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.
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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.