Gays and Multiculturalism in Singapre

An interesting interpretation where sexuality is cultural i.e. the LGBT community as a whole baring its subcultures, is a culture that is excluded from Singapore’s vaunted multiculuralism.

Is Singapore truly multi-cultural? — Nazry Bahrawi
The Malay Mail
February 14, 2014

FEB 14 — The passing of cultural theorist Stuart Hall on Monday may not have garnered as much media attention as that of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it is an event that should prod Singaporeans to take stock.

Hall has been hailed as the “godfather of multiculturalism”, and Singapore has often prided itself on being a good example of multiculturalism at work. Would Hall have agreed?

If Singapore epitomises multiculturalism, it is one with limited inclusivity. Our multiculturalism is premised on respecting differences that conform to neat categories of race and religion.

Yet human “cultures” are much more complex. First, not everyone professes race or religion as his or her primary identity marker. Second, members of a certain racial or religious group will have varied wants and behaviours, making it hard for anyone to speak on behalf of a community.

Given these, Singapore’s multiculturalism should not be seen as a national strength. In fact, it is a trait unbecoming of a self-professed global city. If we wish to stay sustainable, then we need to rethink our monolithic multiculturalism.

To be clear, multiculturalism here does not refer to an airy-fairy concept to be debated by academics, or a government buzzword to shape policies. Rather, I am talking about multiculturalism as it is lived out as an everyday reality in Singapore.

Consider the recent row over the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) online brochure on sexuality.

The brochure, which recognises multiple sexual orientations, has come under fire because some believe it “dangerously promotes homosexuality”. Indeed, Singapore’s lived multiculturalism denotes that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) folks cannot be considered a viable minority in the same manner as Malay-Muslims, a category that checks both the race and religion boxes.

This is not to say that our version of multiculturalism is the sole cause of the HPB row. There are other motivations behind it, probably the most cited being that the teachings of Christianity and Islam forbid it. But even here, Singapore’s lived multiculturalism falls short.

According to a recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey, more than three-quarters of Singaporeans are iffy about sexual relations between adults of the same sex and gay marriages.

With Muslims and Christians collectively making up less than a quarter of Singaporeans aged 15 and over, according to the 2010 census, the IPS survey suggests that opposition to same-sex relationships must have also come from believers of supposedly more inclusive religions such as Buddhism and Taoism.

This means that religious identity does not have an essentialised nature, as assumed by our lived multiculturalism. In the same way, it is ridiculous to assume all Malay-Muslims are against LGBTs, or agree that the hijab is a compulsory Muslim practice.

Addressing the importance of multiple identities, Hall writes that the “multicultural question” for any society must be how it envisages the future of “peoples from very different backgrounds, cultures, contexts, experiences and positions”. This question is especially valid for Singapore.

Perhaps the way forward is to live according to another ideal — cosmopolitanism. Unlike multiculturalism, there is no need to uphold neat categories or essentialised natures. According to Hall, cities are the best place in which cosmopolitanism can naturally occur because they “bring elements together and establish relations of interchange and exchange”. Singapore as a global trade and travel hub qualifies as such a city.

To be fair, cosmopolitanism has had its detractors. Some say only the rich, who have the means to travel the world, can afford to be cosmopolitan. To this, one can counter that cosmopolitanism should not be an ideal defined by the number of places one has visited. Rather, it is the spirit of being open to someone or something vastly different from oneself.

The Indonesian author Andrea Hirata’s semi-autobiographical novel The Rainbow Troops (2005) best demonstrates this. Recounting the childhood experiences of poor children from Belitung Island, the novel outlines countless instances in which these children were able to connect with foreign and local influences without even leaving town.

Singaporeans can be just as inclusive. The pervasiveness of the Internet and global media here can facilitate a cosmopolitan existence without our having to leave home. Now that is something to be celebrated. — Today

* Dr Nazry Bahrawi is a lecturer with the Singapore University of Technology and Design and research fellow at the Middle East Institute-National University of Singapore.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

Lawrence Khong Planks On

FCBC pastor Lawrence Khong wants a judicial review over why he was ordered by MOM to compensate $7000 to a pregnant staff he sacked. Why go through all the hassle, hiring lawyers and grandstanding? Pride, principle, or actually pride but say it is principle.

It is clear and simple that he had to compensate that former staff as his sacking contravened MOM labour laws on firing a pregnant staff who is within 6 months of delivery.

If he so believed that on principle his church staff who had an immoral affair in his eyes tarnished the good name of his church, so be it. Fire her, but give her what is due according to MOM law. The need for a judicial review is over the top. Some of his flock would surely think why is he stinging on a rightful $7000 compensation while willing to spend much more of the church funds on a judicial review. The pastor indeed works in mysterious ways on what he regards as principles. Sack a staff on on principle but compensate, no. Fight in court and don’t want to compensate, yes.


Church wants review of minister’s order to compensate axed employee

By Toh Yong Chuan Manpower Correspondent

Thorny questions of adultery, church and state are set to be aired in a rare High Court legal review being sought by one of the largest churches in Singapore.

The case involves a pregnant administrative worker at the Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) who was sacked last year after committing adultery.

She complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September last year. In August this year, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin decided she was “dismissed without sufficient cause”. He ordered the church to compensate the woman’s salary and maternity benefits of $7,000.

The church told The Straits Times that it plans to file papers today seeking a High Court judicial review of Mr Tan’s decision.

Foreign QC No Go for 377A

Two gay partners wanted to challenge 377A saying that it is unconstitutional. They brought in a former UK AG as their foreign legal support in the form of a Queen’s Counsel. The couple’s lawyers must have advised that it was a deadend move even before it started as foreign senior counsels or a Queen’s Counsel, cannot represent in cases involving constitutional, criminal, administrative and family law. The rationale is that foreigners are not accustomed to local society norms and therefore cannot accurately legally act for their local clients. A debatable point.

However, the real reason behind this barring of Queen’s Counsel Lord Goldsmith is the age old dictum of not tolerating foreigners to interfere in local affairs. Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee wanted to repeal 377A and sought a foreign talent Queen’s Counsel to change a law that would upset the “live and let live” “ask not tell not” status quo and the Christian, Muslim and conservative communities. The judiciary is aware of the backlash and the importance of laws to reflect society values as much as legally possible.

In the end, it is back to square one. Kenneth Chee and Gary Lim expected that the Queen’s Counsel would be barred from representing, staging it as a stale political gimmick that the Court is against them and feared robust legal challenge. But surely everybody already knew that the Court and PAP government of the day, even the next government WP, would not appease the gay community that easily in the near future. The waltz between the gay activists plus their lawyers and the authorities is quite predictable. The gay couple from the Bear Project, a club for big-sized gays, would appeal as the next step and we can guess how the appeal court might twirl next.


Court dismisses bid to admit QC for 377A appeal
SINGAPORE — The High Court yesterday dismissed an application for a Queen’s Counsel to represent two men who are appealing against the dismissal of their challenge to Section 377A of the Penal Code.
By Amir Hussain

SINGAPORE — The High Court yesterday dismissed an application for a Queen’s Counsel to represent two men who are appealing against the dismissal of their challenge to Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Graphic designers Gary Lim Meng Suang, 44, and his partner, Mr Kenneth Chee Mun Leon, 37, had wanted QC Lord Goldsmith Peter Henry to represent them — together with Senior Counsel Deborah Evaline Barker — for their case, which will be heard by the Court of Appeal in three weeks’ time.

Their challenge to Section 377A — on the basis that the law criminalising sex between men breaches the Constitution — was thrown out by High Court Judge Quentin Loh in April, who ruled that its objective of criminalising a conduct that “was not acceptable in society” was “clear”.

In applying for Lord Goldsmith to represent them in their appeal, Mr Lim and Mr Chee had argued that the QC, who was a former Attorney-General of the United Kingdom and a member of the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on human rights, had extensive experience in constitutional, public, and human rights cases.

The outcome of the appeal will have a bearing on an earlier challenge to Section 377A by Mr Tan Eng Hong, 49, which was also heard by Justice Loh. The court had reserved judgment in his case, but Mr Tan’s lawyer, Mr M Ravi, had said the ruling is expected next month.

Dismissing the couple’s application, Judge of Appeal V K Rajah ruled that the application did not meet the requirement for admitting foreign senior counsel on an ad hoc basis under the Legal Profession Act, where there must be a “special reason” to do so.

While there is no definitive parameter on the requirement, he said “there must be something specific to the nature of the facts or legal issues concerned beyond the expected features of ordinary constitutional cases”. In this case, there was nothing “out of the ordinary which would constitute a special reason” to justify Lord Goldsmith’s admission.

He also noted that foreign senior counsel can participate in the preparation of both written submissions and further submissions, as well as the oral case, by anticipating and preparing questions. “In the Singapore context, written advocacy has a more prominent part to play in the appellate process than in other common law jurisdictions … The written medium functions as the focal means by which counsel informs and persuades the court on the merits of their submissions”, while oral submissions build upon rather than supplant arguments made, he said.

When contacted, the couple’s lawyer, Mr Shashidran Nathan, said his clients will proceed with Ms Barker as counsel for their appeal.

Said Mr Shashidran: “Obviously, our clients are disappointed, but I am confident that we will be able to deal with all the issues that will be raised at the Court of Appeal.” AMIR HUSSAIN

About the Prison Death, Lawyer and Compensation

The case is not over. New information from the Dinesh’s side is that Dinesh was set upon after he responded to the guards” provocation and that they left him to die after a beating. As the government did not want to open a coroner’s inquiry, although the government’s version was that it was stopped without objection from the family, all the more it sounds like a cover-up.

Frankly, the family seemed lower income and lower educated, and were would have been bullied by the government if M Ravi had not provided legal support. Whether one loves or hates him, M Ravi is the beacon for the low income disenfranchised out to challenge the authorities. The cleaner Vellama Marie Muthu and her court case for a Hougang by-election was another instance that Ravi relished or even encouraged a politicised David and Goliath court case.

I don’t think anyone had any doubt that secret society member Dinesh was troublesome in prison and he got his punishment. Whether the punishment was proportionate to his behaviour is as always the main question. The guards overdid the prison discipline as Dinesh died. As a result, the most senior officer took the brunt of it, scapegoat or a true officer, and Lim Kwo Yin was fined $10,000 for negligence leading to the death of Dinesh.

As all is done and dusted almost, the final important item on the agenda is compensation .In the end, justice is about compensation here.  The government is going to compensate Dinesh’s family for the tragedy although the blood money amount is not public. In all likelihood there would be a non-disclosure clause if the family accepted the compensation. I’m angry because taxpayer money is being spent on compensation and the government is totally to blame for this whole incident which it had got itself into. The mitigation to my anger at the government is that at least M Ravi and not other lawyers e.g. Peter Low, another legal eagle in the news recently to take on the government, is helping the family. All things said, M Ravi is mentally unstable and might not be at the top of his game in getting a “fair” amount for Dinesh’s family.

No basis for allegations in civil suit filed by Dinesh Raman’s family: MHA

SINGAPORE: The government has responded to the civil suit filed by the family of Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah, the inmate who died in prison three years ago.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Home Affairs Ministry said “there is absolutely no basis for the false allegations” contained in the claim filed by lawyer M Ravi for the family.

The ministry said the government would normally have dealt with the false allegations in Court.

But it issued a response to correct what it says are “falsehoods” stated by Mr Ravi, who chose to make the allegations public on 11 September, even before formally serving the writ on the government on 12 September.

Among the allegations refuted by the ministry is that the government declined to conduct a coroner’s inquiry into Dinesh Raman’s death.

The ministry said the inquiry was discontinued without objection from the family as the facts had been ascertained during the criminal proceedings.

Also false are the allegations that prison officers ignored the physical symptoms that Dinesh Raman’s body presented and that the inmate had died due to assault by the officers.

The ministry said Dinesh Raman had kicked a prison officer in the abdomen in an unprovoked attack and that this officer was not the same one alleged to have had a prior verbal exchange with him.

Symptoms exhibited by Dinesh Raman, such as breathlessness, were consistent with the restraint operation and had been addressed by prison officers.

The ministry added the State has offered a compensation quantum to the family based on the premise that Dinesh Raman would have gone on to ITE and had a stable job.

Officers from the Home Affairs Ministry, including a Tamil-speaking staff, have engaged the family and Mr Ravi on their compensation claim.

The ministry said the family has not submitted a formal claim.

The family has also not taken up the ministry’s offer to facilitate a meeting with the state pathologist to explain the cause of death

The Man and His Ideals on Gay Rights

After his insistence that he was right in sacking a pregnant staff and angering feminists and others but quietly winning the support of some employers who had to deal with difficult pregnant employees, Pastor Lawrence Khong is taking on the gay community.

The FCBC pastor, believing that God is on his side, said that the Aware saga years ago was a wake up call for MOE which pushed back the gay agenda which intended to teach kids that being gay is fine.  Pastor Khong is trying to rally Christians, Muslims and the majority in his eyes who are against gay lifestyle encroachment, and he sees the signs of gay activism becoming more active. The protest at Russian embassy by Vincent Wijeysingha, Jolovan Wham, Zan Thang and Leow Yangfa is the first of many by the gay lobby.

At least he realised that the gay issue is divisive like in other countries. In historically Catholic majority France, anti-same sex marriage activists were portrayed as right-wing extremists.  French Christians, right wing and the conservative public were on the same page challenging left wing gay activism. The situation is less clear cut here although the lines are being drawn slowly. PAP and WP are status quo on 377A and SDP is more anti-377A. However as Vincent Wijeysingha dumped SDP recently to pursue gay and other lobbies closely as SDP did not give him that space he wanted, maybe SDP is more nuanced about winning the gay vote now.

Let’s see whether Free Community Church, an openly LGBT Singapore church, is going to give Pastor Khong a hard time, or vice versa.



Lawrence Khong: ‘There are no ex-Chinese, but there are ex-homosexuals’

In part 2 of this Supper Club interview, pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church talks about why he opposes calls to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which bans homosexual sex, and how he became a pastor.
Posted on Sep 7, 2013 8:00 AM Updated: Sep 7, 2013 8:57 AM
By Elgin Toh

Q: I want to move on to Section 377A of the Penal Code. You are a very vocal opponent of calls to repeal the law, which bans homosexual sex. Why is this such an important issue for you?

First of all, I want to very clearly state that I don’t believe in discriminating against anybody in terms of the basic human rights. In fact, I just spent a whole day rehearsing with the dancers for my magic show, and more than half of them are living the homosexual lifestyle. It’s not a problem. They are good dancers, we use them. But I disagree with the lifestyle.

And there is a difference between loving people, including homosexuals, and allowing the homosexual lifestyle to become normalised in society. The reason I stand firm on asking that this law not be repealed is that Section 377A is a standard that is written down. The history of many countries tells us that if you remove it, the homosexual community is not going to stop there. They first ask for tolerance. Tolerance means: Don’t bully me, don’t make me a criminal. The minute you take that away, they will ask for acceptance, in the form of gay marriage. And then, before long, they will go for celebration of the lifestyle. I’m talking about the gay pride days all around the world. Then the next thing you know, they will persecute those who disagree with them, by labeling those disagreements as hate speech. We have seen that path. Singapore does not need to go that way. I do not believe this is good for any society. And I will stand firm because I love my nation very much.

This homosexual agenda is being pushed with great aggression. For example, inasmuch as they ask for tolerance, they are some of the most intolerant people that I have ever met. Anytime you disagree with them, you are said to be homophobic, you are said to have made hate speech. We do not say that they are heterophobic or Christophobic. We don’t engage in name-calling. But they do, all the time. Why can’t we argue on the merits of a case instead of slapping on labels?

Q: But you started out saying that you believe in basic human rights for homosexuals.

That human right is the right to employment, the right to education, the right to live as a normal citizens. But not the right to change the laws of society to normalise that agenda.

Q: But the law now says that a gay man may not have sex with another gay man in his bedroom. You don’t think that private consensual sex between two adults is a basic human right?

Behind that is a presupposition that says, anything that I do privately is none of anybody’s business. So what about consenting incestuous relationships? It’s against the law. What about taking drugs? It can be argued that it’s none of your business, since I take it in my home. I know people have different opinions. But in my view, there are certain things that are basically harmful to society. The homosexual lifestyle is not a normal lifestyle.

Q: But there are many other things that you would also believe are harmful to society that are currently not criminalised.

I believe prostitution is harmful to society.

Q: And you believe that adultery is harmful to society.

I believe it is. If I had been in a position to oppose the legalisation of prostitution or adultery when it was being done, I would have fought it with all my might. Adultery fractures the family.

Q: And you also believe that worshipping a God other than the Christian God is harmful to society?

No, no. Let’s draw the line between theology and code of conduct or ethics. I don’t think we should ever make a law that says: You’re not a Christian, you have committed a crime. That’s theology. And I do not go for that because I believe in a secular state.

Q: Do you agree that 377A should not be enforced?

I can live with that. But I feel like it should be there as a line, as a standard, as a benchmark that is drawn. The most basic thing is: This is not normal. The natural marriage between a man and a woman is normal.

Q: But a lot of homosexuals would tell you it is normal because they were born this way.

There is no proof at all. Zero proof, according to the researchers who have gone into this.

Q: I think they are divided about this, but I don’t think there is zero proof.

Well, I challenge the nation to do a study and lay out all the evidence. And I’m confident that the research as a whole will show you that that isn’t true. Every ex-homosexual is proof that people are not born this way. There are no ex-blacks, no ex-Chinese, but there are ex-homosexuals.

Q: There are such people in your church?

There are. I can have them come and tell you their stories.

Q: But there are a lot of homosexuals who have tried to get into heterosexual relationships and have been miserable.

There are many people who have tried not to lose their temper but they lose their tempers and they kill people. There are many people who have tried to get out of an immoral lifestyle because it gives them just no pleasure. We counsel them and they fail. So just because you fail to do it doesn’t mean you’re born this way.

Q: Do you think debates over gay rights are going to become very divisive in Singapore, like in America, where it’s part of what they call the Culture Wars?

I think so, but the answer lies with the government. Our government has kept a conservative stand so far. If they protect the conservatives, which surveys have shown are in the majority, then we will be fine. But if the conservatives find that the country is going in the wrong direction, then we will have to push back.

Q: There are some non-Christians who are concerned that Christians like yourself tend to bring religious values into the public sphere and impose them on non-religious people. What would you say to them?

I want to say that every Christian, every Hindu, every Buddhist, every atheist, every agnostic, is a theologian. We’re all religious. An atheist is very religious. He has a belief system. He believes there is no God. So every one of us brings into the public square his presuppositions. And Prime Minister (Lee Hsien Loong) has said (in his 2009 National Day rally) that it is natural for people to have views that are informed by religious beliefs. We are all integrated beings, after all.

Gotong Royong and Other Anachronisms

Gotong Royong is a great kampung concept, where everybody helps each other out, knowing that good will and favours are remembered and returned. It is the storytelling of the good old days when things were simpler and even better sometimes.

However, Singapore has grown into a cosmopolitan city and things are never simple now, if anything it gets more complicated. HDB used to be simple housing for citizens. Now it is overpriced, even PRs can buy it, and owners can have both a HDB flat as a rental cash cow and a private property to stay in, or the other way around. The HDB as simple public housing is an anachronism.

Same story of the good old days of CPF. It used to be meant for retirement planning and then, payment for a HDB flat and heartland home to be rooted to  Singapore. Since then, CPF has lost its original purpose also.

At another level, that is also the story of the PAP as the party is losing quickly its relevance and appeal. It used to be simply for the people, the rakyat. Not so now. While the PAP is introducing nostalgia as a subliminal political gimmick e.g. the good old days of the PAP, the irony is that we understand those days are over, from gotong royong to simple HDB flats to a passionate and popular PAP. The good old days are gone and one cannot dwell in the past. Gotong royong is sadly an anachronism, just like the PAP is politically.


PM Lee says Singapore needs “gotong royong” spirit to do well

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the strong community spirit present in kampongs should still be maintained today for Singapore to do well.

Mr Lee made these comments at a book launch, specially held for former residents of Kampong Radin Mas.

Kampong Radin Mas is believed to be among the oldest villages in Singapore.

While it was the birth place to many Malay-Muslim institutions, Mr Lee said it also produced leaders who made important contributions in politics, as well as in arts and culture.

He asked: “How did Radin Mas produce so many talented people? Some people said it’s because of the ‘air pancur’ – the spring water, which flowed from Mount Faber to the kampong. Others said maybe it was the ice ball kacang, or the kuti kuti and the kana. All the sights and sounds and colours and activities of the old kampong.

“But everybody agrees that the ‘gotong royong’ spirit had a lot to do with it, where people help one another, where everybody knew everyone else and each spurred the other to go on and do their best.

“Even today, when we are in HDB flats – much bigger towns, not a few hundred people, but hundred thousand people perhaps – it’s still necessary for us to maintain that strong community spirit for us to do well.”

The book “A Village Remembered: Kampong Radin Mas 1800s To 1973″ documents life in Radin Mas village before it was demolished in 1973 to make way for a satellite town.

The book recounts the origins of the village, famous landmarks in Radin Mas and even has some ghost stories. It also gives some examples of how the community worked together.

Former Minister of Social Affairs Othman Wok said: “I remember this old man. He used to come to sell things in the kampong and one day after the rain, he slipped and fell down. All his things went all over the place. So the people laughed. They thought it was very funny. But not my mother – she came down and helped the hawker to take all his things, wash everything, and he was very grateful.”

The government said one way the community spirit can be re-invented today is through common amenities.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said: “I think this is something for us to think about as we go forward, as we build the new Singapore.

“How do we build communities is an important point as we bring people together. I suppose HDB, our land agencies, would have to think about it very carefully. It is nice to build nice buildings, but I think it is also the facilities which are important, where people can come and congregate.”

The book is based on historical documents and interviews with former and current residents.

Hypocrisy in FCBC: Planks and Specks in Eyes

Practice what you preach.

Firstly, Pastor Larence Khong’s Faith Community Baptist Church took what it thought was the high road and sacked its then married, now divorced female staff for having an affair with another church staff, another divorcee. The sacking was illegal as MOM regulations said that the female staff was pregnant when she was sacked. Employers cannot give pregnant female staff the boot according to Section 81 of the Employment Act,

“If employer terminates the employment of a pregnant employee within six months from the date of estimated delivery or the date of her confinement without sufficient cause, the employer is required to pay the employee maternity benefits she would have otherwise been eligible for.”

The female staff then complained and MOM intervened, and FCBC grudgingly gave its fallen church goer the compensation she deserved under secular law. The penalty for ignoring MOM was a maximum fine of $10,000 and maximum jail term of 1 year. Where was FCBC’s compassion? Pregnant woman and turning her out? Even if they thought she was a moral blight, then at least just compensate her according to law and then boot her out. Hard but just. But FCBC neither had compassion nor common sense and opted for being hard and mean.

Secondly, Pastor Khong’s own daughter, Priscilla Khong, is a single mother and had a son out of wedlock. Irrelevant and a personal lifestyle choice under normal situations but not so in the context of FCBC’s puritan stand on sacking a pregnant staff. Priscilla is OK and forgiven in her church and daddy’s eyes, performing magic shows with him as a means of spreading their pick and choose version of the Gospel. So much for the strict sacredness of marriage and the traditional family that FCBC so wanted to preach. The hypocrisy in practicing what was preached.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5


Compensate woman fired for adultery, church told
It sacked pregnant employee ‘without sufficient cause’, says MOM

One of Singapore’s biggest independent churches has been ordered by the Government to compensate a female church worker fired because of her alleged adulterous relationship.

The female employee at Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) had gone to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) after she was sacked last September when the church found out she was pregnant with the child of another church employee.

The ministry said that it looked into the complaint and found that the woman was “dismissed without sufficient cause within six months of her delivery date”.

The church did not give her the salary and maternity benefits she was entitled to under the Employment Act.


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