14 Nov 2005

And if you are not queen, my dear

My colleagues at Singabloodypore have covered cut and pasted press articles and statements regarding the PLU/NLB affair extensively. Singabloodypore is a groupblog distinguished by the stringent analyses its contributors make on local issues and public policy, but in this matter, PLU has been given a free pass on the critical thinking treatment. After it has become apparent that no one here is willing to rise above their positions as PLU minions cheerleaders, I will have to make a sober assessment of the matter.

Let's go through PLU's initial announcement of the forum event on 1 November.
So we're going to hold a meeting there where the public can see real lesbian and gay people... talk about gay stuff. The public are of course free to wander in and listen. We're even going to allow members of the public to speak and offer their views. However, we will set one condition. If anyone wants to speak, he must take on the persona of a gay or lesbian person and speak from that perspective.

That's a stunning vote for free speech, don't you think? Especially when PLU was aware that the purpose of the NLB-sponsored open committee meetings was "allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with."

The whole idea of fighting for gay and lesbian rights rests on the refusal of homosexual people to continue speaking up and acting in society under a default heterosexual persona. And here they are, stipulating the public can only speak at their event if they take on a gay/lesbian persona. I'm sorry, but do you seriously think you'll get a sympathetic understanding from any straight person from this "How does it feel to have the boot on your face for a change" exercise? No one from the left would support this lack of free speech. No one from the centre will be won over by this unfair rule of engagement. No one from the right will be... well, they never were anyway. As a festival open to all, the programming needs to be accessible and have a broad appeal - and this PLU event has a broad repugnance.

Today's reporters and PLU's steering committee clearly know what the real objection of the NAC was. Here, they backpedal and play down the significance of their silly rule: "While we are discussing, members of the public are free to offer suggestions. In a way, it's also interactive theatre." Yes, Alex. The public is free to give feedback, as long as they speak in the appropriate persona. I however fail to see how interactive theatre would not have been served if the audience were allowed to speak up as their real selves.

Then, there has been some form of defence for the rather odd rule. Put simply by pleinelune elsewhere, the gag rule is there to deter some homophobic zealot from grabbing the mike and hijacking the meeting/forum/theatre. Yet the founding father of the Singaporean struggle for gay equality denies this: In the Today article, he estimates that "not more than 10 PLU3 members and only a handful of members of the public would have turned up".

Now, if your event is so unpopular that only a handful would turn up, the NAC should give the venue to a more popular group - and one that doesn't attract so many disruptive homophobic zealots. And if among that pitiful handful, there is still a "homophobic zealot" (and what about free-speech zealots?), who then will ensure that the zealot will follow the gag rule? And should the zealots make a scene about the gag rule and flout it at the same time, who shall control them? The security guards of the NLB? Armed officers from Singapore's counterterrorism squad? Special officers from the NAC? One of your well-built committee members?

Now, this is purely from the point of view of the idelogical audience and the organisation of the event. What about the authorities? The state worries that if the event proves it is effortless, harmless, and equally human to speak from a gay or lesbian persona, it will lead to the normalisation of gays and lesbians in mainstream society. This is tantamount to the criminal act of promoting homosexuality and homosexual lifestyles! Yes. This gag rule was in effect a very good excuse for the machinery of the state to shut the event down. Why did PLU give them such a convenient excuse?

Then, there's the issue of the agenda. Note that the initial release didn't mention anything about the agenda - Spell#7 had just gotten the in-principle, preliminary go-ahead from NAC, which had not been in communication with PLU at that time. Yes, that's precisely what I just said. Read carefully the extract of NAC's clarification email to Spell#7:
Would you mind writing up a brief outline of how you envisage conducting the meeting, and what issues would be addressed? Perhaps if you have any other information about the PLU(3) group, and a list of its recent state interactions and public profilings, that would also be useful.

Now, when PLU says it got an "initial approval" from NLB, we must understand that
1. Spell#7 as the organiser of the series had definite approval of the series. It then got preliminary approval for the PLU event, not definite approval from NLB/NAC.
2. NLB/NAC was never in communication with PLU when it was alleged to have given its "initial approval".

Let it be known that the NAC tried to signal to PLU that it had to do a better job at selling its meeting. First, the original agenda was inappropriate:
In the planned Open Closed Door Session, a few of them, about 5 to 6, plan to talk about a Quarterly forum they are organizing in January and the forums after that. Possible forum topics are "The Singapore Constitution and Gender Issues" and "The Home Affairs Ministry's Review of Sex Laws"

Let's see. A public forum on state property, funded by state organs. Possible forum topics all lead to: we oppose these following policies of the state. And then you want to involve the audience, as part of performance theatre? This is of course more subversive than any piece of performance theatre (which is usually less direct) practised in Singapore.

When asked by NAC to reconsider the agenda, PLU's reply was a masterpiece. "The purpose of a committee meeting was purely organisational (i.e. we would be talking about setting up events and how to get speakers, venues, publicity, about attending other conferences, and arranging meetings with researchers, reporters and other activists coming to Singapore)". And the purpose of the series of events hosted by NLB is (just a reminder) allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with. I'm sure the purely organisational stuff is something the public is keen to observe and engage with.

After news of trouble with the higher bureaucracy, PLU hastily changes the agenda to:

1. Quarterly Forum (Dec) - speaker(s), exact date, venue options?, publicity arrangements
2. 2006 Pride Month - activity proposals from JC, venue status, time to call for papers
3. Asia Pacific Network conference Kuala Lumpur (2nd week Nov)
4. Upcoming visit of PJ (4th week Nov) - meet and dinner
5. Asia-Pacific Queer conference 2006 - discuss possibility?
6. MC's idea for a Gay and Lesbian Film Festival - discuss possibility?

Great. Work. At. Getting. Support. From. Non-gays.
Yes, a Pride Month would definitely get the sympathy of the public. As with a film festival - Singaporeans watche an average 8 films a year? And the purpose of the series of events hosted by NLB is (yet another reminder) allow the public to observe and perhaps engage with the issues that these civil society groups deal with.

There's a time and place for everything. I have no problems with both agendas of the PLU, and the set of events in the second agenda seem interesting to cover in SBP in the future. Both agendas were inappropriate for the NAC's purposes - they wanted a safe and entertaining show, not this. And both agendas could be discussed in any other private meeting by the PLU committee; they didn't need the NLB/NAC event at all.

PLU clearly didn't try its hardest to get the event. It botched the negotiations with the wrong agendas and the wrong gag rules. So why the free pass at critical analysis? If Singabloodypore prides itself on dispassionately dispatching bloopers and objectionable policies from the establishment, why not do the same for alleged members of civil society? Equal opportunity, I say.

Also, refer to other mistakes made by PLU, the première [note: premier is spelt without an e and without the silly accent] Singapore advocacy group for gay equality.

Si non dominaris, inquit, filiola, iniuriam te accipere existimas?
And if you are not queen, my dear,
Think you that you are wronged?


pleinelune said...

I see your PLU-hating arguments have found your way here, after our extensive debate about this in my blog. PLU tried their best to circumvent the restrictions placed on them, and all you can do is to criticise their moves at every turn. How much can you expect of a small organisation which is not allowed to be registered, has little funds, and has the looming threat of government action on them?

akikonomu said...

My point is they didn't try their best to circumvent. And yes, I criticise their mistakes and mis-steps at every turn. Do you expect me to believe in the Gay Exception? Then why not we accept the Singaporean Exception argument that our government trots out every time someone says it's not liberal/openminded/humane enough?

I believe in equal opportunity and that means pointing out mistakes that conservatives and liberals make - no exception.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I must say that I've not followed this very closely - so please pardon me if I have missed out on any relevant facts. My broad understanding of the matter is this -

NLB was organising a series of activities; NGOs are invited to hold meetings at NLB premises; however, the meetings must be open to the public; this presumably is supposed to be educational as the public will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what the NGO is all about.

One interesting feature is that the NGO is not going to deliberately create an event for the public, like a public talk or a public seminar - no, the NGO will simply go about its usual business, talking about whatever it normally talks about during its usual meetings - except that the public gets to sit in.

NLB, apparently, leaves it to the NGO to decide for itself whether members of the public who walk in can only observe; or can also participate.

Since it is perfectly ok for an NGO to tell the public, "No, you cannot participate at all," I would think that it must be fully acceptable for an NGO to say, "Yes, you can participate, but subject to certain conditions."

So I think it should be ok for PLU to say, "Yes, you can participate, but you have to take on the persona of a gay person."

In fact, I thought that this was a very interesting idea - it reminds me of Edward de Bono's six thinking hats. I can see interesting variations - for example, imagine a discussion about gender issues where the man must imagine himself to be a woman before he expresses his view, or a woman must imagine herself to be a man before she expresses a view. Or perhaps a discussion on Nguyen Tuong Van where you have to take on a persona that isn't really yours - for example, imagine yourself to be the President of Singapore; or the convict's mother; or the Prime Minister of Australia; or the High Court judge. It is a most interesting device to make you see things from another perspective which you otherwise may not be able to appreciate.

Why did NLB kill this PLU event? Well, according to the NLB, the nature of the discussion topics "did not meet the objectives of the festival ... As a festival open to all, the programming needs to be accessible and have a broad appeal."

Well, who am I to say that this is not true. I shall not bother to investigate which other NGOs were invited to hold a meeting, and do a comparison of the relative accessibility and broadness of appeal of their various agendas.

On the other hand, these activities were meant to be a lead-up to the official opening of the NLB on 12 November. And I just noted this morning who the guest-of-honour was. Heheh. None other than Dr Balaji Sadasivan. Who loves the gay community as much as they love him.

Think Singaporean said...

Oh, I see. No wonder, PLU meeting is cancelled! But isn't a gay or a lesbian a "human being", just like Dr Balaji himself? If he sees otherwise, then perhaps may I suggest that he listens to the following talk by a Buddhist monk, Ven Ajahn Brahm regarding "sexuality". He says if someone wants a gay or lesbian to change, then "it's all the politics of hate and ill-will". Well, God bless him.

www.bswa.org/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?cid=4&lid=206 (from Yawning Bread).

Think Singaporean said...

correct my English..."was cancelled"

pantalaimon said...

I don't see any reason whatsoever why the condition that gay and lesbian personas be adopted is a restriction of free speech in this context. If someone were holding a talk on Shakespeare and demanded that everyone adopt the persona of a Shakespeare character when speaking would you regard this as a limitation on free speech or an exercise in placing yourself in the position of someone else? Same difference. The reason why similar restrictions would be unacceptable from, say, the NAC or the government, is that PLU is asking people to participate in a particular kind of speech, rather than closing off avenues for certain viewpoints from being aired altogether. PLU isn't a governmental organisation, it can't control what other people say, it's simply asking people who want to say certain things to participate in its specific event. This is a problem how? In no way whatsoever. Maybe a lot of people wouldn't be keen for it, but that's a marketing problem, not a moral one.

pantalaimon said...

Another thing:

Let's see. A public forum on state property, funded by state organs. Possible forum topics all lead to: we oppose these following policies of the state. And then you want to involve the audience, as part of performance theatre?

Yes, this is perfectly reasonable. The state has many hats. A constitutional liberal would suggest that the state has the duty to enforce its existing governmental policy, but that it also has a higher order duty to protest the ability of its citizens to challenge that policy. This is what it means to be a democracy. If your claim is merely that PLU was being unrealistic in expecting the Singapore government to behave in a democratic fashion, I - sadly - agree. But if your claim was that it would somehow have been a bad thing for PLU to get what it wanted in terms of being allowed and encouraged by the state to challenge state policy then I would hope you rethink your conception of what democracy is.

pantalaimon said...

I mean "protect", not "protest", in the sentence below the italics, but you probably figured that one out.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Or could it be that they're afraid of another forum (like the one held for Nguyen) on 7 Nov. Soon after (i think 9 Nov) NLB announced cancellation of PLU mtg was supposed to be on 10 Nov.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing represents a "thin end of the wedge". It doesn't matter if only a few people involve themselves in this now abortive event. The issue is if you have one of these held at a govt or quasi-govt organisation it will be cited as a precedent, and, more to the point, the few people involved initially might well mushroom to very many more in subsequent events as people become emboldened (and yes I do find that a very bad thing...haha). We aren't ready for these things yet.

Anonymous said...

Also, taking on the part of a Shakesperean character in a play is by its nature play-acting. It's fictional. But I cannot see anything fictional in the issue of sexuality nor insisting that someone assume a supposedly different sexual persona.

Gilbert Koh said...

Well, I can see that it could be quite interesting. But perhaps it's because I used to write plays and even help direct them. So I can easily see how interesting things could be, if characters swopped roles and attributes.

For example, suppose you are straight, Christian and you feel that Jesus loves you. You also happen to think that homosexuality is a terrible sin against God.

Now imagine that you are gay. According to your idea of Jesus, according to your Bible, would Jesus still love you? Or hate you? Ask yourself that. Interesting, isn't it. Quite possibly the answer may change the way you think about religion-based arguments against homosexuality.

As PLU is a gay group, it's quite easy to see what they hope to achieve. They want you to imagine to be gay, because it's all about putting yourself in the shoes of the "other" person. What is that old native Indian saying? Something about how you cannot know a person unless you've walked a mile in his shoes.

So pretend, lor, to be gay. Just for a while. Is there a lot of harm in that? Why do you people take things so seriously. It's just a bit of open theatre, what.

Agagooga said...

I think the "speak as a queer person" rule was quite dumb. As someone pointed out, a forum is not supposed to be about performance theatre.

I applaud PLU's ambitiousness, but there's no need to be provocative for the sake of being provocative.

akikonomu said...

Having written and directed plays for the theatre, perhaps Gilbert Koh would like to join me in pointing out that "interactive theatre" (PLU's term) or forum theatre does not require audiences to assume a persona when addressing the cast?

patriot said...

why nitpick at a group that has always been marginalised?

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

- Pastor Martin Niemöller

i applaud PLU's effort.

The Legal Janitor said...

because in order to successfully change the existing mainstream culture, they must be held to a higher standard of 'actions' (for want of a better word) than they have done so far.

I'm a strong supporter of gay rights, because I'm a staunch libertarian. I believe that a person's sexual orientation is not the government's business, or anybody elses. But like akikonomu says, if the event is held on state property using state funds, I absolutely reject that they have a right to tell me what I can or cannot say at that event.

To support them is one thing, but to uncritically support is another. If PLU wants to genuinely change mainstream cultural thinking and garner mainstream support, it should welcome all criticisms, especially the sort that akikonomu has raised. I've read his piece and no where do I detect any 'gay-hate'. The criticisms were all directed at the way things have been done, where mistakes have been made and things gone wrong.

Without criticism like these, the GLBT rights movement will never be able to learn from their mis-steps and become more effective.

pantalaimon said...

Interactive theatre can take many forms. I don't see what the big deal is. If you think it's bad theatre or not great artistically, that's one argument, but people's feelings here seem to go stronger that than, into claiming it's 'restrictive' or against free speech in some way. I don't really understand this. Let's say they had an event about the Holocaust and wanted people to play-act as though they were concentration camp victims - is there a problem with this? Are we being unfair to the Holocaust deniers? No, because they seek to perform a certain kind of speech and they seek to have an audience participate in that speech, and they aren't restricting the ability of people to present contrary speech anywhere else. It's not as if the government only ever funds people who are pro-gay-rights (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA).

Moreover, if they had just had a bunch of gay people declaiming in favour of gay rights and allowed the audience no participation at all, would you be complaining? - so why not ask for a particular kind of audience contribution?

Re the notion that bouncers would kick people who didn't participate out, I don't see why this is such a big deal. If you had a forum on terrorism and people insisted on talking about gay rights and health subsidies, you would tell them they were off-point and ask them to leave if they wouldn't cooperate. If you had a costume party and everyone had to wear costumes and people who weren't wearing costumes got kicked out, I'd say, why are you there if you don't want to play along? How is being asked to consider issues from a gay perspective any different?

About whether it's 'dumb', I agree that it's a little bit school-kiddish, but when you're dealing with people whose prejudices haven't moved beyond playground bigotry, maybe that's the only chink in the armour surrounding their sympathies. Or maybe not. Does anyone have better ideas for ways in which to extend empathy rather than merely arguing about their cause?

Re the person who said Shakespeare is fictional but sexuality is real - the whole point of any kind of play-acting is to become something that isn't. To be someone whom you aren't. To make only one factor hypothetical (sexuality) is only a difference of degree from making many factors hypothetical. The most vivid illustration of this is the fact that many dramatists write about historical characters - to continue our Shakespeare example, all the historical plays - Richard III, Caesar, Cleopatra, Antony, etc. - in all these cases the line between fact and fiction is blurry. I don't see that this is any different a kind of theatre from those.

akikonomu said...

I agree with what shianux said.

We hold them to a higher standard, because we refuse to allow them to interpret their mistakes and mis-steps as crushing victories - and it already has been spun as such, looking at the Today article, the signel forum, and pantalaimon's comments. We do not wish every opposition party, every liberal, every civil society group in Singapore to behave as if they graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Chee Soon Juan School of Domestic Politics (apologies to much-maligned CSJ).

pantalaimon said...

I didn't say it was a crushing victory! I just don't agree with you, at all, that their approach is a restriction of free speech or somehow morally wrong or hypocritical, rather than somewhat bad marketing. They're probably not the greatest campaigners in the world, but I don't see what they've done (or rather attempted to do) as harmful in any way.

pleinelune said...

Interesting debate. But is this any use? The event has been banned. The brave half-step forward has been crushed and pushed back five steps. Yes, the PLU makes mistakes in planning, like any other organisation, maybe even more so due to its precarious situation. Me? I just hope this god forsaken country finally sees the light one day, with or without PLU.

akikonomu said...

Precarious? The only precarious thing that could happen to PLU3 would be another rejection when it applies as PLU4 in the coming year. People who are interested in a strong and vibrant civil society cannot afford to mollycoddle PLU anymore. It has to pull its own weight as a responsible and mature member of civil society.

jaded_basement said...

As a PLU myself, I must say that I do resent people trying to represent the PLU community in Singapore as somehow monolithic. It isn't. There are divisions within the community: many are regular folk who are more interested in immersing themselves in mainstream society than in rocking the boat and having the unflattering spotlight on them. Everytime someone from the community presumes to speak for the rest of us, I choke, because inevitably "these people" come from the same groupie strain within the community bent (pun totally intended) on pushing the boundaries beyond which many others within the community do not think it appropriate or the time right. (And for some of these advocates, there are conflicts of interests between what they are pushing publicly and their business interests.) There are clear divisions within the PLU community; that is a fact that the advocates are in denial about. Many of you might be a bit surprised to learn that the greatest degree of bigotry in Singapore resides right at the core of the Singapore PLU community. It doesn't derive from any other quarter. If you do not know what I mean, or are totally oblivious, it matters not because it is then clear that your opinions do not count in this debate.

akikonomu said...

Come now, we don't have to drag the name of Hong everywhere we go? I for one would like to forget he exists =D

"your opinions do not count in this debate": Again the gay exception rears its head! The sooner anyone's opinion is officially discounted from your debate, the sooner your community marches to a self-imposed ghetto.

jaded_basement said...

akikonomu, if you care to read my post carefully, I am for immersion in mainstream society, not ghettoisation (I do not frequent the boutique ghettos in Tanjong Pagar though I've visited them a few times, and it was enough for me to know that I am clearly not a groupie). Who Hong might be, I do not know, nor do I care because, following consistently from my train of thought, if I do not know who he is, then he is inconsequential.

xenoboysg said...

In the last elections, James Gomez and co. missed an appt to hand in their election forms. In so doing, they missed their chance.

For activism or any activities deemed contrarian in Sg, understand that the State will not grant margins of error. The lines are efficiently drawn.

Performance activism succeeds based on two primary factors : first, the level of creativity in conceptualising the main event and second, at the level of creative subversion in organisation and planning. Both factors are necessary to draw out critical mass.

At the same time, the State grants no favours.

It is not easy. But ultimately, someone or some group, must normalise the idea that gays are Singaporeans too.

pantalaimon said...


I don't understand why there has to be talk of 'mollycoddling' a civil society group - it's rather like the usual PAP party line of claiming that we shouldn't 'encourage' something, therefore we need to clamp down on it. It suffices, for me, that the group is doing something that is aiming to raise awareness about gay rights (we both agree this is a good thing, I presume) and that it's not doing so in a way that's WRONGFUL. It may not be hugely effective but the desire to somehow 'cull' it because it's not to your taste benefits nothing that we are interested in, whereas encouraging people to support it might. Do you get my drift?

Without knowing very much about PLU or its members, I nonetheless don't see the force of the following criticism you have made: namely, that requiring people to adopt a gay persona when speaking at this event contravenes the principle of free speech.

- Again and again I have asked how this is any different from adopting a theme or a conceit or motif. I think I have given a fairly good example in the form of the Holocaust awareness event where organisers ask people to pretend they were concentration camp victims. This may not be to your taste, but I am sure it convinces at least some people. What then is the problem? You have yet to come up with one besides saying "how is this theatre" - pardon me for daring to suggest that different people my have differing notions of theatre, and that this does not cross any line into restricting free speech.

- It is entirely within a liberal conception of a democratic state for particular speakers to be supported by the state. Everytime a state allows a public forum like a park or a street to be used for this purpose it is subsidising free speech on the part of the speakers involved. If the state displays an irrelevant topical discrimination or a problematic viewpoint discrimination in selecting who to support, this is a problem. But to suggest that the Singapore government consistently supports pro-gay-rights speech of the sort PLU sought to make here so as to represent viewpoint discrimination in favour of gay rights and against its opponents is nothing short of absurd. Surely you recognise this. Do you honestly think it would be an unacceptable restriction on speech if the state funded an event where people had to imagine they were Jews in concentration camps or blacks suffering under apartheid - or even the Senators of Rome squabbling over Caesar's ascension to power?

You have never responded to any of these points in any meaningful way.
I don't think Singapore's civil society groups should be 'held to a higher standard' (whatever that means - 'higher' than what?) at all. If anything, the fact that they already face so many problems and restrictions means that we should be more sympathetic to their cause. It worries and disturbs me that you are adopting this completely bizarre position that we should "dispatch bloopers and objectionable policies" and then apply that to something which simply isn't as effective as might like, from an organisation that owes you no debt of political responsibility and has no actual political power which might form the basis of wishing it to be accountable. The entire basis of being critical of government is based on a control of a government's mandate so that it will use the power it has responsibly. These folks have neither mandate nor power, they're simply a bunch of people doing something in difficult circumstances in the hopes of achieving an end which we both agree is good. There's no need to be nearly half as snarky as you have been.

akikonomu said...

1. You don't see that requiring people to adopt a gay persona when speaking at this event contravenes the principle of free speech. Apparently the idea of getting people to adopt a particular persona is to get them to conform to the point of view of a persona, to close off others - to eventually get them to express a certain set of points as opposed to others. Hence the lack of freedom of speech.

(However I admit that it's possible for a homophobe to crash the event and adopt a gay persona known as the 'self-hating gay', and rant at homosexuals all the same.)

2. Agagooga has made this point before: A forum is NOT a performance theatre exercise.
My point is performance theatre - allowing the audience to interact with the actors - does not mean you must have the audience adopt any persona. I have made this point several times, and it's your fault for not getting it.

3. If you had bothered to read properly: I move from the point of view of the idelogical audience and the organisation of the event to the point of view and consideration of the authorities. The real world authorities, not your liberal conception of a democratic state etc.

4. People who truly care about the vibrancy and survival of civil society expect their lobby groups to be smart enough to avoid mistakes and bloopers, or at least learn from them. And ultimately to be strong enough to actually succeed at their goals. As Shianux also puts it: in order to successfully change the existing mainstream culture, you have to demand higher standard from your civil society groups. I wonder about people who don't expect anything much from their civil society groups.

5. Great. From the gay exception argument, you jump to the "civil society groups don't need to be accountable" argument, which is even more absurd than saying you don't expect these groups to held to any high standards. I don't need to reply to this. In the past, I made jokes about how our authorities must be ashamed at their online apologists. The gay rights movement must be really ashamed at their apologists on Singabloodypore right now.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Once again, Mr Wang the Ever-Cheerful Light-Bringer will cast the darkness out of your minds. Put your hand on your heart now and answer Mr Wang's simple questions:

1. What do you think is the REAL reason NLB killed the PLU event?

2. Suppose SPCA had been part of these events at NLB. Members of the public can attend. SPCA says: "When you attend, you must assume the persona of a person who really, really loves animals." Regardless of whether you think this is a dumb idea or not - do you think NLB would have killed the SPCA event because of this?

3. Suppose the Society for the Blind had been part of these events at NLB. Members of the public can attend. The Society says: "When you attend, you must speak as if you were blind yourself, even though you actually can see." Regardless of whether you think this is a dumb idea or not - do you think NLB would have killed the Society of the Blind event because of this?

4. Suppose the Singapore Kidney Federation had been part of these events at NLB. Members of the public can attend. The Society says: "When you attend, you are not allowed to participate. You can watch and you can listen as the SKF committee conduct its meeting, but you are not allowed to say anything." Regardless of whether you think this is a dumb idea or not - do you think NLB would have killed the SKF event because of this?

5. On Question 4, explain to me why this is a restriction on free speech? I simply cannot see it.

6. I go to watch a play or movie. The audience is expected to keep quiet and watch. Should I stand up there and then and start talking loudly in the middle of the show, expressing my view about how Michael Moore got it wrong about George Bush, or how Harry Potter is actually a Satanic movie, or why Tom Cruise really makes me feel like puking these days? If someone then says to me, "Please sit down, keep quiet and stop disturbing everyone," is this an infringement of my freedom of speech.

Answer my questions. Be honest.

Of course, NLB has the legal rights to allow whoever they want to use their premises. And they have the legal rights to disallow whoever they don't want. Many things in this country are legal. That doesn't necessarily make them right, or ideal.

akikonomu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Many things in this country are legal"? Why? Because they want Power and Control but afraid to loose them, which can be seen clearly from lately MM Lee's speech to foreign journalists on Singapore's low ranking press freedom. Marxist's ideology being followed faithfully by the communists.

akikonomu said...

Mr Wang the ever-cheerful blogger - excepting for Brian Blessed, if he enters the blogosphere with a shout and a jolly laugh - should do well to bring a reading light to his monitor at times.

"1. What do you think is the REAL reason NLB killed the PLU event?"

I talked about freedom of speech as a reason why some liberals may not want to support the gag/persona rules. Due to the lack of a reading light, Mr Wang misses my analysis of why the NLB/NAC might've found the gag/persona rules objectionable:

The state worries that if the event proves it is effortless, harmless, and equally human to speak from a gay or lesbian persona, it will lead to the normalisation of gays and lesbians in mainstream society. This is tantamount to the criminal act of promoting homosexuality and homosexual lifestyles! Yes. This gag rule was in effect a very good excuse for the machinery of the state to shut the event down. Why did PLU give them such a convenient excuse?

I hope that answers your chief question and misunderstanding, which has littered the rest of your questions.

Now, answer honestly: Does Mr Wang have a reading light for his monitor?

Anonymous said...

Which citizen doesn't know the aim of garmen's control of power? Don't take it so personally.

pantalaimon said...

I am at a continued complete and utter loss as to why a forum cannot be performance theatre, or a new kind of performance theatre. This strikes me as fairly central to our disagreement. Your further claims, that PLU was basically asking for too much and ultimately going to be refused regardless, I don't really care for, since the reasons for this 'necessary' refusal remain bad ones. Criticising protest for failing to be 'successful' is simply continuing to mouth the PAP line - when it is the PAP's wrongful action which inhibits this success to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Well, in my opinion, "Rome wasn't built in a day". So, how could we expect changes to take place in sg instantly. Be patience, it takes time for the garment to know its citizens well enough. Set our priorities right - to me, the utmost importance is that which concerns "life and death". Without life, what's homosexuality? What's everything to us?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Haha! If they wanted to shut you down, they would shut you down. Once the matter reaches an NLB person of sufficient authority, who happens to object to gays. and he decides to shut you down -

that's it.

At that point, PLU could have redesigned its event 100 ways; it could have said - "For a change, everyone who attends must take on the persona of a HETEROSEXUAL person"

- too late. They would shut you down anyway.

As for the skill of the PLU's manoeuvrings (or the lack of skill, which you have accused them of), well, well, I wouldn't read too much into press statements, letters and so on. In this kind of situation, the real action takes place when Alex Au sits downs with the relevant NLB person at Hans Restaurant and says, "Hey, let's have a cup of coffee. Now, completely off the record, let's talk about where the real problems are ..."

This is where the crunch comes. This is the make-or-break situation. You weren't there, I wasn't there - I wouldn't judge, because I don't know; you seem quite keen to be judgemental; well, that's up to you.

Gilbert Koh said...

And I have to remind you that this wasn't supposed to be a public forum. It wasn't supposed to be a kind of event where members of the public can walk in and ask questions and make comments etc.

When the NLB organised this series, the idea was the NGOs involved would do whatever they normally do at their internal meetings, except that they would do it on NLB premises, and allow members of the public to watch.

This in itself is like a kind of special theatre already. Remember that glass bubble event at Raffles City? Two men live for 14 days in an apartment, where all the walls are made of glass, so that the public can watch them 24 hours a day (except when they go into the toilet and close the door). Something like that.

The issue had been raised - "What if the audience wants to participate?" and NLB had said, "It's entirely up to you. You can 100% disallow them from participating if you like." And PLU said, "No, we won't do that, we'll allow them to speak, but as part of this theatre thing, they have to speak from the perspective of a gay person."

Gilbert Koh said...

Just in case, anyone misunderstands, that last comment of mine was in response to Shianux, who wrote:

"But like akikonomu says, if the event is held on state property using state funds, I absolutely reject that they have a right to tell me what I can or cannot say at that event."

I am saying that NLB had already told all the participating NGOs that it's perfectly fine for the NGO to tell you to completely, utterly, absolutely shut up at the event.

So I doubt that NLB killed PLU because of their persona thing.

charles said...

What are we discsussing here?

Had someone at NLB finally given approval for the PLU event to take place, there would have been a lot of finger pointing in order to find out who to blame, fire (and deport if non-Singaporean).

PLU is not a recognised NGO, it is not allowed to exist. Having it as a recognised NGO at an official event surely would have provoqued a nice eruption.

What is the worst part? probably that such a non-event (it is just a NLB "schoolish" event afterall, not a debate with the pm/sm/mm on national TV) requires such precautions for fear of retaliation from higher authorities.

Just another "safe" non-event... when do we get to use our brains?

rench00 said...

i think that Akikonomu's intentions of bringing up this discussion is valuable. i believe that this discussion is about how PLU (and other civil society groups) can do better. which is all the more important precisely because of all the obstacles that civil society groups are facing. in order to navigate all the obstacles, you have got to be tough, get your act together and be watertight as possible.

so if we are sympathetic to the cause, all the more we should criticise, bringing to light what went well, but more importantly, what went wrong and how can we do better.

if not, how can we improve? if not, civil society groups would just turn into the civil service, full of people who keep patting themselves on the back but never quite improving because somewhere along the line, some one can't take criticisms.

besides, civil society groups are supposed to be critical of society, pushing boundaries and all. should they not apply the same principles to themselves and be critical of their own efforts, pushing their own boundaries of what they can do to be better, more efficacious and efficient?

thus i feel the greatest value of Akikonomu's post is to bring up this discussion, where different views of how PLU does things are thrown up, and then for PLU to glean from it ways of how they can improve. that is the mark, in my opinion, of a foward looking, progressive organisation.

if only our Civil Service was like that. it would solve a lot of problems. alas, nonono... middle management kills everything. but that's another topic.