A pink dot in a sea of rights abuses

Next Saturday, 18 June 2011, Singapore’s third Pink Dot will be held, celebrating acceptance and inclusiveness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons. Here is the superb promotional video made by Boo Junfeng:

Just announced on Pink Dot’s Facebook page is Google Singapore’s support for the event. “Pink Dot 2011 marks the first time that such an international company has publicly supported Pink Dot and its values. Google Singapore has pledged sponsorship to the event, highlights of which will include a concert with comedic trio Dim Sum Dollies, Broadway Beng Sebastian Tan, Jill Marie Thomas and dance group Voguelicious.”

Over the past week however, there were one or two calls for a boycott on SiGNeL, a gay email list.

This followed a reminder that only citizens and Permanent Residents can participate. Others, on employment passes, work permits or social visit passes cannot. A SiGNeL member called this “a form of discrimination that doesn’t happen at similar events in other countries,” adding that “everyone who agrees that discrimination is wrong [should] not attend Pink Dot until this rule is changed.”

Indeed, in London, Sydney, Seattle, Taipei or Cape Town, anybody can join a Pride Parade.

Furthermore, Singaporeans and supporters in several cities abroad organised their own Pink Dot picnics in the park in support of the Singapore event. Here’s a video from New York:

There’s one being organised for London (see link) and there may even be one in Anchorage, Alaska (see link). Nowhere are there restrictions on Singaporeans participating, even though we are foreigners in those places.

A bit of heated discussion followed on SiGNeL but the matter was finally resolved when the organisers made it clear that it was not they who imposed the rule. It was the Singapore government. These are among the conditions for the use of Hong Lim Park where Pink Dot will be held. Hong Lim Park (also known as ‘Speakers’ Corner’) is the only outdoor space where public speeches and assemblies are allowed in Singapore without a police permit.

* * * * *

That it is the only location where such an event can be held should remind us how far from satisfactory our human rights situation is in Singapore. There is, for example, no realistic way to do a Pride March down a major street like in so many other cities. Outside of Hong Lim Park, our right to freedom of assembly has been taken away. Our freedom of expression is abridged by all manner of censorship rules — and to add insult to injury, the government keeps denying, blatantly, that there is censorship in Singapore. The draconian Public Order Act and Internal Security Act are still in place.

Yet, the sad fact is that most Singaporeans don’t care. I daresay that even the majority who cast a vote for opposition parties in the recent general election do not care. The chief impetus for voting as they did was to send a signal to the ruling party that they are sick of their arrogance and want a more “caring” government. Liberty they can do without; they just want a more comfortable life.

Voters were upset this time around not because they have changed their minds about the old compact forged a generation ago — that the government would deliver a better material life in return for the people giving up their rights. They are upset because they feel that in recent years, the government has been failing to deliver their side of the bargain — a better material life. Most people want the compact honoured, not overturned.

Things have gotten so bad that even within the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the one party with a peerless record of arguing for human rights, involving at times civil disobedience, there are calls to disavow that record and forswear future protests. Teo Soh Lung, the SDP’s  candidate for Yuhua in the recent general election, was moved to pen her thoughts on her Facebook profile. She opened:

At last Saturday’s SDP dinner to thank volunteers, there were incessant questions about SDP’s belief in human rights and civil disobedience. One after another and repeatedly, speakers urged Dr Chee to abandon civil disobedience and move on to turn the SDP into an ordinary opposition party that will discard civil disobedience and human rights into the bin.

Sitting amongst the audience, I was a bit surprised at the earnest pleas and good intentions of the speakers. I wondered if 50 years of PAP rule have subdued all of us and turned us into obedient followers of all dictates of our rulers.

She recalled the actions of Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a White person, and by which action, precipitated the civil rights movement in the United States which fortified equality for African-Americans. From this example, Teo went on to say:

Most of us appreciate the struggles of the blacks in America and South Africa. But when it comes to the struggles of our people in our own country, we don’t seem to appreciate or understand the sacrifices of people like  Dr Chee, J B Jeyaretnam and many others.   We laugh at them. We described them as “stupid” and “stubborn”.  We tell each other that “they never learn”. It is tragic. It is like blaming a raped victim for bringing about the rape upon herself.

Concluding, she added:

It is time we reflect on our past and examine ourselves before we tell Dr Chee and those  brave men and women to change their ways.

Indeed, not only have Singaporeans lost our human rights, we have lost our dignity. We’ve convinced ourselves that the government’s controls are “good” and contesting them is “bad”. We’ve brainwashed ourselves to treat “human rights” as unspeakable terrors.

And we’ve turned ourselves into enforcers on behalf of the government. There in the SDP you have people telling the party leadership to “behave”. And at any event at Hong Lim Park, organisers are required by the blanket licence to take upon themselves the responsibility for enforcing the regulations on others. Will the organisers of Pink Dot, for example, do the work of the Singapore government, checking identity cards to decide who participates and who does not?

It’s fine to celebrate Pink Dot this 18 June. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a success, and a well-deserved one too. I only ask that every minute that one is there, one reminds oneself constantly that it’s a big party in a prison exercise yard, figuratively speaking. There can be no pride, whether gay or straight, until we as a people have reclaimed all our human rights.

63 Responses to “A pink dot in a sea of rights abuses”


  1. 1 tk 10 June 2011 at 12:02

    haven’t they used a cordon-type thing in the past to “separate” non-citzens/PRs from locals? or was that a different event?

  2. 2 YH@2 10 June 2011 at 12:41

    Not many Singaporeans realise that giving up our rights via ISA and Public Order Act puts us greatly at the mercy of our government and authorities, and of them being benign. Our Constitution is supposed to protect her citizens, not leave us vulnerable!

    And after some reading (eg right to protest in Japan, HK), research and thinking, I now fail see how gaining back our human rights will definitely result in “unspeakable terrors”. It’s not a simple cause and effect! In fact, I find the lack of protection for citizens’ rights in our Constitution is potentially more terrifying.

    I too wish more people take the time to think about this instead of simply accepting whatever is force-fed in primary school and in our state media.

    I sympathize with event organisers like for Pink Dot – their objective is to spread the message of their cause. Standing up against the government to prove a point will get their event licenses revoked. YB your words are harsh, but very true. thanks for writing.

  3. 3 Poker Player 10 June 2011 at 13:06

    “At last Saturday’s SDP dinner to thank volunteers, there were incessant questions about SDP’s belief in human rights and civil disobedience. One after another and repeatedly, speakers urged Dr Chee to abandon civil disobedience and move on to turn the SDP into an ordinary opposition party that will discard civil disobedience and human rights into the bin.”

    This makes no sense. How many copies of the post-JBJ Worker’s Party do we need? What’s wrong with just joining the Worker’s Party and leaving the SDP as it is?

    SDP in its present form is at least good at something. These speakers want to turn it into a 3rd rate version of the post-JBJ Worker’s Party.

    • 4 Poker Player 10 June 2011 at 13:15

      Contrast this mindset with our evil twin. In 2003, 500,000 Hongkongers demonstrated against a proposed anti-subversion law. No-one was injured. Nothing was broken. The law never passed – they got what they wanted.

      That’s why they got a better deal from DBS than Singaporeans – particularly galling when your consider who runs DBS. Singaporeans really deserve to be treated the way they are.

    • 5 NATO 11 June 2011 at 18:20

      It does not follow that not engaging in civil obedience will turn SDP into an ordinary party. It depends on whether or not you have extra-ordinary people and extra-ordinary people need not necessarily use civil obedience to turn SDP into an extraordinary party.

      Since both poker player and alex au believe in civil obedience, did they ever participate in one to give support to SDP and got arrested in Tak Boleh Tahan?

      If they believe that is they right way to go, why don’t they lead a Pride March on Pink Dot day from Hong Lim to Parliament House? Why keep encouraging CSJ and the leaders of the SDP to keep going to jail while you stay out of it? I don’t think the leaders of SDP need to prove anything further.

      I am only an objective observer and has great admiration for those who have gone to jail and equally great contempt for those who urged a fight but only wants to stay out of the ring.

      • 6 Poker Player 12 June 2011 at 21:12

        “Why keep encouraging CSJ and the leaders of the SDP to keep going to jail while you stay out of it? I don’t think the leaders of SDP need to prove anything further.”

        Strawman point. I am only doing what you yourself are doing. Which is:

        “I am only an objective observer and has great admiration for those who have gone to jail and equally great contempt for those who urged a fight but only wants to stay out of the ring.”

        In addition, I consider those who think and say out loud that CSJ as having improved when he does less civil disobedience as presumptuous.

      • 7 Poker Player 12 June 2011 at 21:20

        “It does not follow that not engaging in civil obedience will turn SDP into an ordinary party. It depends on whether or not you have extra-ordinary people and extra-ordinary people need not necessarily use civil obedience to turn SDP into an extraordinary party.”

        Not true. It is now not a matter of opinion that our police force is biased. Their accounts of court proceedings have not been contradicted by the establishment. We are also the only country in the world with something like a 10:1 police to demonstrator ratio. These are numbers with actual photos to back them up – no longer in realm of subjective opinion.

      • 8 Huh? 13 June 2011 at 02:55

        “equally great contempt for those who ***urged*** a fight but only wants to stay out of the ring.”

        Which part was the “urging”? I only see defense against those devalue or detract his life’s work.

        “since both poker player and ****alex au***** ”

        This comment is more a reflection on you than Alex Au. The word “contempt” appears only once anywhere in the comments. It is from an anonymous posting doubting the courage of someone who puts his real name and photo on a blog known for criticizing a government that many people are afraid of voting against in a secret ballot.

  4. 9 Robox 10 June 2011 at 13:17

    1. “This followed a reminder that only citizens and Permanent Residents can participate. Others, on employment passes, work permits or social visit passes cannot.”

    In truth, as part of the xenophobic heritage of PAP rule in the last half century, even permanent residents are not allowed by law to participate in Pink Dot. Note that the following is a provision for citizens only but not permanent residents.

    Article 14 of the Constitution states: Subject to clauses (2) and (3) [neither of which applies here] (a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression; [and] (b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.

    2. “…the sad fact is that most Singaporeans don’t care.”

    And it’s doubly vexing when LGBTs themselves don’t when especially when it concerns an LGBT event that has implications on our rights.

    How many of them appreciate that they cannot even dream of Pink Dot if not for Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP members who stiood behind him and those of us who were his silent – and even noisy – supporters?

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/martyn-see-tong-ming/chee-soon-juan-freedom-of-assembly-and-pink-dot/10150274490283092

    • 10 Poker Player 10 June 2011 at 13:33

      “How many of them appreciate that they cannot even dream of Pink Dot if not for Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP members who stiood behind him and those of us who were his silent – and even noisy – supporters?”

      Hear, hear. This is another indictment of Singaporeans. How many MPs did we put in Parliament that even come close to his depth of character?

  5. 11 Loh 10 June 2011 at 13:21

    I’ve always been hesitant about turning up at pink dot because I saw as it as an event related to gay issues. But after reading your post, I’ll be there in the figurative prison yard to claim back my rights from the government.

    • 12 Poker Player 10 June 2011 at 13:37

      Solidarity/fighting for somebody else’s rights is not unheard of. It’s a mark of a civilized society. Fighting over the freedom of slaves spilled more white blood than black.

  6. 13 saltwetfish 10 June 2011 at 13:55

    Alex, you know what we can do for the PLU booth(s). Have a simulalated prison bars to remind all participants the lack of human rights, despite able to run pink dot in Hong Lim Park!

  7. 14 R 10 June 2011 at 18:08

    > Permanent Residents and others, on employment passes, work permits or social visit passes cannot.

    According to the pinkdot blog, PRs are allowed to attend:
    “According to the park’s terms and conditions, only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents may participate at events held at Hong Lim Park.”

    http://pinkdotsg.blogspot.com/p/faq-things-to-know-about-pink-dot.html

    *confused*

    • 15 yawningbread 10 June 2011 at 19:22

      I’ve been changing that line back and forth because it is somewhat complicated. The rules say only citizens can speak, but citizens and Permanent Residents can demonstrate and perform. The word “participate” doesn’t actually appear in the rules.

  8. 16 Deborah 10 June 2011 at 20:25

    http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_672033.html

    ‘Singaporeans value growth over freedom of speech: Poll’

    • 17 Gard 11 June 2011 at 09:22

      What is your point in citing this article? The Straits Times title does disservice to the article and research. It suggests a trade-off, which if true, implied that those totalitarian regimes like North Korea should enjoy higher economic growth rates over the more liberal South.

      The pink dot is a once-in-a-while event, while what the public reads, thinks and feels is constantly shaped by the shameful state of the media. Even the cage is lifted, the eagle would still imagine itself to be a chicken and the endless possibilities of a chicken life.

  9. 18 tk 10 June 2011 at 20:49

    foreigners could stand in an “arc” formation surrounding the “dot” formation.

    ( o

    like a big hug😉

  10. 19 Calculon 10 June 2011 at 20:54

    Grammar police here,

    I was read the abbreviation LGBT, and thinking why does T for transgender people has that -ed, as in transgendered? Looks like you have been Gay-ed by nature, heh.

  11. 20 jim 10 June 2011 at 22:19

    Hong Lim park is a public venue. What’s to stop foreigners visiting the park ? It’s a public venue, they can go there anytime including the same time as Pink Dot. There’s no membership to say someone is part of pink dot, even wearing pink can be coincidental.

    Should we be calling for foreigners to wear pink and visit the park at the same time ?

  12. 21 Robox 11 June 2011 at 00:01

    Can we also get the organizers to have Vincent Wijeysinghe as the key speaker?

    • 22 Ghanz Lek 11 June 2011 at 18:35

      the pink dot has a very strict no-political party rule I think (its so their permit can get approved I suppose!)

      • 23 rowbox@rocketmail.com 12 June 2011 at 00:53

        “…the pink dot has a very strict no-political party rule I think (its so their permit can get approved I suppose!)”

        How can be sure if this is the case? Just off hand, I can already think of other events, like the anti-DP/MDP ones, that had members of political parties attend. Even more recently Gilbert Goh (NSP) led on another issue at the same venue. If this is some self imposed rule by the organizers, their esteem in my eyes would drop even more notches.

    • 24 Bryan Choong 12 June 2011 at 01:14

      I am not disagreeing to have Vincent Wijeysingha to speak at PinkDot, not that the organisers are planning to. But I wonder the intention to have him there? It is already clear that he did not campaigning on a gay community ticket, he was campaigning to serve the Singapore society and he should rightly do so.

      I am most concerned each time Singaporeans want something to change or move, he/she expected someone else to do that for him/her. We like to disempower ourselves and leave tasks to others. We need to speak for ourselves, especially when the subject is close to our hearts.

      Alex is right, not only we are so used to think talking about our own rights is “challenging” the system, we also think if we need to “challenge”, let someone do the job for us.

    • 25 Brendan 12 June 2011 at 19:12

      Sure. If you want him to be barred from contesting future elections. I certainly do not want that. This is a community/social event. Keep politics out please.

      • 26 Robox 14 June 2011 at 01:32

        Oh, come on, Brendan. This is community/social event, so keep politics out? I can imagine a conversation I can have with organizers that could along these lines, on the assumption of complete honesty by them:

        Robox: Why was the original intentions by you to hold Pink Dot?
        PInk Dot Organizers: To make it easier to hold future Pride parades. [Note by Robox: This was the actual stated intention.]

        R: But why do you need Pride parades?
        PDO: So that society can be more understanding of LGBT issues and accepting of us.

        R: But why do you need society to be more understanding and acceptance of you? Not one LGBT individual will ever come into come into contact with the majority of them that you need understanding and acceptance from them.
        PDO: It’s actually so that we can get greater support to be eventually free of the laws that discriminate against us and live life normally; we want to build greater support for our political causes.

        Face it: Pink Dot is an inherently political event. If you don’t like the politics of LGBT rights, stay away from it.

        At any rate, are you also saying that politicians or gay rights activitists should be barred from community/social events? Does the internal diversity of the LGBT community include LGBT activists and gay politicians?

      • 27 Poker Player 14 June 2011 at 14:53

        “Face it: Pink Dot is an inherently political event. If you don’t like the politics of LGBT rights, stay away from it.”

        Think of it as local contribution to “efforts” like “Modern Family” (TV Series on cable – the gay couple is very very hard to dislike) or Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

    • 28 Robox 14 June 2011 at 03:06

      Going by the reactions to my suggestion that I`ve read here, I do have to make a couple of remarks.

      I`ve not attended any Pink Dot, supposedly an LGBT event. (No, I`m definitely NOT cowering in the closet.) But from the clips I`ve seen, I recall seeing straight celebrities and family members take the stage to address the participants.

      Nothing wrong with that.

      But I don`t recall a SINGLE speaker who is LGBT at Pink Dot. And not because this is his blog and I want to score brownie points, but I did wonder after the first Pink Dot why even Alex Au, Singapore`s most well known gay activist, wasn`t a speaker there as I had expected.

      It would seem that LGBTs cannot speak at this LGBT event; only straights can.

      Echoes of GE2011 ring. Does everyone still recall Vivian Balakrishnan questioning if Vincent Wijeysinghe would `pursue the gay agenda` in Parliament. (He presumably meant the repeal of S377a, just of the very few and limited things about the Gay Agenda that can be pursued in Parliament.) He deliberately overlooked that three of his straight colleagues – Charles Chong, Hri Kumar Nair and Baey Yam Keng – along with straight ex-NMP, Siew Kum Hong already had!

      In 2007!

      Only straight men can pursue the Gay Agenda in Parliament in their capacity as custodians of the LGBT community; we, LGBTs would, naturally, return that charitable act – because `rights` can only be the result of the charity of those witholding them from us – by continuing to be beholden to straights, especially men. We continue to remain disempowered.

      Perhaps my initial views of Pink Dot as an event for dizzy queens were the rights ones after all, dizzy queens who find immense comfort in the biggest closet in Singapore at Hong Lim Park.

      If the speakers at this Pink Dot continue to be exclusively straight and they are reading this, let me tell them that they are doing LGBTs no favours by helping to perpetuate this.

      • 29 yawningbread 14 June 2011 at 09:47

        You wrote: “but I did wonder after the first Pink Dot why even Alex Au, Singapore`s most well known gay activist, wasn`t a speaker there as I had expected.”

        Because I adopted a personal policy, right after “Speakers’ Corner” was created. I dislike the way the government used this as merely a valve to let off some pressure from the demand for freedom of expression throughout Singapore. I said publicly I would not help them legitimise this half-measure (ha! more like 1-percent measure) by organising (and that includes speaking at) any event at Hong Lim.

      • 30 Poker Player 14 June 2011 at 14:45

        “Only straight men can pursue the Gay Agenda in Parliament in their capacity as custodians of the LGBT community”

        Only Nixon could go to China.

      • 31 yuen 19 June 2011 at 08:21

        I was not taking much interest in Pink Dot, till some discussions the following item in Temasek Review caught my eye and caused me to comment

        http://www.temasekreview.com/2011/06/18/pink-dot-2011-attracts-more-than-10000-people/

        sinazen.com:
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        June 19, 2011 at 8:02 am

        I think both Robox and To Nicole Seah/NSP Supporter over reacted; from what I read, the event was a free concert organized by a LGBT group, not a gay activist political rally, so no gay advocates spoke, maybe the organizers did not invite any to speak, maybe they, like Alex Au, did not want to speak there in any case;

        so Nicole Seah went, maybe to get some entertainment – she is after all a 24 year old, socially adept woman – maybe to have her presence noticed and reported – do remember she works for a publicity agency and it might be part of her job or job-related exposure to attend such large public events

        http://singazen.com/complaints/singapore_gays/

  13. 32 Rabbit 11 June 2011 at 02:19

    There is an invisible prison bar, build by PAP, surrounding Hong Lim Park. Actions and voices are kept within the boundary and under watched by cameras. As who can participate depend on the government rule of selecting what sort of “visitor” can visit those prison. As in this case employment passes, work permits or social visit passes cannot visit such event. If the purpose of any event is to preach love and non-discrimination in society, it should be well supported by the governnment instead of fear. Unfortunately the restriction and rediculous rules seemed like the kind made specially for anti-gay ministers and we know who they are.

    Once pink dot is over and the participants stepped out of the park, they were divided into pro opposition and pro-pap group. Those who voted for anti-gay ministers (especially Vivian Balakrishnan) are the one kept within the prison, contented with better food as depicted in the photo above.

    The good news is, the pink dot finally gone internationally this year and grabbed a fair bit of attention and Singapore GLBT being the founder. I see this as a good start to strengthen our force so that Vivian’s gutter politics & incident like the AWARE saga will not repeat even if Singapore is not yet quite ready for gay pride event like Taiwan and other countries.

  14. 33 Jimmy Ong 11 June 2011 at 20:55

    I like TK’s suggestion of outsiders standing in an arc. We should not discourage non-citizens and non-PRs to come to Pink Dot, and to visibly participate by wearing white instead and possibly wear a white round badge with pink eyes and pink upturn mouth in keeping with Pink Dot’s non-protest celebration.

  15. 34 JOW 12 June 2011 at 01:12

    @TK and Jimmy

    Bad idea. The “arc formation” would in itself be considered an illegal assembly and would most likely be prosecuted. Don’t forget the whole reason why Pink Dot has to be held in Hong Lim Park is because you can’t hold this kind of event anywhere else.

  16. 35 wikigam 13 June 2011 at 09:25

    1) Early snowing in the autumn season.
    Insensitive of rulling party on LGBT right have been casused
    singapore fall into “COLOR SKIN” bias un-expectation early
    than the LGBT Right movements. If you has have interaction
    among LGBT in singapore , you may find that ” White” & “Yellow”
    are no prefer “Black” and ” Black” are like to grouping
    themselves.Such case was happen in western countrys after
    legalise of LGBT.

    2) “Human Right” for ME singapore style.
    When singaporean talk about ” Human Right”, In fact , they are
    telling their “RIGHT” . Religion talk about their ” religion right” . Women Group champhionship their ” women right”. Race are fighting their ” minority right”. Are GAY group here also seek the legalise of bisexual right ?

  17. 36 Tan Tai Wei 13 June 2011 at 11:20

    About conducting peaceful mass demonstrations that, in Singapore, would break the law, these observations/reminders might be worth making/giving.

    The rules of democracy would ordinarily require that laws made by any elected government be respected and abided by, even should citizens disagree with them. Any protest against them should therefore be conducted within the confines of the law, even if that would require waiting for a democratic change of ruling regime to effect it.

    Of course, where the law protested against were as blatantly wrong and immoral, such as the sort of racism protested in the American “civil rights” example, or apatheid in S. Africa, then it could be argued that things are too urgent to await due process to resolve (like NATO’s not respecting normal international laws in order to stop Gaddafi).

    In our situation, the freedoms those of us with SDP want seem to me not to belong to the “urgent” sort. PAP can plausibly say that they are being giving, even if only indoors, and at Honglim.

    The exception may be the hanging of drug traffickers, or even the caning of “vandals” and overstayers. Such cruelties seem to me to call for immediate abolishment.

    Anyway, government should now see how, in an important way, those retrictions on protests and demonstrations had been unhelpful to itself. Had those freedoms been allowed all along, they would have been better impressed by feedbacks from the ground, and would not have been caught so off-guard about ground feelings at the elections just passed.

    • 37 Poker Player 14 June 2011 at 10:31

      “The rules of democracy would ordinarily require that laws made by any elected government be respected and abided by, even should citizens disagree with them. Any protest against them should therefore be conducted within the confines of the law, even if that would require waiting for a democratic change of ruling regime to effect it.”

      Step up one level.

      They are still operating within the law. They broke it – the law says police action, court case, jail and fine – and that’s exactly what happened.

      A technique in argumentation is to follow your adversary’s argument to it logical conclusion – where you know the absurdity of his position becomes obvious.

      How else to expose how our police and judges operate?

      • 38 Poker Player 14 June 2011 at 12:38

        “About conducting peaceful mass demonstrations that, in Singapore, would break the law, these observations/reminders might be worth making/giving.”

        You have to love the SDP/CSJ approach/invention – do things that groups of people do in public that police don’t take action against – walk quietly to a destination. stand unobtrusively in a public place – but imbue the physical action with a political/intellectual position.

        So if the authorities take action against them, it can’t be because of the physical act – it has to be its intellectual content. Voila – “thought crime”.

      • 39 gentleaura 17 June 2011 at 18:36

        But then again do they follow the rules. By they you know who I’m referring to, right ? Just look at TPL’s case. Cooling off day is a rule under the Elections Act. Was it followed?

  18. 40 Robox 14 June 2011 at 10:36

    Thanks, Alex, for your clarification; it was a personal-political decision on your part as I see it.

    I am now interested to know from Pink Dot’s organizers if they even bothered to entertain the idea that Singapore’s first openly gay politician should not have been invited to speak at this event because Pink Dot is a closetted political event.

    If they did, and if he had a similarly personal-political reasons as you did for declining the invitation, then reveal all. Just as you did. From both sides. Because there are some of us who do hold hopes that he could raise our profile, and therefore our issues, concerns and rights. Even while he remains a politician dedicated to the more national causes, which I have absolutely no problem with because I am not interested in seeing any politician from any minority demographic ghettoized to his or her own community as if they are incapable of having more national concerns.

    If Pink Dot’s organizers did not even bother to invite Vincent Wijeysinghe to speak this year, I would question their dedication to document the important landmarks of queer history in Singapore: Is it not historic to include Singapore’s first gay politician, right after he made an impact nationally, at this event?

    Or is Pink Dot colluding with the PAP’s campaign of the obliteration of important contributions to Singapore’s social and political history?

    This is also important now that you, Alex, have clarified that your position: If Vincent wasn’t even invited to speak at this year’s Pink Dot, just how much of it was due to what I already know to be typical in any number of contexts in Singapore, the Chinese Mutiny against Indian leadership?

    I know Singapore’s LGBT community enough to know that they are not exempt from the evil of racism.

  19. 41 teo soh lung 15 June 2011 at 09:15

    If organisers themselves fail even to ponder why they have to obey ridiculous rules – rules that they know will not and cannot be enforced by them, then I think there is really something very wrong in our society.

    Sometime ago, I myself was shocked at my “sheep mentality”. I wrote about it and ever since, I have been more cautious about obeying instructions.

    You are right about the purpose of Hong Lim. I was taken aback when my Indonesian helper told me that if protests require permits, then they are not protests at all!

  20. 42 SR 15 June 2011 at 19:59

    As a British gay man who has visited Singapore more than 30+ times over the last 15 years its very sad that I will not be allowed (legally) to attend Pink Dot and show my support. I must admit I was amazed when I first heard that “Speakers Corner” requires a permit in order to state your case? I guess I am lucky to come from a country that allows gay men and women to legally form a partnership, where having sex with someone of the same gender is legal (over the age of 16) and where Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London allows ANYONE from ANYWHERE to make a stand, give a speech, state their case, discussion, protest, etc and NOT have to have a permit- that is what freedom of speech represents. Of course discrimination still exists and is a work in progress, I feel it will still take two or three more generations to moderate that. I guess I’m ashamed that our previous archaic legal system is still being used here in Singapore against homosexuality and feel so frustrated that these irrelevant laws are not changed. And yet I DO see progress here in Singapore and have so much hope for this young nation. I have many gay (and straight!) friends here and realize how wonderful and important events like Pink Dot are, many I know will be attending this year. And I understand that in such a conservative society that it will take time to change and that change will take time but I truly wish I was able to stand there in Hong Lim Park on Saturday and show support and know that I would not be charged or arrested for just being there. In that respect the government still has its control on its ‘protests’ or demonstrations, thats a sad thing but I wanted to let you know that the time WILL come when all this will change. Politically the government have to live in the real world and wake up to what the people want, otherwise they won’t get your vote. Over time they will realise that its not just a minority who demand equality its ALL of society. I wish everyone who is attending a great day, and whilst I wont be there physically I want to let you know that you have my spiritual support as well.

  21. 43 T 16 June 2011 at 15:43

    “Actually, I don’t mind the bars, I just want better food.” -Comic caption.

    I understand the need to emphasize the contrast between materialist and post-materialist attitudes in Singapore. But this might present a rather simplistic picture of what kind of a good life is desired by various Singaporeans.

    It would also be important to note that materialist and post-materialist concerns need not be mutually-exclusive. For instance, one needs exercisable rights to seek more genuine debate and change on policies so as to gain fairer shares of socioeconomic growth benefits, be it for oneself or for others.

    It’s relatively easy to judge the government based on its position and policies. However, I feel that it is not so straightforward to assess the people based on their inaction/apathy in actively fighting for their own rights.

    • 44 Poker Player 17 June 2011 at 09:55

      Is it just me or this comment has a far too high vocabulary to content ratio.

      Seriously, can anyone make sense of this:

      “For instance, one needs exercisable rights to seek more genuine debate and change on policies so as to gain fairer shares of socioeconomic growth benefits, be it for oneself or for others.”

      • 45 yawningbread 17 June 2011 at 13:30

        I can, and most readers of Yawning Bread, in my opinion, will have no trouble doing so. And they should be proud of their command of language. The anti-intellectualism seen on many other political websites in Singapore is not welcome here.

      • 46 Poker Player 17 June 2011 at 13:52

        Then give me an example of

        “exercisable rights to seek more genuine debate and change on policies”

        and how it connects with the rest of the sentence.

        The problem is not anti-intellectualism, it’s (confused) pseudo-intellectualism.

  22. 47 frank 18 June 2011 at 15:43

    poker player,

    if singaporeans are given these ‘exercisable rights’, ie protests, assemblies etc, im sure many would fight for greater equity/share of ‘socioeconomic growth benefits’, and the gov would be seriously pressured to increase assistance for low income/destitue etc…for example.

    just look at HK…….

    perhaps ure the epitome of pseudo-intellectualism?

    • 48 Poker Player 18 June 2011 at 20:47

      Google “exercisable rights” and see that none of the hits are direct. We are talking zillions of websites. Unless you are a world renowned German philosopher, you want to avoid a personalized vocabulary that people are supposed to master.

      Then google “protests”, “assemblies” – you get direct hits. Then you know part of what being pseudo-intellectual means. Then you know the word enough to describe someone with it.

      • 49 frank 18 June 2011 at 22:48

        goodness, so do u google every single damn word u cant fathom and if there are no direct hits, yr logical conclusion is that no one except the author of the word understands it?

        ‘exercisable rights’ is not a difficult to understand phrase, as is the rest of the sentence, as yawningbread also thinks. in context its meaning can be readily grasped… did u not do comprehensions in school??

        u are seriously emodying the pseudo-intellectual

      • 50 Poker Player 18 June 2011 at 23:56

        The point is: read someone like Bertrand Russel. If your ideas are not more difficult than his, but your vocabulary is, then you are a pseudo-intellectual.

        “u are seriously emodying the pseudo-intellectual”

        I am not sure you know what that means. A more believable label would be “anti-intellectual” (which YB used) – I am claiming something is more difficult to understand than necessary, and others (like you) are claiming that it is easy.

        I am saying that I am normal in my expectation of the level of vocabulary to be used given the difficulty of the content – this makes “T”‘s vocabulary pseudo-intellectual.

        In contrast, you are saying that “T”‘s vocabulary is appropriate and matches the difficulty of the ideas he is trying to express – that would make me “anti-intellectual”.

        So if you want to label, use the correct one.

  23. 51 frank 18 June 2011 at 23:41

    please disregard my previous post.

    goodness, so do u google every damn word u cant fathom and if there are no direct hits, yr logical conclusion is that no one except the author of the word understands it? and even if there are direct hits, would it not also be ‘personalized vocabulary’ then, whether or not the authors were german philosphers?

    ‘exercisable rights’ is not a difficult to understand phrase, as is the rest of the sentence, as yawningbread also thinks. in context its meaning can be readily grasped… did u not do comprehensions in school??

    u are seriously embodying the pseudo-intellectual

  24. 52 frank 19 June 2011 at 15:01

    whatever you want to label yourself as, i leave it up to you. the point is T’s vocabulary is already as basic as it can get… it was such a straightforward statement with straightforward vocabulary. if u still think that the vocabulary used was difficult, there’s nothing more i ought to say.

    i guess it all boils down to your level of vocabulary and intellect.. perhaps T, YB and I wrongly assumed that all readers of this blog passed their ‘O’ level english.. it was a mistake on my part to severely over estimate your english language abilities.

    • 53 Poker Player 20 June 2011 at 10:54

      You are missing the point. Which is

      “this comment has a far too high vocabulary to content ratio”

      and

      “The point is: read someone like Bertrand Russel. If your ideas are not more difficult than his, but your vocabulary is, then you are a pseudo-intellectual.”

      And “T”‘s vocabulary is basic?

      A relatively heavy-going book like “The End of History” and the most recent Fukuyama one can talk about rights without having to refer to “exercisable rights”.

      And “materialist”/”post-materialist”? Really?

      Other than passing your O levels – you might want to know that the most famous book on good writing is called “The Complete Plain Words” – there is a reason for the title.

      • 54 Nicholas Liu 20 June 2011 at 17:07

        The fact that a *phrase* is not commonly encountered is not evidence that it is esoteric. “Exerciseable” is easily understood. “Rights” is easily understood. What is it about their conjunction that is “pesudo-intellectual”? “Exerciseable rights”, in the context of the original sentence, is plain speech, not is not a technical term or term of art. It just means “rights that can be exercised”.

        You probably won’t get very many hits for a phrase like “taxicab covered in jelly”, either, but that hardly makes its meaning opaque.

      • 55 Nicholas Liu 20 June 2011 at 17:29

        Which isn’t to say that I agree with the comment that provoked your comment, just that complaining about the vocabulary it uses doesn’t seem fair or productive to me. If you disagree with the content, or find its arguments incoherent, why not say so, and why? Whether or not the comment could have been more simply phrased is immaterial.

      • 56 Poker Player 20 June 2011 at 18:28

        “The fact that a *phrase* is not commonly encountered is not evidence that it is esoteric. “Exerciseable” is easily understood. “Rights” is easily understood.”

        Missing the point. Would the sentence have lost any meaning if he simply used “rights”? Whole books on democracy make do with “rights’. The first reaction is to pause and think that maybe he is making a needed distinction from just plain “rights’. Oops no he is not.

        I wouldn’t have said anything but then I see “materialist”/”post-materialist” – and then the syntax that ties them up.

        If the subject matter allows you to write the way you speak and not lose any content, then that is the appropriate style to use. No one speaks like that (in the original comment) – and the content certainly doesn’t require it.

        “Whether or not the comment could have been more simply phrased is immaterial.”

        Not true. If you have friends who study philosophy, ask them about the sort of criticism that Heidegger, Hegel, Derrida and Lacan get. Some of their adversaries doubt their good faith (covering up a lack of ideas by deeply layering them in impossible to understand prose) and dismiss them based on that before going very far into actual content.

      • 57 Anders 21 June 2011 at 01:57

        Although this was not such a bad case, I do think Poker Player has a point which many seem to be missing.

        I’m a university lecturer and far too often I see students making excessive use of complicated terminology when the same point could be equally (and often more clearly) made using simpler or more straightforward terms.

        Sometimes, complex ideas call for specialized terminology, but good style on the other hand calls for clarity, i.e. a moderate use of difficult language. Although I’m not sure about this example, I generally agree with Poker Player that it’s pseudo intellectual to express (or rather “cover up”) straightforward ideas with unneccesarily obscure language.

  25. 58 frank 21 June 2011 at 16:53

    anders, u are a university lecturer and u are “not sure about this example” ?

    i fully agree that simple ideas which does not necessitate bigger words ought to be expressed simply. but what i am perturbed by is how the wording in the original comment is construed as not straightforward/simple by normative standards.

    poker player said: “Exerciseable” is easily understood. “Rights” is easily understood.”

    Missing the point. Would the sentence have lost any meaning if he simply used “rights”?

    since ‘exercisable’ is easily understood, would the sentence have lost any meaning or be misinterpreted if the author added ‘exercisable’ before ‘rights’? as long as the meaning can be reasonably understood by the most people, i see absolutely no need for petty nit picking. there is no value in that other than flaunting how well read or ‘intellectual’ poker player is.

    and poker player, u might want to suggest a better and simpler word/phrase that does not compromise on the universally accepted meaning for ‘materialist/post-materialist’

    • 59 Poker Player 21 June 2011 at 18:19

      Not sure why anyone would call it “flaunting”. YB had a posting (on education) based on an article from **The Economist**. Fukuyama’s latest book was reviewed in **The Economist**. The least famous name quoted was Derrida – whose obituary appeared also in **The Economist**. And their use in my comments was not gratuitous – they were used as concrete examples in arguments. And I have nothing to add to Anders’ comments – completes all the points I have sympathy with.

      And I see:

      ” I wrongly assumed that all readers of this blog passed their ‘O’ level english.. it was a mistake on my part to severely over estimate your english language abilities.”

      and a few posts later:

      ” flaunting how well read or ‘intellectual’ poker player is”

      Ad hominems are better when they are consistent.

    • 60 Anders 21 June 2011 at 19:14

      Frank: I didn’t want to comment on T’s post because although I might have opinions about style, commenting on it is as you say nitpicking which can ruin an otherwise good debate.

      That said, it did take me a while to even parse the syntax of T’s statement and my first reaction was that it would be nicer if he had made an effort to simplify that sentence (I hope that doesn’t disqualify me from my job). On the other hand I understand that he might not have had the time or will to do so, and I agree that it is not very constructive to pick a fight about it.

      In the end I commented, not because of T’s post but because I sympathise with Poker Player’s general point, that ideas are often best expressed using plain English and simple grammar and that obscure language often just means that the writer is either trying to show off or is hiding a lack of content.

      • 61 frank 21 June 2011 at 23:44

        poker player’s general point is certainly valid. but any discussions on that should not take place here. if in his apparent infinite wisdom he honestly still cannot understand what T is saying, he could simply have asked T to clarify or rephrase. instead poker player made cynical and ostentatious comments one after the other. that is what i took offence at. i have absolutely no wish of turning this post into an english debate, but i find myself incapable of turning a blind eye to such regrettable behaviour.

        poker player, what is it exactly that u’re trying to prove?

  26. 62 frank 21 June 2011 at 18:43

    at the point when i said ” I wrongly assumed that all readers of this blog passed their ‘O’ level english.. it was a mistake on my part to severely over estimate your english language abilities.”, u only brought up bertrand russell.

    after that, u brought up Heidegger, Hegel, Derrida and Lacan, “The End of History”, fukuyama and “The Complete Plain Words” , which explains my saying of ” flaunting how well read or ‘intellectual’ poker player is”.

    and by bringing in philosophy and the great wisdom u have accumulated from religiously reading The Economist, against such a simple and uncomplicated issue of phrasing, u are most guilty of being a psuedo-intellectual!

    and i see u have departed from the original argument.. would u care to stay on course? and please answer if u do in fact have a better word for ‘materialist/post-materialist’ . i would love to learn from u!!

  27. 63 frank 21 June 2011 at 18:54

    one more thing, now you are making me and many others google ‘ad hominem’, when yr intended meaning, as i see it, can simply be put as ‘criticisms’, for the benefit of the not so latin-inclined folks out there.


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