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23 Apr 2009

AWARE members launch campaign, call for no-confidence vote

Founding members and former committee members call for no-confidence vote in the new Exco at EGM next month; non-members (female and Singapore citizens/PRs can join AWARE to vote.

A group of Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) members including former committee members and founder members have called for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to consider a vote of no confidence in the new Exco.

Fridae reported on Apr 10 that nine of the 12 Executive Committee positions went to newcomers during the annual general meeting (AGM) on March 28. Over 100 people had turned up to vote and many of these voters had only just joined AWARE and had never participated in any of its programmes.

Dozens of news reports and letters to the forum pages have dominated local headlines in recent weeks.

In her first media interview on Channel News Asia's half-hour Talking Point programme which aired on Sunday night, new president Josie Lau denied that the new Exco's takeover was a planned coup although the local media has revealed that at least five of the new Exco members attend the same church - Church of our Saviour, which is known for it strong and vocal anti-gay stance.

According to a Straits Times report, aside from Lau and her husband Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang who wrote in a letter to the press that a "gay lifestyle" is "very unhealthy", the other members in the new Exco who attend the same 4000-member church are believed to be Charlotte Wong, Irene Yee, Jenica Chua, Maureen Ong and Sally Ang. When queried, they declined to reveal if they knew each other before sweeping the elections almost a month ago.

The paper further earlier highlighted that some members of the new committee and outspoken members from the floor during the AGM have written to The Straits Times Forum Page opposing the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises sexual relations between men. AWARE was one of a number of non governmental groups in Singapore which called for both Sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code to be repealed completely in 2007.

Following Lau's TV interview, the New Paper's Hedy Khoo noted the "10 precious minutes of air-time on national television did little to give any fresh insights into the rife speculation of the new Exco's motives for taking over Aware."

Khoo wrote: "When asked what Aware would do if they find that a woman has been discriminated in a company because of her sexuality, Ms Lau skirted the issue by saying Aware is a secular organisation. She said: 'We are not there to push our personal beliefs or personal religious affiliations.' She added that sexual discrimination is a controversial topic which the Exco will have to discuss."

Prominent social commentator Alex Au noted on his Yawningbread blog: "It's an utterly incompetent reply... Unlike how easy it was for her to mention equality on the grounds of race, religion and male/female gender, she was stunningly incapable of saying the same of sexual orientation, describing it only as a "controversial topic". Please. Gay equality is only problematic if you don't believe in non-discrimination and equality. If you did, it would roll off your tongue as easily as race, religion, etc." (Click on the related link 'Pirates ahoy! Gay netizens and the AWARE hijacking' below.)

Shortly after the announcement that Lau was the new president, her employer DBS bank - where she works as the vice-president for consumer banking group cards and unsecured loans - issued a statement making clear that it had told her not to take that position and that the bank is conducting an internal review as she had breached its staff code of conduct twice. Her department was also responsible for nominating Christian fundamentalist group Focus of the Family (FOTF) last November to receive a S$15,000 donation as part of its Christmas credit card donation drive.

Petition for an EGM to consider a vote of no confidence in the new Exco
160 old and new AWARE members have petitioned for an EGM to consider a motion of no confidence in the executive committee.

On its recently launched Save AWARE web site (we-are-aware.sg), the group listed its grounds for the move:

1. Lack of Transparency
The group has to-date not once communicated its plans and specific goals to its members, despite questions raised by the media. The secrecy of the group is disturbing and gives rise to greater suspicion.

2. Lack of Experience
8 of the 9 new members have been in AWARE for less than 5 months; none of them has served in AWARE committees nor participated in AWARE initiatives as volunteers.

3. Unjustified Termination and Disregard of Experienced Volunteers
The new Exco has terminated all the current heads of the AWARE sub-committees, including the summary dismissal of Braema Mathi, Chairperson of AWARE's CEDAW Committee (CEDAW stands for Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women). Ms Mathi is Singapore's leading NGO expert on CEDAW. Constance Singam and Claire Nazar have resigned from the new Exco on the grounds that their advice and direction have been totally disregarded by members of the new Exco.

4. Undermining of Fundamental Values
The new Exco have not openly declared their intentions but there is strong evidence of religious ideology that goes against AWARE's values, such as full equality in the home between wife and husband, the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion, and tolerance of homosexuality.

When contacted by Fridae, Margaret Thomas, spokesperson and a founding member of Aware said that members, funding organisations and other supporters owe it to "Aware and to ourselves to do all we can to bring it back into safe hands to ensure that it stays true to the values and goals with which the organisation was founded nearly 25 years.

"Members who fear that the ideological stance of this new team will lead to a dilution or even a reversal of the values that have defined AWARE all these years have a legitimate way to try to remove them."

When queried about how the new exco can be replaced, Thomas explained that the AWARE constitution does not allow for the new Exco to "act contrary to the expressed wishes of the General Meeting without prior reference to it and always remains subordinate to the General Meetings".

"So if a majority of members at the EGM vote that they have no confidence in the Exco, the next step will be a vote on the resolution to remove the Exco."

The group will have a team ready for election.

While the issue of AWARE's pro-gay stance has dominated the news, other issues that hang in the balance include women's right to sexual and reproductive health, single motherhood, and supporting and conducting comprehensive sexuality education in schools to allow young women to make responsible choices about their sexual health.

The EGM will be held on Saturday, 2 May 2009 from 2 - 5pm at the First Choice Auditorium, 3 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh #01-01 HSR Building. Only AWARE members can attend and vote at the EGM. If you are not yet a member and wish to attend, you should sign up online at the AWARE website or at the door on May 2. Signing up online is a two-step process - register for an account first, then sign up as a member. The membership fees are $40 per annum. Only female Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents are allowed to vote in person. If you are overseas or male, you may support by signing the ONLINE PETITION.


Reader's Comments

1. 2009-04-23 08:56  
Gay men should persuade their women friends to join AWARE!
2. 2009-04-23 13:30  
If you can't vote (cos of your XY chromosomes), or can't be there to vote, then sign the online petition:

3. 2009-04-23 14:37  
this goes back to the roots of the civil rights movement when gays and women joined hands to fight against oppression. the young gays of today may not understand the connection as there has been a lot of parsing of issues. it takes an issue like this to remind us of those connections
4. 2009-04-23 18:22  
I have signed the petition. Have you?

Look forward to kicking the new fundies out. The likelihood of a similar counter petition like what we witnessed with Keep377A may not happen as every IP address here is logged and verified (NRIC) to prevent spam. We shall see.

The real war now will be fought at the EGM to see if they rally their entire female members from their so called church/supporting sister churches/bigot networks /loser clans (you get the picture) to sign up and keep evil alive. We will again wait and see.
5. 2009-04-23 18:23  
Actually, I shudder to imagine what Christian heaven will be like if Josie & her minons were there. God won't stand a chance! They would hijack His throne!!! And when pressed who will enter the kingdom, she will obviously reply," I'm not at liberty to say" LOL.

Also, imagine Maureen taking over ArchAngel Michael. Hmm. Dun think with her weight she can lift off with the puny wings she made herself. Need to lose those baggage sister ....LMFAO!
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9. 2009-04-23 22:32  
I think this bit of the petition is particularly informative for the traditional feminists:

"The Church of Our Saviour...has publicly stated its position on women's role and status. In the document 'God's Order for the Family', posted as a resource on the Church's website , it is openly stated that 'the wife is in subjection to her husband' and 'women [are] to continually deny themselves and yield the rule to men'. This document states: 'feminist movementsare not according to God's order'. Rather, 'His will for a young women is to do four things: (1) marry, (2) bear children, (3) guide the house, (4) not be a reproach to her husband.' It is highly unlikely, to say the least, that members of a church promoting such values would champion gender equality for all women in all spheres of life..."

Presumably though the COOS group doesn't follow the teachings of St Paul in Timothy, where he says that women should not speak in public. I don't think they have any female pastors at the church, so maybe they do follow the bit about women not being teachers/rabbis.

10. 2009-04-23 23:13  
Just to reprise the reported universal fundamentalist rules, whatever the religion:

1) Their rules must be made to apply to all of us
2) MEN ARE ON TOP (what part of this can be feminist?)
3) They must control education to propagate their rules
4) They romanticise a fictional past ("tradition?")
5) They accept literalism, and reject that original input into scriptures was influenced by the culture of the time.

And, I would add, for the Abrahamic fundies at least, and to quote the "Bruce" sketch from Monty Python:


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13. 2009-04-24 00:44  
To look further into whether fundamentalists are people likely to agree with the goals of AWARE, there is a psychological analysis of them by Anitra L. Freeman


Here is an extract:

Psychological traits of fundamentalism:

- A strictly hierarchical and authoritarian worldview. Everything has to have a First, a Somebody in Charge. In any partnership, one partner has to have the deciding vote. Groups and societies work best with rigidly defined roles and stratifications. (There are people who believe this way who are not fundamentalists: at least, not religious fundamentalists.)

- Ethical development at the "reward and punishment" stage: morality must be defined and enforced by an external authority.

- A lot of guilt and fear about sex.

- Basic distrust of human beings; certainty that "uncontrolled," human beings will be bad and vicious, particularly in sexual ways.

- Low tolerance for ambiguity. Everything must be clear cut, black and white. Nothing can be "possibly true but unproven at this time, we're still studying it." Fundamentalists regard science as flawed precisely because science changes. (A striking characteristic of fundamentalists is that their response to any setback which may instill doubt is to step up evangelizing for converts.)

- Literalism, usually including a limited sense of humor.

- Distrust of their own judgment, or any other human being's judgment.

- Fear of the future. The driving motivation of fundamentalism appears to outsiders to be fear that oneself or the group one identifies with is losing power and prerequisites and is in danger from others who are gaining power. This is not how fundamentalists put it.

- A low self-esteem that finds satisfaction in being one of the Elect, superior to all others. It seems to be particularly rewarding to know that rich people have a real hard time getting into Heaven.

The life experience of fundamentalist that seems to encourage these traits include:

- Conditional love: parents, or other authority figures, withheld love to control behavior.- Other factors -- sometimes mental, emotional, or even physical abuse -- that minimized self-esteem.

- For those who grew up fundamentalist, the church was the central activity of family life, all else was subsidiary to the church, and social interaction with "non-believers" was discouraged, except when evangelizing.

- Those who have converted to fundamentalism often grew up without any firm philosophical framework, or experienced some trauma that destroyed their former framework. They were at a time in their lives when they needed absolute Answers.

14. 2009-04-24 02:19  
Breaking News!

From Channel NewsAsia:

Showdown at AWARE office over lock change by new exco

SINGAPORE: It was a tense atmosphere at the AWARE office on Thursday evening as members of the old guard tried to prevent the new executive committee from changing the locks at the office.

The centre's manager, Schutz Lee, said she was not informed of the plans to change locks.

Ms Lee, who has been working there since February, was also fired without reason by the new executive committee at 8pm on Thursday.

Members of the old guard turned up hurriedly at the scene, anxious over the documents kept there.

Dana Lam, former AWARE president, said: "I walked in and there were three burly men sitting at the counter. It's not something we encounter at AWARE because it's a women's centre and we are giving counselling sessions to women who have been abused.

"The men have apparently been instructed by the president to change the lock in the centre. There is a vote of no-confidence going on here. By right, they have no right to make any changes. I am worried for my materials - 25 years of research material, including confidential material."

15. 2009-04-24 02:20  
This is an entry from Ovidia Yu's blog:

From the blog of Ovidia Yu:

Thio Su Mien is publicly out as part of the new Aware ExCo takeover team now.

I deleted the post I was preparing on how Aware could/might/should try to work it out together for the best of all women in Singapore-it's not going to happen.

Oh-and I hear they've fired the center manager tonight (paid staff who was not involved in the elections)

And changed the locks-apparently you'll need special hi tech pass cards to get in-very different from being a welcoming place for all women to come to help & be helped right?

The press are there, so watch out for statement in papers tomorrow!

Note: Dr. Thio Su Mien, is a former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and presently Senior Executive Director of TSMP Law Corporation; her brother, Thio Shen Yi, is Joint Managing Director of the same law firm.

16. 2009-04-24 02:24  
There's more action that can be taken. This next re-post is from a reader David at The Online Citizen (TOC):


133) David on April 23rd, 2009 10.41 pm I have cut my DBS credit cards into pieces this morning and send them to DBS credit card dept with my cancellation letter. This is the only protest I can do since I am not qualified to vote Josie & gang out in the EOAGM this May. I will support OCBC and UOB all the way from now
17. 2009-04-24 02:25  
To steveuk:

"Presumably though the COOS group doesn't follow the teachings of St Paul in Timothy, where he says that women should not speak in public."

Good one!

It's a gem.
18. 2009-04-24 02:37  
I don't know, but it would appear that the comments section in the article by Alex Au has been disabled.

I'd wanted to post this about the Talking Point interview:

In the Talking Point inteview, Josie made a deferential statement about dutifully following Lee Kuan Yews dictum regarding mentorship; she was clearly ingratiating herself to the government. (And we all know that Lee kuan Yew is ALL of government, don't we?)

Yet another indication of the active attempts at connections between the Christian Taliban and the PAP: the claim to being "pro-Singapore".

Why is it that only in Singapore do Singapore citizens have to qualify ourselves as either being pro- or the unheard of anti-Singapore?

Unless of course that the PAP's efforts at conflating itself with "Singapore" has been so thoroughly successful.

Yes, all of this is a very concious and organized effort on the part of the Christian Taliban, and they do in fact take precedence from their counterparts in the US.
19. 2009-04-24 02:40  
Just signed the petition.

Do it, people!
20. 2009-04-24 03:05  

So why up till now, NOTHING has been done, but in fact seemed to have regressed?! Simple...good guy bad guy theory. LKY plays "good", let dissenters play bad-they cancel out each other. Oldest trick in the political bible....zzz

The latest saga at AWARE, hostile locks change and with Thio Su Mien as the new mother goddess...be afraid Singapore, be very afraid....;P
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23. 2009-04-24 03:22  
Post #13 percole..."Yet another indication of the active attempts at connections between the Christian Taliban and the PAP: the claim to being "pro-Singapore".

In one of my earlier postings to the first AWARE article here at Fridae, I already said...these team of minons at the new exco HAS powerful backings, to DARE to push the extremes in full view of the public. Analyse their actions, they are NOT afraid. At the S377A saga, I also highlighted that LKY stated, he personally believed homosexuality is inborn and eventually, as way for a modern society like Singapore to move forward, it's inevitable that S377A MUST be repealed. But he will leave it to the new team to decide.
So, what happened? Yawn..zzzz...nothing, nada, zero. Every discerning Singaporean knows that what LKY wants done, it gets done pronto-period!

24. 2009-04-24 06:38  
Oh! Thank God! There's a way for us to contribute our 2 cents worth of opinion here and contribute our words into action. I hope, I wish and I believe that this petition will go unnoticed and end the AWARE saga once and for all. We need to move on...
25. 2009-04-24 10:48  
They are here---ere! check out Friday's Straits Times front page, the fundies are fighting back and the mainstream media is supporting them. Since when is a democracy run by minority interest representing the majority i.e. this is a mainly non-christian nation and yet the political agenda is firmly directed by right wing evangelical christian agenda.

26. 2009-04-24 10:54  
(Almost) full transcript of Aware press conference from last night - http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=596691756
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28. 2009-04-24 12:31  
I have a suggestion:
Why don't we BOYCOTT the New AWARE?
29. 2009-04-24 17:46  
Post #18 gogosamba.." ..the mainstream media is supporting them ."

Bingo! Told you so. When the main Straits Times supports them, and it being a known "govt" propaganda instrument, what does that say?

So what did the front news say?

PS: The end days are indeed near when self professed christians rule. Beware....boo!
30. 2009-04-24 20:34  
And it's not about setting up a new Aware. There are many implications, not to mention all the 25 years of vital documentations stuck at the office. If there were sufficient time for a proper transparrent migration of handover, a new society is logical. The new team is NOT interested in any forms of continuity. It's a clear power grab to destroy the legacy of Aware. In its place, they are like the HIV virus, hjacking the host to produce more virus. There is currently no cure for this virus! >:(
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32. 2009-04-24 22:29  
YOU GO GIRLS! fight FIRE with FIRE!!! beat them at their own game! I pray for you.....
33. 2009-04-24 23:17  
To jammyboi:

"Every discerning Singaporean knows that what LKY wants done, it gets done pronto-period!"

Absolutely! And that brings me back to my own assertion that the resistance (to repeal and eventually all other gay rights) comes from within the PAP, and not as they would have it, from a 'conservative' society who is allowed to hold our rights hostage.

The PAP is only interested in protecting the feelings as wells as the interests of its own kind.

They are not in the least about Singapore; claims to being pro-Singapore rings very hollow indeed.
34. 2009-04-25 02:11  
jammyboi and gogosamba,
It's fair for the Forum page to print points from both sides. The recent articles in the ST about TSM and her role in the saga clearly shows her true colours - more and more will be revealed. Can't wait for them to expose them as being obsessed with being anti-gay as their commentaries in ST will show. I don't recall them taking as much interest in women's issues as being anti-gay...
35. 2009-04-25 05:22  

The plus side to all these is true colors are now flushed out for all to see and everyone will now without a doubt know where anyone stand. No more double talk. It's up to what actions Singaporeans want to take to either accept or reject all these BS.

To a certain extent in the spirit of true democracy, I respect countries like Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia....countries that dare to protest to let corrupted governments know how their own citizens have had enough. Win or lose, it's real courage. Despite so many deaths, the people and monks of Myammar fought peacefully for a voice. Singapore? zzzz, we all slowly wait, dun expect much....zzz. Too many fat cows, too afraid and lazy to risk. No offence to those who wants to fight but too little too late.
Good luck to everyone at old AWARE and their supporters. May God/Deities/Goddesses strike dead the evil people down. Haizz. :P
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38. 2009-04-25 05:31  
If the Singapore government can legalize oral and anal sex (an original domain of male gay sexual expressions) for the st8 population and still insist to retain S377A to criminalize gay sex without any fear of being accused of blatant discrimination against its own gay citizens, what does it tell us about the type of government Singapore has. It is NOT afraid of any local or international outcry. They do it cos they can. Who is going to fight them? They control everything and they know eventually it will pass, just like the "joke" about the Mas Selamat "escape". They use time as their shield to wear out any misdeed; as the analogy of water is to wear out the stone through time. Simple.

Now with an inflated legal ego as the new femnist mentor, these self professed christian cronies will repeat history. The real shocker will be when the new exco is being thrown out and the old restored. That will seriously be REAL news. Judging by the way Singapore has been all along, the new team will prevail. Mark my words again.
39. 2009-04-25 05:38  
The concern is not about knowing who is anti-gay. The real threat is what the relevant authorities will do to resolve this in the face of such hostile audacity to usurp power in full view of the media and public.

This is just the beginning. First, the excuse will be homosexuality. Then as they gain more ground, it will be religion, race, educational backgrounds, social pedigree standing...etc. Then when nothing is left to target, these power hungry wolves will start inbiting and self cannibalize to dictate what type of Christianity is acceptable. As we all know, under the main Protestant denominations, Catholics are not viewed as 'saved" as they are deemed to "worship" idols. Discrimination knows no limits.
40. 2009-04-25 18:58  
I think a key point regarding the new Exco may be that they seem to have acted in "bad faith" as regards the organisation, and have deliberately sought to damage its reputation.

They are plainly not interested in the purposes and aims of it, just one narrow issue that they disagree with, its neutral stance on homosexuality.

They are also clearly acting on instructions from outside the organisation, and not taking decisions themselves. I'm guessing this may be against some law or regulation relating to NGOs.

They have taken an antagonistic stance to the traditional membership.

When such bad faith is apparent with regard to the organisation they are supposed to be running, there may be legal remedies, on top of the EGM resolutions.

Anyway, I'm sure they will be taking lots of legal advice on the issues.
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42. 2009-04-27 14:15  
I think we have to face the fact that Aware is already under siege. But I put question marks on all the important P&C documents that AWARE has painstingkingly complied over the years- from my understanding it is being seized by the new Ex-Co after the sacking of long-term administrator Schutz Lee. I don't recall if such conduct is acceptable in any organisation, civil or corporate??
What does the new Exco plan to do with them???? Why the urgent need to seal them, esp. the Cedaw report? There are still many, many questions left unanswered...
43. 2009-04-28 04:53  
If by claim of a perceived danger to their faith, these group of minions can launch such an offensive attack on an invisible self imagined threat ruthlessly, think what their irrational fears can perceive further in other areas as and when they deem relevant. What is next? Christian Taliban TV? Beware the evil of gay tv. If we ever had one showing of Brokeback Mountain on MediaCorp 5, it will turn even their limp wristed pastor Derek Hong gay with lust for the lesbian nemesis, Thio Su Mien. Imagine then the grave consequences of an entire nation turning into Ellen and George Michael lookalikes when Media Corp goes into its merciless mode of BrokeBack and Ellen talk show reruns, with a dash of Boston Legal and Brothers & Sisters thrown in. Such is the incredible powers of mind conversion by simple inference and association, a homosexual force so coveted even by the clan of X-Men. LOL.
44. 2009-04-28 04:54  
We know that happy well adjusted people with joy and a healthy genuine fear of God in their hearts do not undertake such bold, unrepentant, forked- tongue, anti-social & anti civil movements against their fellow human beings.

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