Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Denouncing Vivian B's smear campaign

The following is a letter from Li Shi-En Lisa which has been published in the Today newspaper on 26 April.

I refer to the TODAYonline article “PAP on Wijeysingha video: Candidates should be upfront about motives” (April 25). The PAP team, led by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, said in a statement on April 25 that a YouTube video shows SDP candidate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha at a forum discussing gay issues. Dr Balakrishnan added that the video “promotes gay causes” and that this “raises the question on whether Dr Wijeysingha will now pursue this cause in the political arena and what is the SDP’s position on the matter”.

Firstly, I am surprised that Dr Balakrishnan does not know SDP’s position on the matter because the party has always been upfront about its stand. Its vision is that “as a nation, we must not only show tolerance but also acceptance of our fellow citizens regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or political persuasion”. In October 2007, the SDP also publicly supported the call to repeal 377A in accordance with its party principles. All this information is on their website, and Singaporeans who take their voting seriously already know this.

Secondly, I am not sure what Dr Balakrishnan means by “pursuing this cause in the political arena”. If he is referring to the possibility of Dr Wijeysingha (or any other politician) raising the issue of 377A in Parliament, that is only to be expected at some point in the future, not because of Dr Wijeysingha’s personal sexual orientation or alleged personal cause, but because of SDP’s clearly-stated vision for an inclusive Singapore.

I am keen to elect politicians who are able to articulate sound, thoughtful and diverse views for discussion on any number of issues in Parliament, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. As such, I am disappointed that Dr Balakrishnan paints such a negative picture of MPs “pursuing causes in the political arena”. Isn’t that what we are voting them in for? In any case, one Dr Wijeysingha in Parliament will hardly swing the votes and abolish 377A, if the majority of politicians and Singaporeans are against this move.

Thirdly, Dr Balakrishnan describes the video’s forum discussion as having touched on topics like “sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age”. This is a very misleading description. Viewers of the video will know that the forum speaker mentions the different age of consent for different countries, for example Sweden, where the age of consent for sex is 15 years (the speaker mistakenly says 14 years). However, not a single one of the forum participants proceed to discuss whether Singapore’s age of consent should be lowered or not, which suggests that this was never their aim.

Finally, Dr Balakrishnan says that the video “promotes gay causes”. What exactly is the “gay cause”? If gay men wanting to remove the clause that criminalises their private behaviour is the “gay cause” that Dr Balakrishnan refers to, this video could equally be described as one that supports basic human rights – the right for gay men not to be classified as criminals in Singapore. In the days of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was jailed for fighting for the “black cause”; nowadays, we refer to this as equality.

During the April live political debate on Channel NewsAsia, Dr Wijeysingha showed Singaporeans that he is an articulate, capable speaker who is passionate for social justice. My opinion of him has not changed.

However, I am saddened by the appearance of such gutter politics from one of our Ministers and his PAP teammates, Mr Christopher De Souza, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Sim Ann, [pictured above] who signed off on this misleading statement. Instead of showing us why they are better leaders for Singapore or engaging the Opposition on policy differences, they have resorted to a smear campaign based on a Youtube video posted by an anonymous netizen.

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