9 Dec 2004

s'pore police rejects snowball.04 licence application

Fridae appeals the decision and asks the relevant authorities to reconsider their position on Snowball.

The police on Wednesday rejected an application for a public entertainment licence (PELU) to hold SnowBall.04 on December 26.

It is the first time that a PELU licence has been denied as organiser Jungle Media, a Singapore subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Fridae.com, had obtained licenses for past events, namely Snowball in December 2002 and 2003, Nation (August 2002, 2003, 2004), Squirt (April 2004), Boys of Summer (June 2003) and Paradise Ball (December 2003).

Despite the fact that Nation.04 had been nominated for "Best Event Experience" in the 2005 Singapore Tourism Awards, the Police said that "the event is likely to be organised as a gay party which is contrary to public interest in general."

In a press statement issued on Wednesday, the Police said the following were taken into consideration:

"The promotion materials were widely advertised on Fridae.com, a known gay portal;

"Observations during the indoor Opening Ball at Suntec showed that patrons of the same gender were seen openly kissing and intimately touching each other. Some of the revellers were cross-dressed, for example, males wearing skirts. Patrons were also seen using the toilets of the opposite sex. The behaviour of these patrons suggested that most of them were probably gays/lesbians and this was thus an event almost exclusively for gays/lesbians;

"A number of couples of the same sex were seen hugging and kissing in public after the event while waiting for taxis and checking into the nearby hotels after the party;

"Several letters of complaint were received from some patrons about the openly gay acts at the Ball."

It also said: "The Police recognise that there are some Singaporeans with gay tendencies. While Police do not discriminate against them on this basis, the Police also recognise that Singapore is still, by and large, a conservative and traditional society. Hence, the Police cannot approve any application for an event which goes against the moral values of a large majority of Singaporeans. Future applications for events of similar nature will be closely scrutinised."

Chief executive officer Stuart Koe said the rejection came as a surprise as Fridae has "had a very congenial working relationship with Pelu and various police jurisdictions" as well as Police presence and cooperation at all their past events.

Dr Koe said: "Our events are known to be extremely professionally organised and have earned both domestic, as well as international acclaim. Nation.04 attracted 8,000 participants.

"In a study commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board, Nation.04 was estimated to have generated $10 million in tourism revenue."

Fridae has written to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng last night appealing the decision and asking the relevant authorities to reconsider their position.

In the event that SnowBall is cancelled, a full refund will be granted. Updates will be made available as soon as possible.

Readers can write to (please copy info@fridae.com if you do so):'

- Prime Minister's Office (pmo_hq@pmo.gov.sg),
- Feedback Unit (feedback_unit@mcys.gov.sg),
- Ministry of Home Affairs (mha_feedback@mha.gov.sg),
- Singapore Police Force Licensing Division (SPF_OPS_Licensing@spf.gov.sg),
- Singapore Police Force Licensing Public Affairs Department (spf_spinet_webmaster@spf.gov.sg),
- Singapore Tourism Board (feedback@stb.com.sg),
- The Straits Times Forum (stforum@sph.com.sg) and
- Today Newspaper Forum (news@newstoday.com.sg). Writers to the forum pages should include his/her full name, address and a telephone contact number. For women, please indicate Miss, Mrs or Ms.

See Fridae CEO Stuart Koe's letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong on the next page.
December 8, 2004

Dear Prime Minister,

I am the CEO of Fridae. We are a gay and lesbian media company that operates Asia's largest online community Fridae.com, as well as organises major events that have attracted overwhelmingly positive press internationally. You may visit us at www.fridae.com.

Just today, we received news from the Public Entertainment License Unit (PELU) that our application for our next event, Snowball, to be held on 25 December at the Warehouse, has been turned down because it is "contrary to public interest". There was no elaboration on how this was so.

I would like bring several facts to your attention:

1. This is not the first time that Snowball is being held, or indeed that Fridae or our Singapore subsidiary Jungle Media Pte Ltd are applying to PELU, each time with full disclosure of the nature of our events. This is will be our third annual Snowball, the first two being held at the Pavilion at Far East Square (Dec 2002) and Suntec Convention Centre (Dec 2003). PELU granted us licenses for these two events, as well as Squirt (April 2004), Nation (August 2002, 2003, 2004), and Paradise Ball (Dec 2003). In fact, we have had a very congenial working relationship with PELU and various police jurisdictions for all our past events.

2. Our events are known to be extremely professionally organised, and have earned both domestic, as well as international acclaim. Nation.04, which attracted 8,000 participants, has been featured in Far Eastern Economic Review, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Reuters, AFP and AP newswires, Asahi Shimbun, Sydney Morning Herald, South China Morning Post and countless other newspapers around the world. Not only have our events been named as one of the top 10 events by some authorities, Nation.04 has also been nominated for "Best Event Experience" in the 2005 Singapore Tourism Awards. Our events have created an invaluable buzz that Singapore is a hip and exciting city to visit.

3. Independent studies and informal surveys, have shown that our events generate significant tourism revenue for Singapore. Based on a study commissioned by the STB, Nation.04 was estimated to have generated S$10million in tourism revenue, exceeding even that of the 2004 Global Entropolis convention, which generated an estimated S$6million in the same period of time.

4. We have been fortunate to work with numerous MNC sponsors such as Qantas, Motorola, Subaru. Even such "conservative" companies as Singapore Airlines and American Express are counted amongst our advertisers. They all work with Fridae because we have a proven track record of being professional, non-risque, and being a legit channel to the gay and lesbian community.

5. In the 4 years that we have been working with the police and PELU for our events, not once have we been made aware that there was anything illegal about our events. We are law-abiding citizens, and we have gone through great lengths to ensure that no laws are broken in the organisation of our events. Our events are essentially dance parties with international DJs, and we are absolutely certain that nothing about our events are illegal.

6. Our company, Fridae, has recently been "signed up" by Senior Minister of Health Dr Balaji with the Ministry of Health to work as a partner in addressing the recent increase of HIV amongst gay men. We believe that it is important to maintain open channels between the government and the gay community to promote an aggressive public health campaign that has the potential to save many lives. Our events are an important means to reach this otherwise difficult to reach demographic, many of whom already feel increasingly alienated, disenfranchised, and discriminated against in their own homeland, and may be driven underground if the environment turns unfavourable.

I understand that not everyone in Singapore society agrees with homosexuality as a concept, and that social attitudes will take time to change. However, it is not mere concept but reality for us who live and breathe it every day. And we want to live in a country that accepts us as who we are, allowing us the social and civil liberties of conducting our lives in a normal way, just like any other citizen of Singapore.

Your National Day Rally speech was inspiring for many of us, gay and lesbian citizens of Singapore who saw this as a clear indication that we too had a role to play in Singapore's future. If I may quote you, "We should have an open society which is welcoming of talent, which welcomes diverse views, is yet cohesive and has a sense of common purpose. And we should be a community where every citizen counts, where everyone can develop his human potential to the full and everyone participates in building and repairing and upgrading this shared home which is Singapore."

It is absolutely true that there is no other place I would rather be. Singapore is home to hundreds of thousands of gay men and women. We are just like everyone else, many are professionals, well educated and highly mobile. We are your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and in some cases, even fathers or mothers. We form one of the most dynamic, creative and economically productive segments of Singapore's diverse society.

It would be a shame for PELU's rejection of our application for Snowball on such weak and unaccountable reasons to spark off a chain of events that may mar how Singaporeans view their own home, and reverse the hard-earned positive PR in the international arena, especially when it is contrary to how Singapore seeks to position itself for the future. It would be unconscionable and a grave mistake to allow intolerance and discrimination to sidetrack and derail our vision of a Singapore that embraces ALL Singaporeans regardless of creed.

Snowball may only be a singular, insignificant event to most people, but to the gay community that doesn't have many outlets and channels to begin with, it is a major event that they look forward to, a safe space for them to be themselves, celebrate the year end, and feel proud that they are doing so on home ground.

I thus humbly urge the relevant authorities to reconsider their decision to reject our PELU application for Snowball. In view that the event will be held in two weeks, I also request a timely response to this matter. I may be reached 24/7 should there be any questions or clarifications sought.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Stuart Koe