From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum
(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?
This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.
But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.
Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.
Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.
…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.
Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.
LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.
Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn. Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.
And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.
The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?
MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.