Four presidential candidates on the gay issue

At the forum organised by The Online Citizen on 18 August 2011, in which all four presidential candidates took questions from the small audience, I had the opportunity to ask a question about an independent elections commission and where each candidate stood on Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes homosex a criminal offence.

I didn’t expect that any candidate would give an unequivocal answer to 377A; they would no doubt be conscious that this is a controversial issue and like all politicians would hate to take a stand. Nonetheless, gay, lesbian and transgender communities are very good at reading between the lines, so that even if they hummed and hawed, we are still able to draw meaning from that.

As it turned out, the four candidates gave quite distinct answers, and I believe they said enough that LGBT voters can be guided by what they hear.

The question asked (starting from 7 min 42 secs in the video) of the four candidates was whether they would favour the idea of an independent elections commission, perhaps with oversight by the president rather than the government, and where they stood on Section 377A.

Here is the transcript (I hope without errors):

(At 09 min 32 secs)

Tony Tan: My guiding principle is very simple, I would do what I think is in the best interest of Singapore, and with regard to what the elections commission should . . . or with regard to section 377A, I think that these would be matters which obviously government would be involved. Parliament will be involved. The president may have a view which he should express to the prime minister . . .

Viswa Sadasivan (moderator): I guess the question is, what is your view?

Tony Tan: What is my view with regard to . . .

Viswa: At this point of time.

Tony Tan: At this point, my view with regard to this is that I think that these are issues which do not have clear black-and-white answers. I think we should look into it. 377A has been discussed in parliament and I think that this has been brought up many times. Obviously if it is a simple black-and-white answer, this would have been resolved long ago and I don’t think it is right for us to make simple black-and-white answers to what could be complex situations.

Viswa: On the issue of the election commission?

Tony Tan: On the elections commission, I would say that we want elections to be free and fair. I think that is the basic principle which we have to work under and we want the best arrangement for that.

(At 11 min 10 secs)

Tan Jee Say: I will give you clear answer. The answer is yes, move out of the PMO into the presidential, to an independent commission. Number two is no. Alright? Just to get . . .

[inaudible]

Viswa: On 377A?

Tan Jee Say: No, I would have no discrimination. No discrimination.

[inaudible]

Tan Jee Say: I’m not a lawyer. Ha, ha. I need to consult a lawyer on the intricacy, but I said, no discrimination.

(At 11 min 45 secs)

Tan Cheng Bock: For me, yes, I think we should move to an independent body for this election. As for the other question of three-three-A, I think as a doctor I’ve seen patients of mine also with this type of lifestyle, it is his lifestyle choice. So I am not  . . . I have no difficulty in accepting this lifestyle choice.

(At 12 min 14 secs)

Tan Kin Lian: Now, I will move the election commission outside the Prime Minister’s Office, to be managed independently and I will respect the right of people to have their choice of their life so long as it doesn’t cause any harm to the general society.

* * * * *

[Update: I think some are wondering what was said in the inaudible parts and if it might be significant.

The first inaudible part was me saying “Er. . .  no? No to what?” The second inaudible part was me again but I can’t quite remember what I said. I think I said something like “What about the law itself? 377A. Do you have a stand on that?”.]

60 Responses to “Four presidential candidates on the gay issue”


  1. 1 Daniel Ho 22 August 2011 at 01:24

    I think most striking isn’t their positions on 377A per se, but rather how TT seems to be parroting the exact same message from the government. Even Lee Kuan Yew has a more distinct stand then he does!

    If he is asking to be our “independent” Elected President, perhaps he might want to grow a pair first.

    • 2 Bernie 22 August 2011 at 05:55

      Lol.

      What on earth does Tony stand for other than PAP?
      What on earth is he really championing for other than ambiguous causes?
      Why on earth would people vote for Tony other than the fact that:
      i. They must be truly ignorant (thanks to state media no less)
      ii. He is the most familiar face
      iii. They are pro-PAP.

      But isn’t there something wrong to be choosing a president based on whether he is pro-PAP or not?

      I want to have a choice of a president based on strong and clear values. Not references to the past but clear statements on what the president is going to champion for.

      B.

      • 3 yawningbread 22 August 2011 at 07:41

        You wrote: “I want to have a choice of a president based on strong and clear values”

        For LGBT people and others including many heterosexuals who believe in equality, where a person stands on the question of anti-gay discrimination (and how he justifies it) is an important measure of strong and clear values. It is a highly relevant question.

      • 4 Poker Player 22 August 2011 at 14:11

        “including many heterosexuals who believe in equality”

        I don’t think that is enough – there is another ingredient – intellectual honesty.

      • 5 Poker Player 22 August 2011 at 14:13

        In fact, in the case of LKY, his intellectual honesty is the deal winner – I don’t think he prizes equality all that much.

  2. 6 Kenneth Tan (@singaporeano) 22 August 2011 at 03:20

    All four candidates do not make the cut for me in this segment of the debate. IMHO, TJS, TCB and TKL all gave non-answers. TT fared the worst. We need to hear an unequivocal “I’m all for the repeal of S377A”.

    To the LGBT voters who are so enamoured with TJS, I say we all need to be careful about reading what we want to hear from the candidates of our choice. TJS is a Cambridge PPE graduate and he just came most recently from a political party with the clearest stand on civil rights. He knows what he’s talking about. For a candidate that stated unequivocally that he’s against the death penalty to then manage only a feeble “no discrimination” against gays, something smells not right to me.

    Because no politician would EVER admit to practising discrimination, TJS’ “no discrimination” is really a non-answer because even Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann would tell you they do not discriminate. If some day, TJS turns around and says, “I’m not discriminating against gay people, I’m just discriminating against the gay act,” I would not be surprised. Just sayin’.

    • 7 Poker Player 22 August 2011 at 11:33

      “All four candidates do not make the cut for me in this segment of the debate. ”

      I can’t help but agree. Two of them behave like they were asked to run. The other two smell like opportunists to me.

      My vote is tactical. After Aljunied fell, things we wanted that they said made no sense, suddenly made enough sense for them to (almost) eagerly implement.

      It’s a Singaporean thing – you attend a meeting late to show who’s boss – but don’t do it too often.

  3. 8 Bernie 22 August 2011 at 05:51

    Important questions. Thank you for asking it, Alex and for taking the time to share with us.

    It shows alot about each of the candidate and where they stand, on a very straightforward issue in this day and age and how the candidates will handle the PAP.

    I want an independent president with his own mind who will fight for just causes.

  4. 9 kjeyaretnam 22 August 2011 at 06:13

    It IS black and white and there should be an unequivocal answer. Same sex marriage and other rights, well that may be an area where we can say there is currently room for education and discussion. But 377a is right up there with the ISA. These are outdated, colonial, leftover laws not suited to a modern society or First World Nation.
    We have plenty of laws to protect us against all kinds of harm so TKL’s response is a hedge and sounds insincere as though he has memorised the expected response.
    Tan Cheng Bock’s answer smacks of insincerity and shows his outdated mindset, Andrea in particular should notice he refers to ‘he’ throughout. Is Tan Cheng Bock channeling Queen Victoria? ( Britain famously had no law outlawing Lesbianism as Queen Victoria couldn’t believe it existed) His answer reminds me of those who when accused of racist attitudes answer, ” I have a black friend.”
    Tan Jee Say talks about wanting a society without discrimination. And quite rightly so! I hope he sticks to this on racial and other minority issues as well. In that case I will expect him to speak out against or let us know his proposals for changing the eligibility criteria for Presidential candidates. Currently they are biased against women and Malays.
    Tony Tan? I am speechless. He was asked for his view.and dodged this just as he dodged the ISA detainees question. How can this man represent us as a forward moving Nation. The policies of the PAP are isolating us as a Nation and preventing progress which can’t be measured by GDP alone. I expect our President to represent us as Singaporeans in our full cultural heritage and diversity irrespective of creed, ethnic background, gender, sexuality or physicality.
    I’m not Gay but I believe this question is an important litmus test for Presidential suitability and MP suitability come to that.

  5. 10 Jackson Tan 22 August 2011 at 07:36

    The answers given by the presidential candidates reveals another aspect of their stands: how knowledgeable they are about science and how strong its influence is. Tony Tan gave a expected evasive answer, but both Tan Cheng Bok and Tan Kin Lian specifically used the word ‘choice’. This of course runs contrary to prevailing scientific understanding of homosexuality.

    Sometimes, it takes tremendous courage for a politician to comprehend and, more importantly, stand on the side of science, especially when an issue is heavily politicised. How many politicians dare to state, definitively, that homosexuality is a biological trait and not a choice, that climate change is happening and caused by humans, that evolution is real with strong evidence for it etc.

    Nonetheless, perhaps I should give them a slight benefit of the doubt. They could very well have used ‘choice’ in the sense of homosexuals choosing to have a same-sex partner than remain single or fake an opposite-sex relationship. That is, homosexuals have the right to choose to be who they are born to be.

    • 11 Tan Tai Wei 22 August 2011 at 11:44

      “Choice” exists, whether or not homosexuality is chosen. With that oriention, what to do with it is still a matter of choice. Heterosexuals, too, have the moral responsibility whether, and how to effect it.

      • 12 Kenneth Tan (@singaporeano) 23 August 2011 at 16:40

        “Moral responsibility”? I beg your pardon? Homosexuality has been observed throughout the animal kingdom. Are you suggesting that those homosexual animals chose to be immoral?

      • 13 Ian 23 August 2011 at 20:19

        If i’m not wrong, i think he is trying to imply that regardless of orientation, one has the ‘moral responsibility’ to not engage in homosexual sex or to the extend of having heterosexual sex for procreation even if one is a homosexual. So to disobey would result in a punishment, hence 377A.

        And by the way Kenneth, animals do not serve as our guidelines for morality. Cannibalism for example would be EXTREMELY immoral for us to do, yet animals still do that all the time. The animals have gay sex argument is only meant to be used on subjects like “homosexuality is unnatural”.

  6. 14 Tan Tai Wei 22 August 2011 at 08:10

    Jee Say is right about that “emtional baggage” in the clear case of TT. Cheng Bock seems better at trying to shake it off; perhaps he really has succeeded.

  7. 15 Neo Beng 22 August 2011 at 08:48

    Why keep talking about 377A? Don’t we have better, more important issue to attend to? Honestly speaking, a person so concern about 377A is not fit to be the president.

    • 16 Poker Player 22 August 2011 at 13:21

      Something that requires an act of Parliament to change is not important?
      Especially when the country we copied it from has already judicially overturned it?

    • 17 James 22 August 2011 at 15:42

      Neo Beng, what is not important to you may be the single most pressing issue in someone else’s life. Please do not write off issues simply because it doesn’t concern you.

  8. 18 jem 22 August 2011 at 09:13

    TCB and TKL’s choice of words are somewhat disappointing, using ‘choice’ to describe being gay. TCB bringing his experience as a doctor into this is totally unrelated, as homosexuality is not a medical condition. TKL’s acceptance is also conditional, “as long as it doesn’t cause harm to the general society”, which is unfair because straight people don’t face that criteria.

    I was not expecting anything with substance from TT in the first place, so there is nothing to be disappointed by.

  9. 19 yawningbread 22 August 2011 at 11:03

    Here’s a confession: There was a reason why I paired the two within the same question — independent elections commission and anti-gay discrimination. I wanted to see if there was a difference in the way they responded to both questions. If they were straightforward on one and roundabout on the other, it will tell you something. If they gave equally straightforward answers on both, it will tell you something else. If they gave equally roundabout answers on both . . .

    • 20 S377A 22 August 2011 at 12:18

      If I have perceived correctly from my one-time viewing of the video, TJS, TCB and TKL all three gave straightforward answers on independent elections commission and all three gave roundabout answers on their view on S377A (they did not say anything regarding whether or not they think S377A should remain – they only said things like “I respect a gay person’s choice” or “no discrimination”). Even some conservative Christians can clearly said that S377A should be repealed even though they also said they believed homosex is sinful (repealing S377A and a personal believe in the rightness or wrongness of homosex are two separate matters).

      Of course in TT’s case, he gave roundabout answers to both independent elections comissions and S377A.

      So all four candidates were disappointing in terms of having the courage to speak out their mind regarding S377A (perhaps they were afraid saying their true answers clearly and directly would alienate voters either on the left or on the right). The moderator should have pressed further to ask for a direct answers so that each candidate can say

      1. “yes S377A should be repealed” or
      2. “no S377A should not be repealed” or
      3. “I cannot make up my mind now as I need further research into the details” or
      4. “I do not wish to answer this question”

  10. 21 Tan Tai Wei 22 August 2011 at 11:23

    Already progress indicated when they all did not react clearly negatively on the gay issue. The emotional baggage is so heavy against “gays” that even a posting above, though sincerely siding gay rights, still says “I am not gay”!

    • 22 S377A 24 August 2011 at 13:11

      Hi Tai Wei,

      Sometimes a heterosexual who argues for gay rights add in the remarks “I am not gay” not because of fear but because he wants to preempt and deal with the potential rebuttal from people who may say “he says those things because he is gay; he is not being objective”.

      So that person who mentioned “I am not gay” could have done that to indicate that he is being objective – he is suporting gay rights not because he is gay but because he is impartial and objective.

  11. 23 georgia tong 22 August 2011 at 11:59

    Seems like all the 4 candidates became rather ‘cautions’ when gay issue is raised. Conclusion – they are all uncomfortable and do not truly accept alternate lifestyle.

    • 24 S377A 22 August 2011 at 14:11

      Even if a person is against homosex (say because he is convinced that sexual activities between persons of the same sex is not right on the ground of his personal morality informed by his religious beliefs – while sex between 2 persons of the same gender may not be a moral issue for some, it can be a moral issue for others especially i situations where one’s morality is defined by the will of their gods/god), a person can at the same time, on the ground of equality and consistent treatment, believes that S377A should be repealed.

      A Singapore Christian academic around 377A has publicly supported the repeal of S377A (one the ground of consistency and fair treatment) though he personally viewed that sex between persons of the same sex is not right due to his religious belief. Hence even if the Presidential candidates holds that sex between persons of same gender is wrong, they can still judge that S377A should be repealed on the ground of constitutional equality, fair treatment, consistent treatment etc. Whether S377A should be repealed can be a separate matter from whether they personally think that gay sex is right or wrong. What they personally think of gay sex is not as important as whether or not they are able to think clearly regarding S377A for the latter touches on more fundamental principles of equality, fairness and consistent treatment.

      I guess certain Presidential candidates are in the reverse situation: they personally have no problem with others’ private sex lives but they do NOT think S377A needs to be repealed. So they did not say out a straightforward answer to Alex’s good question regarding the repeal of S377A, even when Alex explicitly requested just a yes or no answer.

  12. 25 S377A 22 August 2011 at 12:43

    on Tan Jee Say:

    I am very uncomfortable with JS talking about “moral compass” and being the moral “conscience”. His criticism of the casino was on moral ground.

    When I first heard (during the GE) that he was against the casino on moral ground, I immediately suspected if he is a Christian and later realized that I was right (I am not against Christianity and I myself is a practising Christian in a mainstream church). I felt that as a President, one needs to be professional and not let one’s personal morality (which typically for many religious people their morality is shaped to a extent by their religions) affect one’s action in one’s role AS A PUBLIC SERVANT. Hence, if the personal morality of TJS is such that gambling or having a casino is morally wrong, he should not then attempt to persuade the government to do away with the casinos on his personal moral grounds.

    Another problem I have with TJS is that he did not seem to have voiced out loudly during the casino debates against the casino. At that time, JS was already in the private sector and hence he was not bounded by any rules governing civil servants. If he has stood out and voiced out loudly, surely some mainstream or alternative media would have reported something like “SM Goh’s previous Principal Private Secretary join in to debate against having casinos in Singapore”. It is only now that he started to voice out loudly when he seeks people to vote for him.

    on Tony Tan:

    I agree with Tony Tan that he is very capable and has “deep knowledge” of domestic and international economic and financial systems and he is very suitable to help Singapore through the upcoming financial-economic crisis. But precisely he is so capable on such matters TT should not be our President. It is a waste of his talents if he becomes the President because as a President, he can only give advices and he would not be the one making the direct decisions that have an impact on Singapore surviving the crisis. TT would be able to contribute more to Singapore by being involved as direct decision maker in one of the key local economic-financial institutions. It is better for TT to be a decision maker (e.g. being the executive head of a local financial institution) than to be a President who can only advise. We do not need his kind of capability to guard the reserves. Since TT said he wants to contribute to Singapore and to help Singapore better survive the upcoming crisis, he should not be elected to become the President so that he can better contribute to Singapore as a decision-maker that has direct impact on our economy.

    • 26 yawningbread 22 August 2011 at 12:55

      I am uncomfortable with the linkage you are making between being against gambling and against homosexuality. Must there be an automatic association such that if one is pro-gay equality, one must be pro-gambling?

      I myself am uncomfortable with the idea of a government promoting gambling. To me, the issues are separate. Greed (and gambling feeds it) is a huge issue of morality where sexual orientation is not. In other words, just because someone is anti-casino should not mean he is anti-gay.

      • 27 Poker Player 22 August 2011 at 13:09

        “I myself am uncomfortable with the idea of a government promoting gambling.”

        To be clear, you mean “allowing”. They do promote – as long as it’s foreigners and somebody else clean up the mess. Unfortunately you can’t quarantine the bug.

      • 28 yawningbread 22 August 2011 at 13:20

        No, I mean promote. As a liberal, I do not think gambling should be outlawed entirely. Things like toto, football pools. . . Promoting, by adding glamour and the imprimatur of state sanction, is a different thing.

      • 29 S377A 22 August 2011 at 13:42

        I have not said or implied that there must be any automatic association between pro-gay equality and pro-gambling. Whether or not JS is supportive of repealing S377A I do not know since he did not (or chose not to) give a straightforward answer when he is given a chance to do so when you asked that question (and especially when you expressed that you just want a “Yes” or “No” answer). So I am not assuming what his position is for the time being. Of course a person can be pro-gay equality and at the same time anti-casino. A person can also be pro-gay equaltiy while at the same time believe in the freedom of options regarding casino. I for one is pro-gay equality and pro-freedom-of-choice regarding gambling and casino, and hence I would prefer the casinos to be available to those who wants to use them.

        What my previous comment on TJS contains two points: One was that TJS should not let his personal morality affect his ACTIONS IN HIS ROLE AS PUBLIC SERVANT. That means, for example, even if I am personally against casino, I would not abuse my professional position of power to get people to close the casinos (especially when there is a sizeable amoung of Singaporeans who prefer to have the casinos around). Similarly, if a person thinks that having bars around are bad (e.g. it causes some accidents and deaths which in turn causes harm to families), he or she should not let his personal morality against bars to affect his professional role if his professional role gives him the power to decide to close down bars.

        The other point was that TJS voiced out against casinos only now. That gives me a little bit of doubt on his sincerity in this particular matter and that he may be merely using it to score political points.

        Regardless of one’s subjective personal morality about gambling and having casinos around (this casino thing is a subjective matter; I for one would argue that gambling PER SE and having casinos around PER SE are not INHERENTLY a moral issue), one should separate between one’s professional role and one’s subjective personal morality. (in case I am misunderstood, I am not saying that all moralities are subjective).

      • 30 TY 22 August 2011 at 14:22

        I agree with Alex totally.

        @S377A
        Being against the casino got nothing to do with acceptance of homosexuality.

        The statistics from harm from casino is so evident. Hopefully the gov published more of this stats and the locals who enter the casino on a monthly basis. To the gov: benefit > harm. To the ppl: harm > benefit

        There do not exist evident that homosexuality is harming the public or anyone.

      • 31 S377A 22 August 2011 at 14:58

        @TY

        You addressed to me saying
        “@S377A
        Being against the casino got nothing to do with acceptance of homosexuality.”

        Have you read what I wrote in my original comment and my reply to yawningbread? I did not, anywhere in what I wrote, say anything about any linkage between anti-casino and anti-homosexuality.

        Your comments to me totally missed my points. Of course a person can me anti-casino while pro-homosexuality. Another person can be pro-casino but anti-gay. Or a person can also be anti-casino and anti-gay. Or a person can be pro-casino and pro-gay. All these are real possible situations.

        As long as there is at least a significant minority (e.g. 20%) that prefers to have casinos around, I would want the freedom of choice to have the casinos to be available to us in Singapore.

        That some people (e.g. alcoholics) and some families are harmed by the existence of bars and pubs in Singapore is no reason to forbid the opening of bars and pubs in Singapore. That some families and some people (e.g. compulsive gamblers) are harmed by the presence of casinos are also not good enough reason to ban casinos from Singapore.

        We should not be paternalistic to decide for others that casinos harm them or to decide for others whether they should or should enter a casino. Those who do not like it, stay away from casinos. But do not take away the space for others who like the casinos to use them.

      • 32 jem 22 August 2011 at 15:20

        “The other point was that TJS voiced out against casinos only now.”

        What do you mean by “only now”? He has voiced out against them since the beginning of his political entrance. I was at the SDP press conference where they introduced him, and distinctly remember him speaking out against the casinos. He also mentioned it a few times during his rally speeches.

      • 33 S377A 22 August 2011 at 16:59

        Hi jem,

        “What do you mean by “only now”? He has voiced out against them since the beginning of his political entrance. I was at the SDP press conference where they introduced him, and distinctly remember him speaking out against the casinos. He also mentioned it a few times during his rally speeches.”

        If you read my original comment carefully, you should know what I meant by “only now”. My point was, the crucial time for TJS to voice out against the casino debate was during 5 or 6 years ago when the debate was taking place before the govt announced the decisions. TJS seemed to be silent during that time (read again what I wrote in my original comment). It was only this year when he wanted to run during the GE and then the President’s post, then he asserted his “moral righteousness” to criticise the casino. It makes me doubt his intention. If he had voiced out back then (again see my elaboration in my original comments), then I won’t doubt his intention regarding the casino matter.

      • 34 jem 23 August 2011 at 12:18

        Prior to this TJS was just an ordinary citizen, not a public figure. He could have voiced out in his private capacity, and the media would have had no reason to point it out. It would have been the same as you or me voicing out our objections .. who would know?

      • 35 TY 24 August 2011 at 00:42

        @377a

        just like drug do harm to ppl. we ban it. Can we say do not take away the space for others who like to use drug?

        That some families and some people (e.g. compulsive gamblers) are harmed by the presence of casinos? we do not know the extend of all these.

        My guess is casino do more harm than TOTO, 4D, Big Sweep, Horse racing. Ppl who goes to casino lose much more in casino than they do with 4D.

        We have to compare the earnings of the IR vs sg pools to find out more.

      • 36 Judy Zhou 27 August 2011 at 11:43

        Being gay is not an alternative lifestyle or choice.. it’s a birth right !

    • 37 Chanel 22 August 2011 at 15:13

      S377A,

      Tony Tan may have “deep knowledge of domestic” affairs, but he definitely doesn’t posses “deep knowledge of international economic and financial systems”!!

      • 38 S377A 22 August 2011 at 17:06

        Whether or not it is true that TT has deep knowledge of the global situation is not the important point. My point is that, if he is that good as he said, and if it is true that his intention is to use his talents to contribute to Singapore in the upcoming crisis, then the more he should not become the President but use his talents to serve as a decision maker because that would have more direct impact on the economy. Being a President would be wasting those talents.

        So what I was implying was that TT seems to be contradicting himself.

  13. 39 Ong Lye Hoon 22 August 2011 at 12:49

    you are really smart alec, Alex😉

  14. 40 The 22 August 2011 at 13:37

    /// Kenneth Tan (@singaporeano) 22 August 2011 at 03:20
    TJS is a Cambridge PPE graduate and he just came most recently from a political party with the clearest stand on civil rights. ///

    First, get your facts right. TJS was from Oxford – PPE is offered in Oxford, but not in Cambridge.

    /// For a candidate that stated unequivocally that he’s against the death penalty to then manage only a feeble “no discrimination” against gays, something smells not right to me. ///

    I thought among the 4, TJS is the most unequivocal when it comes to 377A – no discrimination. How more unequivocal can one get?

    /// If some day, TJS turns around and says, “I’m not discriminating against gay people, I’m just discriminating against the gay act,” I would not be surprised. ///

    You are indulging in unnecessary speculation. Disciminating against the gay act is still discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how much hair-splitting you want to indulge.

    • 41 Ian 22 August 2011 at 16:11

      I’m wondering why TJS need to consult a lawyer when the question is on his stand for the 377A and not have one based on what he knows?

      skip to 1:06 for your reply to Kenneth’s comment, if they can say it to the world, i doubt they would have any trouble with doing the same for Singaporeans.

    • 42 Kenneth Tan (@singaporeano) 22 August 2011 at 16:37

      I stand corrected on Oxford.

      But I do not think I’m indulging in “unnecessary speculation”. As I’ve explained above: No politician anywhere on the face of this planet, even Uganda, is going to admit that s/he will practise discrimination. Not even Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann.

      At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, TJS’ answer (“no discrimination”) is a non-answer and it’s open to interpretation both ways. Just don’t be surprised some day if he betrays your trust and tells you that S377A should not be repealed.

  15. 43 S377A 22 August 2011 at 14:45

    quote: “I thought among the 4, TJS is the most unequivocal when it comes to 377A – no discrimination. How more unequivocal can one get? ”

    TJS gave the least roundabout answer, but roundabout nevertheless. In this video, he has proven to be able to be articulate and very clear on the death penalty issue. So on S377A, I expected him to be able to be able to say in simple straightforward words like: “Yes I would prefer S377A to be repealed”. But he did not. He stumbled on his words. If he could just say a simple “I prefer S377A to be repealed” it would then not have left room for doubt.

    When a person says “no discrimination” it does not necessarily mean that he believes S377A should be repealed. There seems to be people who believed that we should not discriminate against GLBT and yet they believed that it is better for S377A to remain in our law books (for example, some think that S377A should remain so that it would prevent the situation of GLBT demanding for marriage, adoption etc from arising).

    Hence TJS’s “no discrimination” need not mean he prefers S377A to be repealed.

  16. 44 NoGod 22 August 2011 at 15:16

    Let’s face it, openly saying I am for repealing 377A is like saying its ok for an open homosexual sexual relationship, even though it might be might argued otherwise.

    By explicitly saying “I support the repealing of 377A”, the candidates will open themselves for firing among conservatives and especially religious groups. With a huge proportion of Singaporeans belonging to a religion, its akin to committing political suicide. Our society is not ready for such open endorsement from a president.

    Religious groups is a very powerful lobby group in politics, not just in Singapore, hard truth.

    • 45 Ian 22 August 2011 at 16:34

      Agreed.

      But we will then have to ask ourselves that if the candidates can be easily imposed by the society, will they be a good president that can lead us in the direction of a better future or will they succumb to the society’s pressure and remain status quo on these issues.

    • 46 S377A 22 August 2011 at 17:08

      @ NoGod, I thought TJS put himself up as a person full of moral courage and moral conviction and will dare to speak out? If so, he should have the moral courage to say he is supportive of repealing S377A, if he is indeed truly having the conviction that S377A should be repealed.

  17. 47 Tan Tai Wei 22 August 2011 at 16:26

    He said more than repeal it? He went to the root of it, and implied that the Act is discriminatory.

  18. 50 Loh 22 August 2011 at 17:38

    If I were there, I would have asked this question –

    If the elected presidency is above politics and is a unifying force for the citizens of Singapore, what would you do if the government says it needs money to upgrade HDB estates but they will upgrade only those in PAP wards? Would you allow the funds to be withdrawn from our reserves or would you impose a condition that the money can only be taken if it was used in all estates. Unifying force, remember?

  19. 51 The 22 August 2011 at 22:29

    /// S377A 22 August 2011 at 14:45
    TJS gave the least roundabout answer, but roundabout nevertheless. In this video, he has proven to be able to be articulate and very clear on the death penalty issue. So on S377A, I expected him to be able to be able to say in simple straightforward words like: “Yes I would prefer S377A to be repealed”. But he did not. He stumbled on his words. If he could just say a simple “I prefer S377A to be repealed” it would then not have left room for doubt. ///

    At least you agree TJS did not hem and haw like the rest. Initially, I had the same thought as you, that he should state “I want to repeal S377A” But think about it. What if they repeal 377A and replace it with 377Z which is just as discriminatory? I would have thought that “no discrimination” is very unequivocal.

    Anyway, maybe to paraphrase TJS, my understanding of the English language is different from yours. Let’s agree to disagree agreeably.

  20. 52 LucyLee 22 August 2011 at 22:36

    I feel strongly enough about this issue to leave a reply, this being my first ever entry. it’s also my FIRST time casting my vote this Saturday, at the age of 38, so I am trembling with excitement but also very much aware of the responsibility.

    I actually watched the TOC session in its entirety today, and was appalled by TKL’s response after the question was posed about 377A. TLK did not have a clue what the Act was about. I’m sorry if this doesn’t sound like a substantial reason for eliminating him out of the race, but to me, to be running for President and yet be unaware of the issues Singaporeans are concerned with does not sit well with me.

    I thought TT and TCB’s candidates’ responses were very expected. It’s what we are seeing right now in USA, with presidential hopefuls evading the issue (like walking out of a live interview session on CNN and later crying sexual harassment) or even changing their stance altogether to get the populist vote.

    I did like TJS’s response. It was straightforward, and most importantly, he laid bare his stand on the issue: No discrimination. That’s what repealing 377A is about-anti-discrimination.

  21. 53 Confused 23 August 2011 at 00:54

    its all politics – don t forget the gay and lesbian community may want equal rights and repeal the penal code -but there’s a bigger group of conservative singaporeans who don’t want that. so its something that cannot be resolved overnight and it is a mature answer to say no discrimmination and leave it as that. u can’t change deep seeded culture overnight and the president is not there to cause chng that is polarising. he is suppose to be unifying. to me – you cannot be idealist in this matter. in the first place – the code is not strictly applied in the court of law. to want to push it through is not something that singaporeans at large want. but the president must speak up if the population is immoral in their view – e.g maid days off.

    • 54 S377A 23 August 2011 at 11:29

      Hi Confused,

      u mentioned “don t forget the gay and lesbian community may want equal rights and repeal the penal code -but there’s a bigger group of conservative singaporeans who don’t want that.”

      1. It is not just gays and lesbians who want equality and fair treatment but also many other heterosexual Singaporeans who are concerned with the principle of equality and fairness and secularity of the public space.

      2. My hypothesis is that the number of Singaporeans who want S377A to remain is smaller than the number of Singaporeans who do not mind S377A being repealed.

      3. The issue of equality and fair treatment is something which should not be left to the whims of the majority just as whether or not the blacks should be enslaved as slaves should not be left to the whims of the white majority.

      4. If I am not mistaken, the President as the Head of State is in a sense a guardian of the State Constitution. He needs to be courages. As long as S377A contradicts or seems to be contradicting or has a real high enough chance to contradict the State Constitution, the President seems to have a duty to take action on it as a protector of the State Constitution.

  22. 55 RC 23 August 2011 at 19:00

    From the various comments, I feel that TJS has received unfair criticism for his “no discrimination” and “I need to consult a lawyer” response. In my opinion, he is the only one who is the most forthcoming. Please do not expect every one to be as well conversant with GLBT issues. I have no doubt that the community itself has great insight on this subject, but those outside this community spend more of their time elsewhere… inflation, CPF, transparency, income gap etc etc. To me, “no discrimination” is obvious enough. If I may speculate, it means he may not actively canvass for 377A to be repealed but will voice out if the law is used in a discriminatory way. For example, the employment uses 377A as a factor in employment law.

    TT’s beating around the bush is legendary PAP stuff, from the very first question by Harpeet Singh, I already get frustrated when TT offered his answer. Textbook, motherhood, politically correct, hypocritical somewhat. After watching the entire forum, I confess I have learned nothing new about TT but instead seen more exposures of his weaknesses which led me to wonder what has he been doing in cabinet for so many years. What do you expect him to say with LKY around?

    I doubt TKL really didn’t know about 377A, he was just buying time as he really doesn’t have any opinion. He wasn’t the first to answer so he would have heard earlier comments and figured what 377A is all about.

    For TCB, I don’t see anything wrong when he claimed that it is a “lifestyle choice”. For every proponent who insist that homosexuality is genetic, there is an opposition who claim it a lifestyle choice. So if gays expect non-gays to accept gay views, I don’t understand why gays cannot except non-gays to have their own views.

    Finally, let me remind that this is civil society. For a question to be ask, the asker must also accept no answers. In other words, presidential candidates or otherwise, it is our right to have no opinion on some issues.

    • 56 Poker Player 23 August 2011 at 23:00

      ” I don’t understand why gays cannot except non-gays to have their own views.”

      It’s not views that are the problem, it’s laws. Views can be ignored, laws can’t.

      • 57 Poker Player 23 August 2011 at 23:01

        One more thing – gays and non-gays? There are non-gays (myself included) who support repeal of 377A and recognition of same sex marriages.

    • 58 yawningbread 23 August 2011 at 23:46

      You wrote: “I don’t see anything wrong when he claimed that it is a “lifestyle choice”. For every proponent who insist that homosexuality is genetic, there is an opposition who claim it a lifestyle choice. So if gays expect non-gays to accept gay views, I don’t understand why gays cannot except non-gays to have their own views.

      Views that are totally contrary to facts don’t count. Sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Claiming it is is not a “view” worthy of anything. It is a falsehood. Just as we would not give respect to views that “all muslims are terrorists”, ditto the “view” that homosexuality is a choice is plain wrong. Persisting in holding a position that is plain wrong tells us nothing of that “view”, but speaks volumes about the speaker.

  23. 59 Vane 24 August 2011 at 12:41

    I still remember this blog entry.

    https://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/constitution-guarantees-equality-regardless-of-sexual-orientation-says-government/#more-5134

    Its so easy for anyone to say “No discrimination” then do next to nothing to ensure that GLBT people are protected.

    Non GLBT people will never understand the needs of GLBT people and most often than not feel that president should focus on Bread & Butter issues rather than something so “frivolous”. So I get the feeling that whoever it is that gets elected, nothing will change. Everything remains the status quo regarding GLBT rights.

  24. 60 S377A 24 August 2011 at 12:55

    “Lifestyle Choice”
    ==============

    Responding to Alex’s question about S377A (which is not about sexual orientation itself but about the ACTIVITY of sex between 2 men regardless of whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or otherwise), Tan Cheng Bock said he accepts people’s “lifestyle choice” while Tan Kin Lian mentioned he respects people’s right to have their “choice of their life”. If TCB & TKL were thinking of sexual orientation itself, then they were very mistaken as sexual orientation is not decided by a person consciously. But if they were talking about the ACTIVITY of sex between 2 men (which is what S377A is about; S377A is not talking about sexual orientation itself), in a sense they were not that mistaken since it is true that generally we can consciously choose whether or not to engage in a sexual activity.

    Heterosexuals’ getting married and giving birth to children is a lifestyle choice. Heterosexuals who decided to remain celibate and not engage in any sex with others would also be a lifestyle choice (one example: the choice of certain men to become celibate monks in Buddhism or celibate priests of certain religions such as Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Christianity). There are a minority of GLBT who chose the path of celibacy (one of the possible reasons can be that some of them, mistakenly in my view, think that homosex is wrong). The majority of GLBT choose to embrace sexual activity. This is their choice regarding their life. The majority of heterosexuals choose to engage in sex. This is also their choice for their life. Whether one chooses to live a life of celibacy or a life of that does not exclude sexual pleasures, it is one’s choice. Hence in a sense, while sexual orientation is not a choice, sexual activity can be, or at least may be, a choice.


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