June 22, 2017

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by Suhaile Md

THE public denunciation yesterday (June 14) of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by his siblings Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang shocked Singapore, the ripples of which reached far beyond its shores.

The story was picked up by international news wire agencies, Reuters, AP, and AFP, with three different angles. Reuters angled on fear with the headline: Singapore prime minister’s siblings say they feel threatened, have lost confidence in him. AP went with family feud: Siblings accuse Singapore PM of using his power against them. And AFP focused on the accusations of power abuse: Siblings accuse Singapore PM of abusing power in family row. The articles were a straight retelling of what transpired, with the added context that in Singapore, such public criticism of the Prime Minister is “rare”.

By and large these three angles were repeated the world over.

In the United States (US), The Washington Post ran the AP report with the same headline. Time magazine went with the Reuters report with a modified headline, “Singapore Leader’s Younger Siblings Say They Are Concerned About ‘Big Brother'”. Its US counterparts CNBC, CNN, and The New York Times (NYT) all wrote their own stories, angling on family feud: “In rare feud, Singapore PM Lee under attack by his siblings” (CNBC),  “Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong publicly denounced by siblings” (CNN), and “In Singapore, Prime Minister’s Siblings Are Taking Private Feud Public” (NYT).

There was not much difference across the Atlantic. The United Kingdom’s BBC and Guardian went with “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong family feud erupts again”, “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong denounced by siblings” respectively. The Times ran “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong is behaving like Big Brother, say siblings”. The Orwellian phrase was used by the younger Lee siblings in their public statement, playing off the fact that PM Lee is their elder brother and that they felt threatened by him. Financial Times (FT) covered two angles in one shot with the headline: “Singapore’s first family feud over ‘big brother’”. FT was also the first to get a comment from Mr Lee Hsien Yang after news broke.

The same angles were rehashed by Singapore’s neighbours.

Up north, Malaysiakini headlined “Singapore PM’s siblings publicly denounce him”. The Star Online directly quoted the statement by the younger Lees for its headline: “We fear the use of the organs of state against us”. Malay Mail Online reprinted the Reuters article with the same headline. Indonesia’s Jakarta Globe did the same as Malay Mail Online. The New Straits Times ran the AFP story, keeping the AFP headline as well. Thailand’s The Nation also ran the AFP report. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald wrote their own story: “Siblings of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say they fear for their safety”.

Further afield, Japan’s Nikkei Review called it a “bitter” feud although it’s headline, “Singapore prime minister in open feud with siblings”, is more factual. The Hong Kong Free Press focused on the feud also, “Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong criticised by siblings in strongly-worded statement”. Its counterpart, the South China Morning Post wrote a more thorough piece, adding context on the disputed Oxley road house where the Lee’s grew up in, as well as the popularity of PM Lee as evidenced by his strong mandate in the 2015 elections. China’s Global Times reprinted the Reuters article with the same headline.

There was one other angle outside of the three above – about Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s decision to leave Singapore.

Malaysia’s Malay Mail Online: “Lee Kuan Yew’s son to leave Singapore amid family home conflict”. The Malaysian Insight was slightly more dramatic with, “Hsien Loong’s brother feels need to flee Singapore as Lee siblings’ feud deepens”.  International media like Quartz and Bloomberg had similar angles as well: “The brother of Singapore’s prime minister may enter self-exile, all because of a house” and “Singapore Premier Lee’s Brother to Leave City Amid Family Feud”, respectively. For the record, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife are still in Singapore, although yes, they plan to leave the country.

The reports so far have dealt with facts, getting readers up to speed on what is happening. Columns, commentaries, and opinions will no doubt appear in the coming days.

That’s the news from foreign sites. Here’s our series of articles on the famiLEE feud, starting with the most recent:

    1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
    2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
    3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
    4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
    5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
    6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
    7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
    8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
    9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
    10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
    11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
    12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
    13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
    14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
    15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
    16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
    17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
    18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

Featured image by Sean Chong. 

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by Suhaile Md

SOON after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s (PM Lee) two siblings publicly denounced him in a joint statement (read here) in the early hours of Wednesday, his nephew, Mr Li Shengwu wrote a Facebook post supporting the statement against his uncle.

Mr Li Shengwu is Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s first born. He is also the first of the third generation of the Lee family to make a public comment on the matter.

 

 

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Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and his wife Mrs Lee Suet Fern, have two other sons: Mr Li Huanwu and Mr Li Shaowu. Mr Lee made the joint statement with his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling. She has no children of her own.

Their elder brother PM Lee has four: Ms Li Xiuqi, Mr Li Yipeng, Mr Li Hongyi and Mr Li Haoyi. Mr Li Hongyi is the first born of PM Lee and his wife Ms Ho Ching.

Mr Li Hongyi, 30, and Mr Li Shengwu, 32, were the only two of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s grandchildren to publicly deliver eulogies at the founding Prime Minister’s funeral:

 

 

 

Updated June 18: The famiLEE affair has been brewing for a while now. Read our articles on the issue:

  1. FamiLEE saga: 10 things from the academic paper “When I’m dead, demolish it” (Jun 18)
  2. FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved (Jun 17)
  3. FamiLEE saga: Is a grant of probate really final? (Jun 17)
  4. FamiLEE saga: Somebody should just sue (Jun 17)
  5. FamiLEE saga: PM Lee’s version of events (Jun 16) 
  6. FamiLEE saga: Let a third party tell all (Jun 16)
  7. FamiLEE saga: The past three days (Jun 16)
  8. FamiLEE saga: How Lee Suet Fern got LWL her inheritance, according to leaked emails (Jun 15)
  9. FamiLEE saga: Singaporeans react with confusion, humour and CSI skills (Jun 15)
  10. FamiLEE saga: From 38 Oxley Road to 1 Parliament Place, not just a family affair (Jun 15)
  11. FamiLEE saga: Headlines around the world (Jun 15)
  12. FamiLEE saga: Now about that mysterious ministerial committee (Jun 15)
  13. Not just a famiLEE affair (Jun 14)
  14. Third generation Lee weighs in (Jun 14)
  15. “We do not trust Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader. We have lost confidence in him.” (Jun 14)
  16. Mystery deepens over secret tapes of Lee Kuan Yew (Sep 30, 2016)
  17. Time for the famiLEE to end the public spectacle (Apr 10, 2016)
  18. Dr Lee Wei Ling gagged? (Apr 2, 2016)

Featured image from Mr Li Shengwu’s Facebook page.

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MICROSOFT unveiled the Xbox One X at E3 on Sunday, June 11. Can the new, powerful console grab market share back from Playstation? Watch Microsoft’s press announcement here.

Broadcast for the first time in 4K UHD on Mixer, Xbox showcased a record 42 games in its briefing including 22 with console exclusivity from creators large and small. It will be available in Singapore and other selected markets from Nov 7 and will retail for $499, 449 pounds, 499 euros, CA$599 and AU$649.

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Xbox One X was designed to be the best console to create and play games on, putting the greatest graphic fidelity in the hands of the world’s best game creators to create true 4K games. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer underscored that every game will play great across the Xbox One family, and Xbox One X also makes your existing library even better, with better textures, smoother frame rates and faster load times.

Xbox One is the only console system designed to play the best games of the past, present and future. The Xbox One games and accessories you already own are compatible with Xbox One X, so if you’re an Xbox gamer, chances are you already have a library of games that will look and play better on Xbox One X.

Spencer announced that Xbox will expand the Xbox One backward compatibility library of nearly 400 popular Xbox 360 games to include original Xbox classics, starting with fan favourite “Crimson Skies”. Xbox also revealed that “Gears of War 4,” “Forza Horizon 3,” “Minecraft,” “Resident Evil 7,” “Final Fantasy 15,” “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands,” “Rocket League” and dozens of other popular Xbox One games will receive free updates to take full advantage of the power of Xbox One X. A host of these titles will be enhanced to run in true 4K, and many will be available at the Xbox One X launch.

Video provided by Microsoft Corp.

 

Featured image is a screen grab from the video provided by Microsoft Corp.

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by Suhaile Md

YOU’D think the mother of a young child would be put off by the bloodthirsty ways of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Apparently not.

Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah) was planning to take her 4 year-old daughter with her to war-torn Syria and marry an ISIS fighter. Even if her fighter husband died, she believed that “her ‘elevated status’ as a ‘martyr’s widow’, she felt she could easily marry another ISIS fighter”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) today (Jun 12). The 22 year-old single mother was arrested for radicalism earlier this month. She is the first female Singaporean Muslim radical to be detained here.

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Her radicalisation began in 2013 after exposure to ISIS propaganda online. It “deepened over time” thanks to her contact with ISIS supporters and militants online, said MHA. A year later, Izzah herself “actively posted and shared pro-ISIS materials online”. By 2015, the infant care assistant at PCF SparkleTots Preschool was “looking for ‘a Salafi or an ISIS supporter'” to marry and settle down with in Syria. Salafis are followers of Salafism, an ultra-conservative branch of Islam.

Izzah’s sister came to know about her pro-ISIS social media postings and her intention to join ISIS back in 2015. Her family’s attempts to discourage her from flying to Syria were in vain but they did not tip off the G about her radicalisation. One family member also “destroyed” evidence in order to try to “minimise her acts”. It’s not clear if any action will be taken against the family member for destruction of evidence.

Had Izzah’s family members brought her to the G’s attention, she “could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation”, said the MHA. Furthermore, given the global threat of terrorism, it “makes it imperative for family members and friends to raise to the authorities anyone they suspect of being radicalised or planning terror activities”, it added.

Said the MHA: “Early reporting could enable the individual who is at risk of becoming radicalised to be given proper guidance and counselling. They could be steered away from the path of radicalisation and may not need to be severely dealt with under the law.”

Signs of radicalisation include, amongst other things, expressing support for terrorist groups, having the intention to or encouraging others to commit violence, sharing and reposting content related to terrorist groups and so on.

To report concerns about someone who seems to be radicalised, call the Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

Izzah’s detention is the first such arrest under the ISA since August last year when then 33 year-old Asrul bin Alias was arrested for social media sharing of pro-ISIS content with the intention of spreading its extremist ideology (read more here). According to a MHA report on June 1, there were 14 radicalised Singaporeans who were brought in under the ISA since 2015.

Other arrests in 2016:

On August 19, MHA said that four self radicalised individuals were arrested for their intention to move to Syria and fight there.

On July 29, MHA said that Zulfikar Shariff was arrested and detained for joining the hardline Hizbut Tahrir organisation in Australia, among other things like showing support for extremists online.

On May 3, MHA announced the arrest of eight other Bangladeshis who were planning to overthrow the government in Bangladesh.

On March 16, four more people were arrested under the ISA. Three of them took part in the sectarian conflict in Yemen, although one of them only did “sentry duties” and “did not fire” said MHA. The fourth was arrested for intending to join Kurdish militia to fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

On January 20, MHA said that 27 Bangladeshis were arrested in late 2015 for recruitment attempts as well as possessing materials that taught how to kill.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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skillsfuture_300x250

TRUE Fitness and True Spa outlets in Malaysia were shuttered abruptly today, following the company’s sudden closures of True Fitness and True Yoga outlets in Thailand yesterday (June 9). 

The company’s announcement to customers in Malaysia said that the business is “no longer financially viable due to evolving market conditions”.

True Fitness Malaysia said on the website that it has purchased memberships and personal training sessions for its members to redeem from Chi Fitness, a different fitness centre that has yoga, pilates and muay thai classes.

Affected customers can only redeem their fitness sessions after July 3. True Fitness Malaysia said that “The validity of these redemptions would be for 24 months from July 3, or until all membership months and personal training sessions have been utilised.”

A spokesman from True Group told the Straits Times that it’s still business as usual for True Fitness Singapore. 

Many have taken to social media to air their grievances. 

 

This is not the first time that an international fitness chain has ceased its operations abruptly.

On July 20, last year, California Fitness announced that all its Singapore branches would be closed. Just a week before, it had closed all 12 outlets across Hong Kong. The company faced severe backlash as it did not have enough money to refund customers.

 

Featured image by Flickr user Health Gauge. CC BY 2.0

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by Danielle Goh

GOOGLE announced on June 1 that it will be launching an “ad blocker” and a tool called Funding Choices on Chrome early next year.

But Google’s “ad blocker” is more of an ad filter that will rid websites of ads blacklisted by Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that develops global standards for online advertising. Those on the black list includes auto-playing ads that blare loud music, ‘sticky’ ads that are pinned to the page even after scrolling, and ads with a ten second countdown.

Funding Choices will prevent Chrome users from depriving publishers of revenue by blocking all ad blockers. Users will have to disable their ad blockers to view the website. It will also provide publishers with an alternative source of revenue. An option to pay for ad free access will be available to users. 

On twitter, some welcomed the move but voiced their concerns that Google might have a conflict of interest. Currently, advertising makes up 86 per cent of its revenue. 

Some were not too happy about Google’s new ad blocker…

While others understood that the move will have a widespread impact on digital advertising. Google is a dominant player, accounting for 40.7 per cent of digital ad revenues in the US. Chrome is the internet’s most popular browser.

Mr Sridhar Ramasawamy, senior vice-president of ads and commerce at Google said in a blog post that Chrome will stop showing ads on websites that are “not compliant with Better Ad Standards starting in early 2018.” The “ad blocker” is expected to be turned on by default on mobile and desktop. Google has not elaborated on the tech it will be using to filter ads.

But Google is helping publishers to prepare with a tool called Ad Experience Reports, alerting them to offensive ads on their sites and explains how to resolve the issues.

Funding Choices is currently available to publishers in North America, UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and will be available in other countries later this year. This new tool will allow publishers to charge users for ad free access. Google will get a ten per cent cut from each charge. Details are not yet announced about how Google plans to distribute the money.

Mr Ramasawamy, said that Google’s new initiative would prevent people from blocking all ads, a solution that takes a “big toll on content creators”. About one in four people are estimated to have used a desktop ad blocker, and about one in ten on phones. 

By removing the most intrusive ads, Google hopes that it can improve browsing experience, and safeguard a vital source of revenue for publishers. Chrome already blocks some adverts such as pop-ups. Some publishers see the move as a good thing. “We’re supportive of action as it helps to clean up the ad-ecosystem and improves consumer trust,” said Mr Jason Klint, the CEO of Digital Content Next, the trade group for digital media publishers like Vox Media and CBS Interactive. (Vice News, Jun 2)

While it may be good news for the advertising industry, smaller publishers and ad companies might find it harder to adapt to the changes. With fewer resources, it might be financially challenging to reformulate ads to meet Google’s standards.

Others are concerned that Google will have a conflict of interest as advertising makes up 86 per cent of its revenue. Previously, Google controversially paid Adblock Plus $25 million annually to ensure that its ads are unblocked. EU antitrust regulators might be extracting a $9 billion fine from Google, if it’s found guilty of skewing search results for its own shopping service.

Google’s new “ad blocker” seems to be a good thing for everyone, publishers, advertisement companies and consumers. But concerns remain that Google’s expanding influence and policing of advertisements might also be a move to block competitors.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Skyler Wang

PERHAPS more than any of the iterations before, this year’s Pink Dot is being afflicted by a series of peculiar developments. One after another, attempts were made by both Pink Dot detractors and the State to curtail the success of the event.

The most recent incident, concerning a Pink Dot advertisement found on an escalator in Cathy Cineleisure, broke just days ago. Members belonging to the Facebook group “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” heavily criticised Pink Dot organisers for the ad placement, as well as the shopping mall for agreeing to display it. The contention around the ad eventually found its way to the tables of The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), which, upon deliberation, came to the conclusion that the ad’s slogan, “Supporting the Freedom to Love”, violated one of the general principles of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP) – those of “family values”. According to the authorities, public advertisements should not “downplay the importance of the family as a unit and foundation of society.” They ultimately instructed Cathay to “amend the advertisement”, adding that follow-ups will be made to ensure its compliance.

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Beyond highlighting the State’s limited and inadequate definition of what constitutes a family unit, this incident exemplifies a persistent strategy the Singaporean government uses to quell public dissent—by exerting its influence in the form of policy and legality. In fact, what occupied much of the media attention on Pink Dot prior to this latest episode illuminate this exact pattern. To those unfamiliar with the issue, amendments made to the Public Order Act by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nov last year imposed a blanket ban on foreign involvement from all future Pink Dot assemblies. There are two ways in which this policy takes shape. One, the State has limited sponsorship rights solely to domestic corporations. Since the inception of Pink Dot in 2009, the event has largely relied on the funding provided by multinational companies such as Google, Facebook and Barclays. When juxtaposed to the collective amount traditionally pledged by foreign enterprises, local sponsorship, although not insignificant, pales by comparison. More specifically, for Pink Dot 2016, only five out of the 18 corporate sponsors were domestic entities. By circumscribing Pink Dot’s fundraising process, the government created artificial barriers that hinder the execution and success of the event.

Aside from restricting sponsorship rights, the new amendments also banned foreigners from showing up at the event itself. Before, a participant’s citizenship status was irrelevant to his or her attendance. Immediately prior to last year’s event, the government imposed sanctions on foreign involvement by prohibiting non-Singaporeans and permanent residents from participating in a demonstration, allowing them only to peacefully observe (holding up placards was still acceptable). According to the most recent amendments, “the law no longer distinguishes between participants and observers, and regards anyone who turns up to the Speakers’ Corner in support of an event to be part of an assembly.” Foreigners, thus, are altogether barred from the Hong Lim Park event on July 1 this year (only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents can be physically present).

In response to media queries on these new circumstances, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued the statement below:

“The Government’s general position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones. These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves. LGBT issues are one such example. This is why under the rules governing the use of the Speakers’ Corner, for events like Pink Dot, foreigners are not allowed to organize or speak at the events, or participate in demonstrations.”  

I take issue with several of the State’s claims. First, note that by exclusively highlighting the need to protect political and social issues from foreign interference, the State strategically leaves out economic issues. This reflects the State’s ideology when it comes to managing foreigners, where the relevance of these ‘outsiders’ is confined to their economic contribution. It suggests that foreign talents, labor and investment are encouraged in our country to the extent that they help with our economy, but these entities should not have any further influence beyond that. This not only assumes that the social experiences of foreigners are external to our sociopolitical and cultural makeup, but it simultaneously reinforces the falsehood that foreigners are somehow unaffected by the workings of today’s inequalities. This is highly problematic because the criminalisation of same-sex acts and relationships do not exclusively affect Singaporeans—LGBTQ-identifying foreigners face similar forms of discrimination both at work and in their personal lives. Sometimes, we forget that foreigners who attend an event like Pink Dot may share some of the very same grievances as their Singaporean counterparts. Pink Dot could be as much about standing up for one’s own rights as it is about advancing a particular brand of politics for these non-Singaporeans.

Furthermore, it is important to remind ourselves that social issues have economic consequences. The State likes to use terms like ‘domestic’ or ‘social issues’ to trivialise the effects of certain inequalities, disregarding the fact that these very issues lead to real crevices in one’s material life. For example, and as aforementioned, the criminalisation of homosexuality (a social issue) could prevent LGBTQ individuals from gaining fair access to job opportunities (an economic issue). By failing to recognise same-sex unions (a social issue), same-sex couples are deprived of the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples when purchasing public housing (once again, an economic issue). For those LGBTQ-identifying foreigners who desire to naturalise in this country and settle down with their partners, their aspirations may not differ that much from other queer Singaporeans. This universal yearning to belong is what that propels both citizens and non-citizens alike to mobilise.

As sociologists love to say – humans are a product of society, and our thoughts and actions are never independently formulated. When the State claims that there are “political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves,” there is an underlying assumption that Singaporeans possess an intrinsically different set of morals from foreigners, and that it is vulnerable to foreign disruption. This assumption, of course, stems from a long-held belief that homosexuality is a western-imported concept that remains incompatible with Asian values or ‘true’ Singaporeanhood. This assumption also situates Singaporean culture as static and ahistorical, and that it somehow contains an essence that is ‘pure’ and non-evolving (even though the greatest irony is that in almost all other aspects of our lives, we have wholeheartedly embraced foreign technologies, cuisines and ways of being). It further suggests the fact that it is almost inherently wrong to be both gay and Singaporean, insofar as these are contradicting and irreconcilable qualities. This is a carefully engineered social narrative that still holds much cultural influence over Singaporean society today, oftentimes used by the older generation to denigrate young LGBTQ Singaporeans for their cosmopolitan and westernised worldviews.

This urgent need to restrict outside influences (“foreigners are not allowed to organize or speak at the events”) is also an unsatisfying explanation for the new changes in law because Singaporeans are leading increasingly interconnected and transnational lives. Democratic ideals travel across the world through mainstream and social media outlets. We lived through the events that led to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defence of Marriage Act in the US in 2015, just as how we witnessed the Taiwanese’s high court’s ruling that brought same-sex marriage to its legal fruition this May. These historic events do not exist in social vacuums; we hear about them and they have the power to shape how we understand and navigate our world. Moreover, in this day and age, websites such as Netflix and YouTube grant us instant access to content that expose us to the lives of LGBTQs and the sexual activism that is happening all around the world. This global diffusion of narratives, values and knowledge have happened, is happening and will continue to happen, whether the Singapore government likes it or not. Banning foreign speakers and participants from an LGBTQ rights event for the fear that they would transmit un-Singaporean values to its attendees should be the least of the State’s concerns.

Singapore prides itself for being a diverse and multicultural nation, oftentimes flaunting its cosmopolitanism as a means to legitimise its position in the global arena. An international city puts people of all creeds and citizenship into constant social intercourse, facilitating the formation of friendships and partnerships between citizens and non-citizens. Singaporeans befriend and date folks who are non-citizens—this is a social fact that could not get anymore mundane. However, under the new Public Order Act, couples, families and friends with mixed citizenship status will be unable to attend this year’s Pink Dot together. This laboured and politically-motivated effort to separate particular forms of social union poignantly points to the reality that underpins the need for Pink Dot’s existence, where notions of “freedom” and “love” have yet to transcend the rigid boundaries of socially constructed categories such as gender, sexuality and incidentally, citizenship.

To sum up—queer politics in Singapore cannot and will never become a purely Singaporean affair because amidst an increasingly cosmopolitan and global world order, it is impossible to trace and defend what one might call an ‘authentically Singaporean ideal.’ In fact, we need to move away from the pursuit of this false sense of pureness by aspiring to become critically aware global citizens (by balancing values and morals from a wide array of cultures and traditions), rather than the static and non-evolving Singaporean our government so desperately wants us to be.

Besides, take a minute to think about what the State just tried to accomplish—by removing foreign involvements, the governing power, as I believe, ventured into slowing down the momentum of Singapore’s first and only LGBTQ movement. This suggests that the State’s imagination of the average Singaporean is someone who is politically apathetic and unsupportive of, or at best, neutral towards the idea of gay rights (‘without foreigners, the movement would fail’). For galvanised Singaporeans, showing up and mobilising is one of the most powerful ways to overcome such an inadequate conception of themselves.

In addition, the idea that only someone with the right documentation can participate in a social movement is not only fundamentally undemocratic, but it sends a disturbing message to non-Singaporeans living in the nation state—that your voices do not matter, and that you do not get to mess with the status quo. Foreigners who disagree with such a treatment should also find meaningful avenues to express their discontent towards this form of exclusionary politics (e.g. voicing your concerns through both online and offline platforms). Regardless of whether this could lead to a tangible change of heart by the government, getting the conversation going is key.

Perhaps a heartening outcome that emerged amidst all of this controversy is that in just under six weeks, more than 100 Singaporean firms have stepped up and committed financial support for this year’s event, a size twenty times larger than last year’s five. According to The Straits Times’, as of early May, Pink Dot organisers have raised a total of $201,000—surpassing their initial target of $150,000. It is important to remember though, that in a country where 30 per cent of the population is made up of foreigners, most domestic firms have foreign representation. Embedded deep within the backing of Singaporean firms lies the support of their non-Singaporean constituents as well.

Online, many overseas Singaporeans have expressed their intentions to return home to attend this year’s Pink Dot (to make up for some lost numbers). I assume that during their time abroad, many of these overseas Singaporeans would have accumulated new cultural values and understandings of democracy. Perhaps their way of navigating the world resembles more closely to the foreigners residing in our country than those who never left. In the eyes of our government, might these individuals also be unworthy of civic engagement in Singapore?

Ultimately, what matters most for us is that when faced with the State’s repeated attempts at redrawing the contours of the Pink Dot, movement organisers and their allies need to fight to ensure that the integrity of the movement is not lost. How the story develops depends less on the shape or size of this one dot, but how many new ones we can inspire as new and imminent waves of activism await us.

Skyler Wang is a PhD student in Sociology at UC Berkeley. Broadly, Skyler’s research foci include sexualities, culture and the global economy. His interest in the sociology of sexualities was sparked by his personal experiences growing up queer in Singapore. He can be reached here.

 

Featured image from Pink Dot SG’s Facebook page.

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May waits for the result of the vote in her constituency at the count centre for the general election in Maidenhead, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

by Sharanya Pillai

DISMAY for Theresa May, as the UK general elections returned a hung parliament today (June 9). The UK Prime Minister’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority after May’s decision for a snap election backfired disastrously. Calls now abound for her resignation.

While the Tories won the most seats, the party is still short of the 326 seats needed for the majority, having lost 26 seats to the opposition Labour Party and five to the Liberal Democrats. Seven frontbencher Tories are out, including Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer, who authored the widely-criticised Tory manifesto.

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The opposition Labour Party meanwhile has had a field day, gaining 31 seats as of 0700 GMT (3pm Singapore time) and nearly wiping out the Tories in London. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on May to step down, and pundits are taking bets on whether May will make way for the left-wing political outsider to become PM.

In a hung Parliament, the incumbent PM continues to stay in office while it is decided who will form the next government. May has until June 13 to form a majority coalition to keep herself in power or resign. In 2010, the Tories and Lib Dems formed a coalition government after the elections failed to deliver a clear winner.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party candidate Emily Thornberry gesture at a counting centre. Image by Reuters.

Amid increased political uncertainty, the British pound fell sharply. There are also increased fears over whether the UK will see Brexit through. Former UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage has voiced alarm that the process is “in jeopardy”. The Ukip, once a leading voice in the push for Brexit, lost all its parliamentary seats in the election.

With chaos over the unexpected result, there’s a strong sense of deja vu. Like former PM David Cameron’s stunning Brexit loss, the election defeat was largely of May’s own making. The PM called for snap elections three years earlier than required, because opinion polls indicated that she outranked Corbyn. After Trump’s unexpected victory in the US elections, it seems like pre-election polls have once again blindsided politicians.

Now, May’s own party is turning against her. Anna Soubry, a senior Tory Member of Parliament, called May’s campaign “dreadful” and said that the PM should “reconsider her position”. Meanwhile, May has refused to resign, reiterating her pledge to bring “stability for the nation”.

 

Featured image by Reuters.

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AN EXTRAORDINARY moment on Capitol Hill on Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey strongly hinting that President Donald Trump may have broken the law, telling a Senate panel that Trump fired him to undermine the Russia probe.

Mr Comey said, “I was fired because of the Russia investigation, something about the way I was handling it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve.”

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Mr Comey’s dramatic testimony – the first time he’s spoken in public since he was fired – has only fanned the flames around Mr Trump’s White House.

The world witnessing the spectacle of a former high-ranking government official under oath pointing his finger directly at the president, saying he was pressured to drop an investigation into Mr Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.

Mr Comey’s account largely going unchallenged by senators of either party, the question of whether the president’s actions amount to obstruction of justice, a crime for which people can go to jail and presidents can be impeached.

Mr Comey came under intense questioning from the Senate Intelligence Committee, declining to say directly whether he thinks Mr Trump interfered with justice, but revealing deep suspicions of the president’s motive.

Elaborating on his written statement that Mr Trump repeatedly asked him for loyalty and pressed him to drop a probe into Mr Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

Mr Comey said, “I took it as a direction. The president of the United States with me alone, saying I hope this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.”

Mr Comey saying he took notes for memos about his interactions with the president, specifically because he thought he might lie about their conversations after the fact. -REUTERS

Featured image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey. CC BY 2.0

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by Daniel Yap

THE Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) has spoken up against the Cineleisure Pink Dot ad.

Less than two days after the Police ruled that Pink Dot and Cathay were well within their rights to promote the event in advertisements in Cathay’s Cineleisure mall, the advertising watchdog has demanded that the content of the ad be changed because it breached the “family values” required in the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP).

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Can you spot the infringement?

Marketing reported that ASAS demanded the removal of the phrase “supporting the freedom to love”, saying that it downplayed “the importance of the family as a unit and foundation of society.” It also said that the phrase breached Singapore’s shared values of “family as the basic unit of society”, “community support and respect for the individual”, and “consensus, not conflict”.

ASAS did not give any other details about why the phrase was considered subversive.

Members of the public were quick to mock ASAS’ demands.

 

Days earlier, members of a Facebook group called “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” announced that they had made a Police report against the ad, prompting the Police announcement that the ad was perfectly legal.

Anti-LGBT campaigners in the Facebook group, however, seemed less than satisfied with ASAS’ actions.

A post in the “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” group

But the uproar over the ad is perhaps having the opposite effect that anti-LGBT campaigners are hoping for – visibility of the ad in social media and on the news has skyrocketed because of the controversy, allowing the promotion of the event to reach far beyond the confines of the mall.

 

Featured image by Flickr user Jnzl’s Photos. CC BY 2.0

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