Vivian Balakrishnan must be extremely disappointed with Singapore netizens. On Saturday 23 April 2011, he dropped a huge hint that out there in the miasma of digital space, there’s a “suppressed” video that reveals the Singapore Democratic Party’s hidden agenda.
Over the following 48 hours, this video-hunt became a small frenzy. By Sunday afternoon, at least two videos on Youtube were found. One was 3:00 minutes long, the other was 6:17 minutes. But just about nobody saw anything particularly incriminating about them. Are Singapore netizens thick in the head?
Both videos were of the same event, held sometime in August last year when lawyer M Ravi was trying to whip up public support for a constitutional challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code.
Vincent Wijeysingha appeared to be present at the back of the room. While the face was out of focus, the voice, when he spoke, was recogniseably his. It was quite obvious from the phrasing he used that he identified with the gay community. On top of that, M Ravi at several points lauded him as the “first gay MP in Singapore”.
The conclusion that just about everybody seeing the videos drew was that, OK, Vincent Wijeysingha is probably gay. But if you look at the first 30 readers’ comments following Today newspaper’s article, just about all of them took the view, So what?
For the record, the article opened thus, providing enough clues for others to find the video:
It is a six-minute video clip – posted on YouTube on April 14 – of what appears to be a recording of a forum discussing whether Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code, which criminalises sex between men, violates the Republic’s Constitution.
Is this the video which Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan was referring to in a news report published yesterday?
That is what netizens are suggesting.
Some netizens have highlighted the video clip – a shorter version of which was uploaded on Saturday – in which, near the end, a man on the stage said: “At the end of the day, you all can petition the Prime Minister, this and that, and so on and so forth … If you really want numbers, you have to vote an MP. Gay MP there, first gay MP in Singapore, ladies and gentlemen, Vincent Wijeysingha.”
Dr Balakrishnan has not confirmed whether this video clip was what he was referring to.
Three examples of readers’ comments (before the trolls and Bible nuts got into the act):
1. Now this MP has openly attacked a candidate’s personal sexual preferences. What next, is he going to attack someone who is not the same religion as him, or share his other beliefs? This person is dangerous, he can cause riots. I would advise Singaporeans to vote wisely & not vote for this type of person.
2. If it was the SDP team which was making the same comment you would expect a lawsuit coming soon and the press having a field day attacking SDP yet a man of Dr Vivian’s calibre has to resort to this type of behaviour. You have just lost my vote with this sort of ungentleman-like attack. Focus on the bread and butter, housing, policies that matters to Sporeans. Not name-calling antics.
3. If VW had said he was straight and lied about it then yes, maybe we should be angry at him for hiding and lying about his sexual preferences. But since candidates are not required to state their preference then I don’t see why this should be an issue. This has nothing to do with gay, but it had everything to do with politics. Singaporeans should open their eyes and see what is really happening.
One comment was unusually perceptive. “If it was surpressed, how did you find it on youtube?” he asked.
Balakrishnan must have been appalled how dense Singaporeans were. We couldn’t see the shocking horror that he could see in the video. So, Monday (25 April 2011) evening, he found himself with no choice but to spoonfeed stupid Singaporeans as to what exactly that video suggested of Vincent Wijeysingha’s and the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) secret agenda.
He and his People’s Action Party team-mates contesting Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency jointly issued this statement:
Dear Friends of the Media
Please find below a statement which is being sent on behalf of the PAP team contesting in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. We would appreciate it very much if you could kindly publish the statement in full, and attribute it to the PAP team contesting in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, led by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Kindly call me at [phone number deleted] if you have any queries or if you need any clarification.
What is his agenda?
A video has been posted on the internet showing Vincent Wijeysingha participating at a forum which discussed the promotion of the gay cause in Singapore.
The discussion at the forum also touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age.
In the video, Wijeysingha was introduced as being from the SDP.
In addition to other comments, Wijeysingha stated: ‘I think the gay community has to rally ourselves. Perhaps one outcome of today’s forum would be, for those of us who are interested, to come together to further consider how we can address the 377 issue as well as further rights issues in relation to gays and lesbians.’
We believe that candidates should be upfront about their political agenda and motives, so that voters are able to make an informed choice.
The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation. That is a matter for him.
The video raises the question on whether Wijeysingha will now pursue this cause in the political arena and what is the SDP’s position on the matter.
Liang Eng Hwa
Christopher de Souza
How blind of us! Did nobody notice that the video showed the SDP promoting the “gay cause” or that it “touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age”? Did nobody pen outraged remarks about this evidence all through the weekend? It’s right there in the first 30 seconds of this video:
For the record, in case the video is taken down, we only see M Ravi speaking through those 30 seconds. He says (not that it makes a lot of sense):
You took so long to come. For sixteen-years old boy, what are you doing? Since sixteen there’s another category, then eighteen there’s another category of consent.
This guy says, sixteen I can form an opinion, how come 14 years old in Sweden they form an opinion? You know, right? Consent is as low as 14 years old between males in some western countries and so on. So he has an issue, you know, how come they and we and tho. . . you know international law becomes an issue, we have a global community and why the discrimination and all that, but the point is this: if you wait too long . . . .
Vincent Wijeysingha did not speak up until two and a half minutes later, by which time the discussion had moved on to other issues. To try to impute that Wijeysingha was supporting the non-existent call to lower the age of consent is like trying to fetch water from the moon.
Watch the video. I have no concern at all as a gay person myself for the whole world to see what was said in there. It’s a snapshot of perfectly reasonable active citizenry, albeit with one person in the video saying some rather incomprehensible things.
* * * * *
There is something very strange about the timeline of this video. It was uploaded on 14 April 2011, ten days before Vivian Balakrishnan made his innuendo about a video that the Singapore Democratic Party should explain. But, look carefully at the explanatory note by the person who uploaded it — JohnTan888888:
How did JohnTan888888 know ten days beforehand that Balakrishnan would be accusing the SDP of trying to hide the video? What do you think is the likely relationship between JohnTan888888 and Vivian Balakrishnan? Was the video there all along, and Balakrishnan stumbled on it?
A simple check also reveals that JohnTan888888 joined Youtube on the same day (14 April 2011) and has uploaded just this one video and no other.
* * * * *
SDP Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan issued this video statement late on 25 April 2011:
“Let me state categorically: we are not pursuing the gay agenda and none of our MPs will.” And rightly so. Whatever that “gay agenda” is, the SDP has never included it in their manifesto though there are published statements (nothing “suppressed” or hidden there) that Section 377A is an example of inequality. At 0:51, he says, “At the very core of our country and our national pledge, is the creed that we do not discriminate against anyone, be it on the basis of the colour of their skin, the faith in their hearts, whether they are young or old, or what their sexual orientation is.”
Even the People’s Action Party (PAP) government (though not some of their backbenchers) has said something similar; of late however, Balakrishnan behaved as if he was not aware of it.
Nonetheless, it is also worth noting that Balakrishnan et al, in their statement of 25 April 2011 also said: “The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation. That is a matter for him,” effectively conceding that sexual orientation is not an issue at all in Singapore politics — perhaps the first time this has been said. Perhaps other PAP leaders rapped him on the knuckles?