A name not unfamiliar to the Singapore gay community, lawyer Thio Su Mien denied being the mastermind but admitted to playing a key role in the leadership change of AWARE at a press conference organised by the new exco committee on Thursday, according to media reports.
The 71-year-old is the mother of Nominated Member of Parliament Thio Li-ann who infamously described anal sex as "shoving a straw up your nose to drink" while arguing against the repal of Section 377A which criminalises sex between men during a parliamentary debate in late 2007.
Her self-description as a 'feminist mentor' to working women and claim of having been involved with Aware in its early days drew a sharp rebuke by founding member and former Nominated Member of Parliament Dr Kanwaljit Soin: "I had not heard of Dr Thio Su Mien being a feminist. So this was a little bit of a surprise for me. But then, we always have closet feminists."
Dr Thio and four or five members of Aware's new executive committee are reported to attend the Anglican Church of Our Saviour which provides a link to its Position Statement on Homosexuality on its main page of its web site.
It states that "Homosexual practice is clearly sin against God" and promotes its Choices ex-gay ministry which is linked to Exodus International in the United States.
In 2007, social commentator Alex Au documented on his Yawningbread blog that Senor Pastor Derek Hong of Church of Our Saviour ranted from his pulpit that the struggle for gay equality as a selfish attempt to gain "special rights".
Au wrote: "It's so over-the-top, it's hard for any thinking person to take him seriously. He says Christians must "rise up" to fight the culture war, and that gays are acting on behalf of Satan. There's also an incredible amount of disinformation - about how gays are scheming to eradicate Christianity, for example. In the middle part of Derek Hong's rant, he accuses gay people of wanting to "eradicate all self-help groups.... that seek to help homosexuals recover."
Dr Thio has written in the press as early as 22 July 2003 in the now defunct newspaper Streats to argue against legal protection and equality for gay men and lesbians and "not allow our society to be slowly eroded by the growing agenda of homosexuals in our society." She again wrote to Today newspaper on 9 Feb 2006 disagreeing with the scientific view that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and is in fact normal.
Media warns of emerging Christian-based militancy
Meanwhile, the local press has for the first time explicitly warned against the Christian Right in Singapore. Senior writer Chua Mui Hoong, wrote in her column "AWARE saga: A new militancy emerges" in the Straits Times on 25 April 2009:
"It is especially troublesome when people go beyond spreading their religious beliefs to attempting to legislate their preferred moral practices. For example, they may believe that the moral values their church subscribes to should govern civil law. So if their church says homosexuality and abortion are grievous sins, then the laws of the land should outlaw such practices, even if many other people do not agree.
"The so-called Christian Right has made its presence felt in recent years: in opposing the setting up of casinos, and in lobbying against a motion to repeal section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises sex between males.
"In recent years, much attention, for good reason, has been focused on Islamic fundamentalism, given the violence of militant groups claiming Islam as their inspiration. But religious fundamentalism of all kinds can do harm - not necessarily to the physical body but certainly to the body politic of a multi-faith society - if it invalidates others' faiths and seeks to use the law to suppress the practices of minority groups."
The same weekend, Today's Terence Chong wrote in his column, "Don't pretend that Christian activism doesn't exist here."
"The strong religious links here should not be ignored. It has been discovered that many of the new exco members belong to the same church and one must at least consider the possibility that their Christian faith may influence their direction for Aware.
"After all, it is not the Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu and Muslim conservatives" who are agitating for a new Aware. This is in no way an attempt to paint the entire Christian community in Singapore with a broad brush but an empirical observation of the acts of certain segments within this community.
"There are signs that some within the broadly-tolerant local Christian community have become more pro-active in making their views heard on public policies.
"In 2004, religious conservatives campaigned vigorously to resist Government plans to built the two integrated resorts, with the Christian conservatives the most vocal. In 2007, the parliamentary debate over Penal Code 377A, a law that criminalises homosexual sex, served as a public platform for the community's vivid expression of its anti-gay sentiments.
"Given these trends, warning against 'playing the religious card' is but a disingenuous attempt to pretend that such Christian activism does not exist in multireligious Singapore."
For more media stories and updates, visit we-are-aware.sg
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.