keen. I  have always thought it was an opportunity lost.

In another meeting the discussions became frank. I got into my  assertive self. Later as we went for a toilet break, he thanked me. A  lesser man would have felt my comments and argumentation disrespectful  of a Minister. But he took the comments for what they were and did not  let his ego get in the way. In that and other acts, I saw the true  measure of this man. It was an honor.

The last time I met him – just ta few weeks ago – he had lost a lot of  weight. His pace was more measured perhaps from his tiredness from the  treatment. But his message was stronger than ever. He spoke about  discrimination and sensitivity in the work place – a topic he had  previously carefully stayed not too close to in public – but this time  his message was clear. We need to grow out of our prejudice and  understand that it is okay to employ people with HIV and we need to  grow to understand the needs they bring like the need for  confidentiality and we learn to honor that. It occured to me that a  few people had told me he was actually very sick and that the  prognosis was not good. And yet you could see the in spite of the  tiredness and the slightly gaunt look this man was still passionate  about something for which he was often misunderstood and lampooned  even because as I said at the beginning – he was a doctor to the end.

I shall miss you Dr Balaji.

7 Responses to “Farewell – Dr Balaji Sadasivan”


  1. 1 KiWeTO 30 September 2010 at 16:00

    Having had the opportunity to sit in on an aFA/HPB AIDS meeting once in which he chaired (then the Minister of State for Health?) and listened to him speak/think, I fully support the idea that he was not anti-gay; He looked at the reality of AIDS transmission as a medical doctor, but perhaps, had his hands slightly tied by others in the system and had to deal with the political aspect of the situation?

    He sought to find a solution or a position that could be supported by all the participants in that meeting.

    Yes, he was a good man. Condolences to his family.

    E.o.M.

  2. 2 yuen 30 September 2010 at 16:54

    I have heard various stories about the niceness of this or that individual in the “system”; the “system” is not just the sum of its parts; it acts according to its own “personality”

  3. 3 Wanderer 1 October 2010 at 05:03

    Since the passing of Dr. Balaji, we have heard much from supposed gay community leaders about how he was a “Friend” and how he was not, well, “anti-gay.”

    This obituary also narrated several episodes to show his passion for anti-discrimination towards HIV sufferers.

    Yet I wonder. In his earlier, very dramatic ban of the gay parties, and all his media announcements of how gay people accounted for sharp peakings in contract rates, did the late Dr. Balaji realized he ultimately carved the scenario for HIV to perpetually be associated with homosexuals? And that in any anti homosexuality campaign, formal of informal, his words and his findings will be quoted as sacred truths?

    Has the late doctor also gave any consideration to the suggestions that the statistics he interpreted, may have been misleading? Simply because there is no concrete proof that heterosexuals have the same awareness of HIV testing compared to homosexuals. (Do you see any “straight” saunas offering HIV test kits?)

    With all due respect to the deceased, I think that rather to say he proceeded as a doctor, it is more accurate to put it as he proceeded clinically.

  4. 4 recruit ong 2 October 2010 at 15:27

    i read it another way… a man who knows time is not on his side, thus pointless to deny the truth he has always known, and so pointless to put up pretenses to please his political masters. hehe

  5. 5 Respect 5 October 2010 at 01:02

    I was at the Hope Concert, and was surprised and pleased that he had shown up as the guest of honor. He was a good man, if rather slow on the uptake about the reality that straight people are also prone to HIV. He was also foolishly oblivious to the effects of smearing a whole community with banning of gay concerts.

    His actions make me wonder just how ignorant straight people really are; or was this just the community around him that was so devoid of gay people.

  6. 6 jeremy 5 October 2010 at 23:09

    Another death hot on the heels of the other.

    Trust that your piece on Mrs LKY’s passing will be well worth the wait.

    Beyond the organised outpouring of grief on state-owned media, the main feeling on the ground in the blue collar estate I live in is extreme disappointment. Disappointment in not buying 4D on Mrs LKY’s age on the day of her passing…’8899′ came in as the top prize!

    Perhaps a lesson to be learnt here about the true concerns of Singaporeans?

  7. 7 Wanderer 6 October 2010 at 01:30

    Sorry about the strong opinion concerning the deceased. But personally, I find it arduous to believe that a medical professional, and a health minister tasked with combating HIV, could be slow on the uptake that HIV infects more heterosexuals than homosexuals.

    I also find it incredibly difficult to forget that when ultimately cornered, the Christian lobby in Singapore always backed behind the Balaji wall. That homosexuals cause the rise of HIV in Singapore.


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