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27 Aug 2008

Outdoor gay events permitted from Sept: Singapore authorities

Public protests and demonstrations will be allowed in Singapore - at a designated park - with several restrictions, officials announced this week.

"A kiss-in on Valentine's Day would be fun!" quipped gay Singaporean playwright Ng Yi-Sheng when asked by Fridae if he has heard about outdoor demonstrations being permitted at one of the city's parks from Sept 1.

Known for its draconian rules against public protests, Singapore will ease its ban to allow citizens to stage outdoor protests by doing away with the need for police permission for demonstrations held at a designated spot known as the Speakers' corner. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong first announced the changes during the National Day Rally on August 17.

At a press conference on Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) - when asked by reporters - said that outdoor gay pride events will be allowed at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park, reported Today newspaper. The corner was specifically created in 2000 for political speeches and speakers have to register in advance with the Police. From Sept, the corner will come under the purview of NParks.

Under Singapore law, any public protest of five or more people without a permit is deemed illegal.

With the changes, demonstrators now need only to register online at the NParks website prior to the event. Permanent residents (PRs) will be allowed to participate but they have to apply for a permit if they wish to give a speech or organise a protest themselves. Foreigners however must obtain a permit from the police in advance if they wish to organise or participate in any events. Demonstrators wanting to cover issues such as race and religion are still required to obtain a police permit.

Although organisers will need to furnish their personal details, the date and nature of the event and the topic, NParks's chief operating officer, Dr Leong Chee Chiew says that they will not "do screening and make sure you speak on what you said you will speak on."

"But if you give information, you must know you're accountable for it. Our primary motivation is to keep Speakers' Corner for use in as well-maintained conditions as possible... If there's a need to make good on anything, we can follow up," said Dr Leong.

In Aug 2004, PM Lee announced that permits were no longer required for indoor talks if the speaker is a Singapore citizen and as long as the topic does not deal with race or religion.

Although some members of the gay community such as Ng see the move as providing new opportunities for people to air their concerns, veteran gay activist Alex Au says that he will not organise any protests at the designated venue as the changes are "nowhere near what (he) considers satisfactory, or in any substantial way respectful of our civil rights."

"The freedom to demonstrate is meaningless unless it is applicable to all of Singapore." Au wrote in his blog, Yawningbread.

"I would not dignify this tokenism by organising anything there. It will have to be at a proper place like here at Raffles Place or down a major street, or nothing," Au was quoted as saying on Channel NewsAsia.


Reader's Comments

1. 2008-08-27 20:47  
sure or not?

Au has said it all...
2. 2008-08-28 00:16  
This reminds me of an island in Malaysia, where they segregate the lepers from society.


3. 2008-08-28 00:25  
It's a joke to sayevents are "gay". What is a gay event!?!!!!!! Shopping? Gym'ing? Watching gay porn? :-)

It's just people being people - picnicing, protesting, etc etc.

It is a positive step, although comes over as one of those quaint straight persons attempts to be 'gay friendly'.
Comment #4 was deleted by its author
5. 2008-08-28 00:49  
Well, the plainclothes cops will eye you from a distance and then come and take you and your less than straight friends for 'gay conduct'.

Such as wearing pink, single earing, talking in a 'queer' loud manner, touching unnecessarily.

Probably they won't take you away, but give you a warning to behave yourself and button up your low cleavage shirt as to not cause discomfort to the majority of the family orientated folks around the parks.

BTW: Singapore in 2010 is hosting its First Youth Olympics.
Time to make some banners, climb some lamppost and H-O-L-L-E-R for your rights!!! (not just in People's Park)

Shame this so called democratically elected goverment in the eyes of the world for blantant discrimination and denial of human rights!
6. 2008-08-28 01:22  
The whole thing resemble that PRC allowing demonstration with restriction during Olympics, in mentality and stupidity.
7. 2008-08-28 04:06  
its a step in the right direction no ?
8. 2008-08-28 04:57  
9. 2008-08-28 06:12  
I guess that's good; a step towards some kind of equality - letting Gay people pretend they have a [heavily limited, regulated, monitored and controlled] free voice, right of expression, and freedom of thought as much as Straight people in Singapore...
10. 2008-08-28 11:53  
Singapore is taking baby steps towards greater civil liberties for its citizens. While most may scoff at the severe limitations of having only one designated space for a population that is rapidly approaching 5 million, it signals a shift in the attitudes of the government towards populist movements.

It is commendable that the authorities have not placed any conditions or limitations on the types of demonstrations held (barring those that might be seditious or foment religious intolerance), which to me is the most significant aspect of this change in policy.

Singaporeans have learnt to adapt to our unique environment and rebel (in a controlled manner) for the greater good. This simply opens up yet another channel for expression. Public demonstrations serve many purposes - to coalesce a community, to convey a message, to protest against an injustice. Finally, there is a (legal) way to do these things in Singapore, a civil liberty that has been denied us since independence, and which others in most foreign democracies take for granted as a basic human right.
11. 2008-08-28 16:10  
So it sounds like you could have a Pride festival there, but that international singers like Elton John that might be willing to perform, would need a special police permit simply because they are foreign.

12. 2008-08-28 16:14  
My sympathy is with Mr Alex Au who certainly reminds us how very partial or even insulting are these changes....its totally cosmetic...but even baby steps to more openeness and visiability for Singapore's gay community must have at least a qualified welcome.... lets make Speakers Corner such a success that Raffles Place will soon be in sight....

Congratulatons to everybody who made this all happen....and to Singapore's brave gay campaigners...
13. 2008-08-28 18:16  
HAPPY to hear that!
14. 2008-08-28 18:55  
I agree with Alex Au - this so-called "relaxation" is an insult. We don't need a relaxation - we need what we are entitled to - a free voice to express what should belong to us under Singapore's constitution. It's such a shame that the authorities actually believe that almost 90 % of the population's "family values" can be threatened by a mere minority - hey, if you're not gay, NOBODY can make you one! Meanwhile, they have approved not one but TWO IR's (our version of a casino) - I suppose that's family entertainment that would encourage "family values"? Such hypocrisy!
15. 2008-08-28 20:06  
So I, as a foreigner, require a permit to attend these gatherings? So far still to go, lah!
16. 2008-08-29 00:59  
I respect Alex Au's opinion. But I can't help suspecting that a lot of people supporting him here are making excuses for not wanting to do anything visible.
17. 2008-08-29 01:32  
Singapore is such an odd place. I recently visited there with my boyfriend and I was quite nervous considering all of the things I had heard. However:

We rented a one bed hotel room together. Nobody had a problem.

We visited some of the numerous gay bars and clubs together. Nobody had a problem.

We bought condoms at a convenience store together. Nobody had a problem.

We even sometimes held hands, hugged or kissed in public. Again, nobody had a problem.

In short, we were two obviously gay men who had every intention of breaking the sodomy laws on a daily basis, yet no Singaporean seemed to be the least bit concerned. In fact, I felt much more comfortable being openly gay in Singapore then I do in many countries where it is not illegal to be so.

It seems the conservative government is very out of touch with the attitudes of the people.

All that said, I do think that (baby step though it may be) a step forward should always be applauded. And this is a small step in the right direction.
18. 2008-08-29 04:15  
Yawn...relaxation my foot! It's simply double talk for the gahmen to say they finally realised one has much wider reach globally on the net, than standing like an idiot, sticky hot under the merciless sun, barking at sleeping dogs, old uncles and aunties taking a rest from their market shopping and idle walk by the park. It's audience people , audience.

A concert or conference is USELESS if no one significant attends. So, let them relax all they want, u do your relaxation on a toilet bowl instead. At least that will make u feel much better in the end, and not wind up sitting in a cage similarly for "other invented" misdeameanour.

Ready, pants down everyone with tissues in your hands...I meant, hands down with issues at hand...flush your missiles into cyberspace.

Comment #19 was deleted by its author
20. 2008-08-29 09:03  
good point about "baby steps" from chubsterboy below....even a young baby's very first mis-steps in the WRONG direction are usually applauded enthusiastically by it's proud parents as the baby is then encouraged to try it again! Demonstrations of freedom are never meaningless. My mother country was founded upon a principle allowing demonstrations of freedom. Blood spilt from those demonstrations of freedom has hardly turned out to be meaningless. Demonstrations of freedom , however small or seemingly tokenisitc which lead to equal human rights are hardly meaningless.
21. 2008-08-29 13:50  
Speakers' Corner is like a leper colony where diseased lepers are confined so that they're not a danger to the healthy :-)!

It also reminds me of apartheid South Africa when blacks and coloureds were allowed to do what they liked BUT only in their little corner of the country, segregated from the mainstream White Afrikaans society :-) !

Why do we want to dignify this sort of crappy treatment ?!?!?!?! As Alex Au said, it's ALL or NOTHING :-) !
22. 2008-08-29 17:31  
Let's just have a picnic there without any speakers.
23. 2008-08-29 17:34  
Topic says it all! "Public protests and demonstrations will be allowed in Singapore(YAY) - at a designated park(WHAT!) - with several restrictions, officials announced this week.(BOO....)"
24. 2008-08-30 20:28  
What a joke...I dont know what the Singapore government is afraid of...the government and the people of Singapore have built a great county...really they do not have anything to be afraid of...its so pathetic...unreal
25. 2008-09-01 12:49  
if they are afraid: are they afraid that their boys and girls will find the GAY lifestyle so much more attractive than the "normal" heterosexual lifestyle and will choose to turn GAY? are they afraid HIV will spread out of control? are they afraid their target investorrs (RICH, foreign, white, 2.5 kids) will not invest or will leave, turning SG into a GAY mecca/ghetto? IF they are afraid, WHAT are they afraid of?
26. 2008-09-02 08:47  
It is really interesting to see or hold any event or events for the LGBT citizens here. It has never happened before and lets make history. If the 1st Youth Olympic is held here and create history for the world. Y not make a gay pride events a history for the nation. And since the green light have already been given make full use of it.. and lets not abuse the freedom to be out and loud! Me and the whole of the LGBT citizens are waiting for the events here.
The march..the flags..surely will be looked forward by the PLUs... cheers!!
27. 2008-09-02 16:10  
wow Singapore parks are beautiful! who will take me on a date with wine and cheese to one of them and frolic with me and kiss me while rolling in the grass there? i need to escape the pollution of Shanghai . . . please someone take me away!
28. 2008-09-04 11:24  
I don;t exactly agree with Alex Au. As a politican he should sezie every opportunities given to him and as an activist he should not be awaiting for things or situations to bend towards his way. It is a tough route and maybe to some '"meaningless"" however, it is still a great opportunity to be heard. Honestly speaking, Singapore Society has not reached the stage of maturity yet to accept the gay community. Instead, we should build awarnesses among singaporeans (since they are still a great deal of misunderstandings about gay people here) that we are normal human beings that do breathe and walk and need certain says as well.
29. 2008-09-06 13:20  
yesterday i passed by the speakers' corner park, it's a really quiet and beautiful places which is near chinatown and raffles place.any event would held here that would be vry great and who can company with me to join in the events if there is any...im anticipating...

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