It’s Tuesday, June 30 and we hope you’ve got over your first-day-of-school blues. Well, the children of Tanjong Katong Primary who lost seven school mates and two teachers in the wake of the Sabah quake are trying to, with principal Caroline Wu rallying the school to “bounce back”. Our best wishes to them.
On a more upbeat note, Singapore and Australia are aiming to be more than just friends, but “family”, a description used by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who was here for a visit. The two countries are getting more than mate-y with a comprehensive strategic partnership signed yesterday. Basically, it means both sides are throwing open its doors wider to each other, whether for business, investment or for people to move in and out for work or play.
Singapore is now also part of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, one of 50 countries to have signed on the dotted line yesterday. The United States and Japan, worrying about China’s increasing clout in the region, were notable absentees.
Following the explosion in Taiwan which may have been sparked by a cigarette butt in contact with coloured powder thrown into the air, questions are being asked about the safety of the Sentosa Colour Run that will take place on Aug 22 and 23. Organisers point out that they have held more than 500 global events with zero fire incidents. Their coloured powder is made of “food grade corn starch and is 100 per cent natural and safe”, is not the same as the one used in Taiwan and has successfully passed European Union standards for flammability. SCDF says it doesn’t regulate corn starch (!) but warns that fine particles dispersed in the air could cause a flash fire when in contact with a heat source. In other words, it’s up to you whether you want to take part or not.
Here’s what Ms Siti Nadzirah Samsudin, a research assistant at the Institute of Policy Studies of the National University of Singapore wrote in TODAY about the LGBT debate here which will doubtless fire up following the nod given to gay marriage in the US.
The lack of diversity in the debate is worrying for two reasons. First, the religion-versus-rights-only debate does not lead to mutual understanding. This is illustrated through a 2014 study done by researchers from Nanyang Technological University. They analysed nearly 10,500 comments left on two different online petitions in 2007 that called for a repeal or retention of Section 377A, the law that criminalises male homosexual sex.
They found that the “retain” side argued almost exclusively from a religious perspective. The “repeal” side, however, focused on the rights perspective. Neither side engaged one another or invoked other perspectives.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Government justifies its LGBT policies based on public opinion. At a Singapore Perspective Conference 2013 organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “the conservative roots in society” is the reason that the “status quo will remain”. The question, then, is on what basis are the uninformed middle ground, whose views influence state policies, forming their opinions on LGBT issues?