25 Jan 2006

Liberty League: The Almost Scandal??

Channel News Asia (CNA) on 13 Jan reported that Liberty League (LL), a non-profit organisation (NPO) had received a $100, 000 grant from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). 3 days later, on 16 Jan, pleinelune, a contributor to this blog alerted readers about Leslie Lung. On 17 Jan, Fridae, Asia’s Gay and Lesbian Network published an article on its portal, citing religious links between LL and Exodus International, a coalition of Christian Ministries. Fellow contributor, akikonomu had on Monday, presented his take on the issue. Today has, in today’s edition, printed NVPC’s reasons for funding LL. Likewise, I would like to share my perspective on the matter.

Initially, the mainstream public received news that the government has taken a new initiative towards people with gender issues. It appears that the government is taking a more relaxed stance. The report also suggests that people who are facing such issues have the choice of consulting LL. It provides these people with a solution of sorts. LL's founder Leslie Lung indicated that the group’s approach would be similar to that of “Alcoholic Anonymous self-help principles” somehow implies that homosexuality is a disorder. This comparison drew flak from the gay community.

With reference to pleinelune’s entry, it was pointed out that Leslie Lung was an ex-transsexual. With this information, the credibility of the LL and even NVPC is questioned. It was also duly pointed out that homosexuality is not a disorder, unlike alcoholism. Though I do not speak for the gay community, it can be noted that the community would not be too happy about the government’s supposed objective.

Fridae then confirmed that Leslie Lung was indeed an ex-transsexual who had change his mind about a sex-change operation in 1984, 3 days prior the scheduled surgery. Fridae also uncovered the religious link to the coalition of Christian Ministries, Exodus International.

Subsequently, PLU insinuates that by funding LL, the government is promoting “a religious cause founded on unscientific and psychologically damaging methods”. PLU reprinted Leslie Lung’s past along with the anti-gay sentiment of a Christian group. I would like to be unbias here, however, it seems that PLU from then on, went to great lengths to discredit the NVPC and Leslie Lung. PLU's almost immediate retaliation to the grant by NVPC questioned the former’s status as a non government body. PLU also introduced issues such as LL being a private limited, and its $10 startup capital which were really, irrelevant.

If PLU’s intentions were to inform the public about LL’s links with a religious link headed by an ex-transsexual, it appears that the approach has been over zealous. Prior to PLU’s involvement, all other reports received were somewhat informative. With PLU’s involvement it seems that unhappiness aimed at organizations were revealed. PLU’s good intentions were lost along the way with almost convenient government bashing.

Could it be that PLU is displeased that LL had been funded by NVPC? After all, PLU has never managed to get itself registered as a society. An ex-gay group headed by an ex-transsexual have instead been funded by the government. Bear in mind the recent PLU/NLB fiasco.

Furthermore, the objective of LL appears to be one that is in conflict with PLU’s. While LL seeks to adapt individuals toward being heterosexual, PLU’s mission is one of public education and advocacy. PLU's strategy seemed to take the form of onslaught slamming. This method of handling, in my opinion, puts PLU in a bad light.

Now that the NVPC, has spoken and declared that its funding for LL was on the basis that “supports secular causes that benefit society”, all who are likely to approach LL have been warned. Its statement today gives the impression that the LL is targeting a fraction of people grappling with gender issues. “Anti-gay” is not the objective. People can choose to approach LL or not. People have a choice.

To be fair, NVPC has not acknowledged that LL’s founder was an ex-transsexual. Perhaps with the NKF issue still fresh in everyone’s mind, NVPC chose to declare the funding and its amount. NVPC also revealed that the efficacy of LL programmes would be assessed before funds are disbursed.

Whether the government funded LL knowingly or unknowingly, the issue is for each one of you to decide.

I do not think the gay movement in Singapore is infantile. Rather it is PLU's approach that somehow deem the gay movement infantile.


Anonymous said...

The "infantile" label is really... infantile.

Considering the latest article in Today, it seems the NVPC is indeed reviewing the matter, if you read carefully behind the bureaucratese. The news article said the "NVPC will assess the efficacy of all Liberty League's proposed programmes before disbursing any funding."

The question then is who got them to take note and review?

I remember reading somewhere that PLU went to meet with NVPC, and then later launched the press release (maybe they were unhappy with the answers they got at the meeting?).

If the matter was left as an article in Fridae.com and some bloggers comments, I don't think the NVPC would have been moved to do something.

Yes, PLU's methods are unusually outspoken and quite un-Singaporean, but they are quite normal for any activist group in the US or Australia or even HK, for example. And in this case, they can be said to be effective.

In the end, that's what counts.

And I think it was PLU who revealed that the newspaper article was supposed to appear last week but was blocked by the govt. My guess is that that article was finally printed today. If PLU didn't make a fuss about that bit of censorship, the govt could have got away with it and no one would have known that censorship had occurred.

So I think PLU did us all a favour by being as loud as they are.

akikonomu said...

I'm sure PLU will declare "Mission accomplished!" on the LL matter?

CNA made the claim in its news report that Liberty League received 100K from NVPC. One could read literally that the money has already been given, then be outraged and complain about poor governance, government collusion, and so on. Or, if one had prior knowledge of NGO operations, it would be apparent that the money has in fact not been given out, and that when given out, would be doled quarterly in smaller amounts.

I suspect that Liberty League jumped the gun with channelnewsasia on the issue and preemptively declared the programme funded when in fact, it hadn't.

rench00 said...

PLU was not the only person who has alerted NVPC about LL. i know people who, independent of PLU, sent emails to NVPC and Cut-Waste Panel.

so no doubt the PLU's efforts contributed, i would be cautious to say that they were the sole reason for bringing this issue to NVPC's attention

mister k said...

I do agree that PLU's media release in the matter did make the NVPC sit up. However the approach could have been better.

Yes Liberty League gave the impression that they already had the funds. Also, they did not reveal the conditions of the funding.

On one hand LL was too eager to declare that they had scored. On the other, PLU was too quick to dish the dirt.

ted said...

I find this interesting. PLU is not officially registered and recognised as a society, however, they have been allowed to do and say things like a society.

Eminently interesting.