For the first time in its 9 years history of running, barricades were erected barring foreigners from entering Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park. In a statement issued late last year by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to respond to the media queries, MHA stated that, “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.”
Considering what was mentioned in the statement made by MHA, the position has ALWAYS remained the same. So what changed? There are multitudes of articles listed online that are laced with speculations and conspiracy theories as to why the statement was issued so suddenly but personally, I find them a little dubious. For the benefit of the doubt, we’ll explore the commonly listed myths as to why the statement was made… THEN brutally dissect them to show you how unlikely it is; and finally, we visit what I felt to be the actual reason.
Myth #1: Increased Popularity = Increased in Negative Influences
When it was first introduced in 2009, event saw an attendance of 2,500 people. Since then, the attendance rose to over 28,000 people in 2015. In addition to the increase in participants, the number of sponsorships rose to 18 in 2016; these sponsors include multinationals such as Google, Apple and Facebook.
With the rapid increase in participation, it is obvious that Pink Dot SG was no longer something that can be ignored, already it has sparked interest from around the globe and it was only a matter of time that the event calls for a larger venue.
But a change in venue isn’t the main concern here, with the rise in foreign sponsors, the event would have an increase in spending power, attracting more and more foreigners, and with which brings an influx of various cultures and norms regarding this issue which in turn, might influence us negatively. Remember, what is acceptable overseas may not be so back home. Barring foreigners helps to curb this issue.
Now, let’s put this reason on the firing range and gun it down. We boast that we are a multiracial society; heck countries around the world even look up to us regarding this aspect. We are viewed as a progressive, forward-looking nation, one that sets an example of inclusiveness. There is no doubt that the Government has done its best to exemplify that we are a country that makes everyone feel welcome.
So the idea of the Government fearing the influx of negative influences and thus barred them from entering seems pretty contradictory to me. Why spend years and millions of dollars to building up an image of inclusiveness only to tear it down in one night? The concept seems pretty backwards to me.
Myth #2: Increase in terror attacks
2016 was a year filled with terror attacks. With a grand total of 1,441 terror attacks, terrorism rates in 2016 were double of what it was the year before (641 terror attacks in 2015). To make matters worse, a few days after Pink Dot SG 2016, there was a shooting in Orlando. 29 year old security guard killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a hate crime inside a gay nightclub. The incident was said to be the deadliest among the history of violence against LGBT people.
With these statistics at hand, it would come as no surprise that the Government would take extra precaution when it comes to controversial subjects such as LGBT. With the added bag checks, it was a step in the right direction and perhaps if we were to work along similar lines, with a lot of leeway, barring foreigners may reduce the chance of a riot starting.
There were many articles stating that if the reason for barring foreigners’ participation is due the fear of acts of terror, shouldn’t the Government be clear about it to prevent any misunderstandings? Objectively speaking, IF the Government were to state that they barred foreigners to minimize the risk of terrorism, there would be an outrage in the community as the Government had just made a blatant accusation that ALL foreigners are terrorists. Thank goodness they didn’t!
Although this reason seems feasible, what seemed amiss to me however was why there is a need to completely bar them from entering? The spruced up security measures would have suffice! There wasn’t a need to forbid any of our foreign friends from entering the grounds and neither was there a need to extend the amendment to their sponsors. So ultimately, this reason still falls short.
Protecting the Social Fabric
Although we’re already in the 21st century, a topic such as LGBT is still deemed controversial. Many are unwilling to open up and support the Freedom to love cause that Pink Dot promotes, declaring that it is unnatural. All of these arguments stem from either homophobic or religious backgrounds.
While homophobic tendencies apply to individuals, religious bodies appeal to the masses. In response to Pink Dot, counter-campaigns were set up by religious groups in 2014. The Wear White campaign was first started by Islamic religious teacher, Ustaz Noor Deros. The campaign urged members to wear white to defend the traditional Islamic values and soon caught the eye of Faith Community Baptist Church and LoveSingapore network of churches, both of which soon joined in on the campaign.
While these counter-campaigns did not devolve into any violent unrest, the topic still serves as a touchy one for most and such conflicts may just be around the corner. With both sides of the coin falling primarily on the free will of man, the Government can do little to influence these choices. It can however, omit external influences to the already tense situation; minimizing the risk of any riots occurring.
But why now? Why only implement it in 2016?
When Pink Dot first started out, there weren’t much multinational firms backing it. In fact, the first big firm that supported the campaign only came in at 2011, three years after it was first started. Eventually, throughout the years it has slowly garnered support from more multinational firms. In 2016, the list of these giant sponsors are as follows: Google, Barclays, CooperVision, J.P. Morgan, BP, Goldman Sachs, Twitter, Bloomberg, and for the first time, Apple, Facebook, General Electric, NBCUniversal, Visa, Microsoft and Clifford Chance.
Needless to say, the list of sponsors they’ve gotten is staggering! Imagine what other multinational companies will be willing to back the Pink Dot campaign and how much influence they could potentially cause on?
There you have it, my take on the real reason why the amendment was made! A little disclaimer, despite the research that was done into this article, I am but one tiny voice. Take it with a pinch (or dollop) of salt if you must!