During GE 2011, Vivian Balakrishnan made a then unwise move to out his Holland Bt Timah GRC opponent Vincent Wijeysingha as gay. This caused a backlash as the PAP until then did not learn that during a GE like in the James Gomez circus in GE 2006, the PAP should stick to policies and not personal attacks. SDP was however shaken enough to know that it was hard to tell if Singaporeans were conservative enough to be worried about SDP championing gay causes. After all, SDP’s closest competitor WP was shrewd enough to be vague and the PAP already said that it had a live and let live policy although 377A would be kept – a vague delicate position during a GE that offended some yet appeased others.
SDP old hand Dr Chee Soon Juan took the gamble and staked it all on his version of delicate balance – “We are not pursuing the gay agenda and none of our MPs will” although they would push for the repeal of 377A. A quick and clever balance under the circumstances whether one likes SDP’s politics or not.
Fast forward to today, sometime in the midway point after GE 2011 and before GE 2016, SDP’s Vincent Wijeysingha came out and said openly that he was gay, timed with the annual Pink Dot carnival-protest, and orchestrated to secure the gay vote. However, with that declaration of identity and not so subtle declaration of getting support from gay voters, it was not without serious risk of alienating supporters. Dr Chee made a serious blunder to act with Vincent to raise SDP’s profile, a policy which is a reverse from their previous position of win-win ambiguity.
Vincent’s “coming out” is a double-edged sword that could cut SDP deeply as the monotheistic religions are fundamentally on the other side of the fence on 377A, the first line of their defence to thwart the gays from heading towards same-sex marriages and adoption of children by gay couples in Singapore. Not only the religions, the opposition conservatives might also throw their lot behind WP rather than SDP now.
SDP might let this “coming out” affirmation slide away but if it doesn’t handle it now, it would come back again in GE 2016, politicised by the PAP.
SDP: ‘We don’t have a gay agenda’
SDP says it will not promote homosexuality but supports repeal of anti-gay law
April 26, 2011 – 10:16pm
DECLARE your political agenda and motives.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and the People’s Action Party Holland-Bukit Timah team laid down that challenge to Dr Vincent Wijeysingha.
Dr Wijeysingha leads the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in contesting for the same GRC.
His party secretary-general, Dr Chee Soon Juan, responded in a video on the party’s website. “We are not pursuing the gay agenda,” he said.
What gay agenda is he talking about?
The background to this bloody battle for the GRC is a YouTube video entitled “Vincent Wijeysingha – Gay Agenda”, uploaded on April 14 by a contributor with the moniker “JohnTan88888”.
The video was later tagged with the statement, “This is the video the Singapore Democratic Party is trying to hide.”
In the video shot during a forum, a speaker refers to Dr Wijeysingha as possibly the first gay MP (Member of Parliament).
Dr Wijeysingha speaks after he is introduced.
Addressing a crowd of about 10 people in the undated video, the speaker calls for a constitutional challenge to repeal Section 377A.
The PAP team quoted Dr Wijeysingha as saying at the forum: “I think the gay community has to rally ourselves.
“Perhaps one outcome of today’s forum would be, for those of us who are interested, to come together to further consider how we can address the 377 issue as well as further rights issues in relation to gays and lesbians.”
Would Singaporeans mind if their MP is gay?
Of 100 people polled by The New Paper, 76 said they would have no issue. (See poll results below.)
But in its statement, PAP’s Holland-Bukit Timah team said: “The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation. That is a matter for him.”
Instead, the statement said the video raises the question on whether Dr Wijeysingha would “pursue this cause in the political arena”.
In response, Dr Chee said: “Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has asked whether the SDP is pursuing the gay agenda.
“Let me state categorically, we are not pursuing the gay agenda, and none of our MPs will.”
Repeal Section 377a
While SDP said it is not pursuing the “gay agenda”, it has been championing the repealing of Section 377a.
In the YouTube video, the speaker calls for a constitutional challenge to repeal Section 377a of the Penal Code, dubbed by some in the gay community as the anti-gay law. The section states that it’s a crime for men to commit an act of gross indecency with each other.
The New Paper asked Dr Chee during an SDP press conference yesterday where the party stands on the law.
He said: “We do not discriminate against race, religion or sexual orientation. We are very sure that we want to speak up for all Singaporeans.”
Mr Alec Tok, who was introduced as the party’s candidate for Bukit Panjang SMC had also said that 377A ought to be removed, adding:
“As far as my position is concerned, this discrimination was created and should be removed.”
The New Paper had also asked during the press conference where the party stood on gay rights.
“What you see posted on our website, that is our stand. The party’s stand has been made clear,” said Dr Chee.
So what is posted on the party’s website?
Since 2007, the party has been arguing that Section 377a “discriminates against a segment of our population and that discrimination, in whatever form, has no place in society”.
It also argued that it wasn’t enough to show tolerance. The nation must accept fellow citizens regardless of their sexual orientation.
The New Paper turned to new candidate and former government scholar Tan Jee Say.
The ex-principal private secretary to then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had argued that the Government lost its moral compass when it went down the casino road.
Does he think he has lost his moral compass working with a party that advocates gay rights?
Mr Tan replied: “I will quote to you what Nelson Mandela said. This was told to me by someone.
“When he was young, he was against gays. When he became an adult, he stood corrected. When he became old, he embraced gays.”
But while his party advocates acceptance, Mr Tan, declined to go so far.
“I am tolerant,” was all he said.
The PAP team also raised another issue in their statement.
And that is on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years.
It is now against the law to have sex with a boy under 16. The New Paper polled 137 Singaporeans to ask if they would agree to a lowering of the age to 14.
Only eight said yes.
In his video response to the PAP team, Dr Chee said the party’s candidates were people of integrity and capability who speak up for all Singaporeans and “not just a segment of Singaporeans”.
He again called for Dr Balakrishnan to make public the accounts of the Youth Olympic Games and debate the SDP’s Holland-Bukit Timah team.