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This Little Dot of many colours…

I really don’t know what to make of Touch Family Services wanting a Red Dot Family Moment on the same day as Pink Dot for the LBGT community.  So the voluntary welfare organisation, which is really a religious group that had its roots in pastor Lawrence Khong’s Faith Community Baptist Church, according to TODAY, wants a party at the Padang. Because it is centrally located. Why that day? Because it is the last Saturday of the June holidays and the end of Family Month celebrations. Seems to me Sunday would do just as well.

Pink Dot has been held on the last Saturday of June since 2012. Maybe the Red Dot people really didn’t know of this? Or maybe they think “so what’’? 

By the way, Touch later changed the name to #FamFest 2014, apparently to align it closer to the International Year of the Family.  (Really? It’s anyone’s guess why it did so and I can only think that an official frown could have something to do with it.)

The Ministry of Social and Family Development  said that it didn’t think the Padang was a suitable venue and suggested four others. It didn’t say what was suitable or unsuitable. Maybe the Red Dot people should have added cricket, rugby and football as part of its programme…

Methinks its reason is just a fig leaf to cover its concern about two big events happening at the same time and which seem diametrically opposed to each other. Let’s examine this.

a)     If both events went ahead, what will happen? Pink Dot people will enjoy themselves at Hong Lim and the Red Dot people will play on the Padang. There will be comparisons made about which had the bigger turn-out, for sure. But even if Red Dot booked Hong Lim Park for the following Saturday, this would be inevitable.

b)    What if people at both events start mouthing off against each other? Well, the programme for Red Dot looks fun enough. Pink Dot has always been great fun with a few speakers including straight people. Maybe a “gag order’’ on public speaking?

c)     What if somehow, you can’t restrain public speaking and people making posters and effigies to be spat on? Well, I’m sure the police will have a quiet word with the organisers just like they did with Gilbert Goh.

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So what’s the problem? That Singapore’s image will be tarnished? On the contrary, it’s quite good to see such “inclusiveness’’. Just as we exist with  many races and religions, we can exist with each other regardless of sexual orientation. I’m sure this is a divisive issue but we’ve been divided along many, many lines and we’ve managed so far. This particular line is a new-ish one, and one that we will have to deal with sooner or later.

So why not have both events?

In my view, if the Padang is really so “off-limits’’, then Touch should take up the offer to use other venues. Why die, die must use the Padang? Does it want to make a point here about the significance of the location? Where only “national’’ type events are held and this shows the nation is behind the concept of the traditional family?

In fact, I wonder why the MSF needs to weigh in on something like this in the first place? We need official permission to hold a party? Is there some sort of G subsidy involved? Or the G can say yes or no because it gives grants to VWOs? I would have thought a licence from the police would be enough.

Which brings me to another point , Social and Family Development minister Chan Chun Sing’s comments on recruitment practices of foreign companies:   “Foreign companies here should respect local culture and context. They are entitled to decide and articulate their human resource policies, but they should not venture into public advocacy for causes that sow discord amongst Singaporeans.”

He added: “While different groups may express their different points of view, everyone should respect the sensitivities of others and not create division.”

Mr Chan also stressed that employment in Singapore is based on merit and ability, adding that discrimination, “be it positive or negative; whether based on race, language, religion or sexual orientation, is not aligned with our social ethos and has no place in our society”

The above was taken from a TODAY Online report a few days ago, and his comments are apparently in response to Goldman Sachs’ holding a recruitment and networking dinner for the LGBT students. Now Goldman Sachs happens to be a sponsor of Pink Dot. Google as well. And a few foreign banks.

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Goldman Sachs didn’t reply to Mr Chan’s remarks, but I gather it will go ahead with the session.  

Hmm. What is Mr Chan’s definition of “public advocacy’’? Sponsorship of public events? I wonder if Pink Dot sponsors will be running scared this year…

Surely, Goldman Sachs holding a dinner for a group of people doesn’t imply public advocacy? It would be different if it took out advertisements to extol the virtues of a homosexual lifestyle, but why bother about who the company invites to its office? Does this mean that companies have to be careful not to, say, invite only the elderly to a recruitment dinner because it wants to hire the above 55s? Or that it cannot invite only students from certain schools? Or a company with a strong Christian ethos must refrain from entertaining only Christians? We already have a foreigner/local divide and proportions set for different industries.

That should be enough official intervention already.

In fact, I don’t know why a company which has a small dinner for LGBT students is even newsworthy or require a ministerial response. And frankly, I doubt that many companies driven by the bottomline would not consider merit above other distinctions.

Call me naive but I think water should be left to find its own level.

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© 2022 Bertha Henson

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