ST: Let's move on, says NMP after 377A plea is rejected (Oct 24)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oct 24, 2007
Let's move on, says NMP after 377A plea is rejected
By Li Xueying

THE citizens' petition to repeal Section 377A has been
rejected and the man behind it is moving on.

Nominated MP and lawyer Siew Kum Hong was
instrumental in putting together the petition, inked with
2,341 signatures. It called for the abolition of Section 377A,
a part of the Penal Code that deems sex between men
a crime.

The petition likely marked the first attempt by a local
interest group to use formal parliamentary procedures to
change the law.

Parliament discussed it on Monday and Tuesday as it sat to
debate the changes to the Penal Code.

Mr Siew told The Straits Times last night that he felt the
debate was a 'healthy sign of democracy', as disagreements
were aired respectfully as the law came under scrutiny.

Going by the rules, the Public Petitions Committee,
comprising seven MPs, would have met to consider the
petition, after which it would have submitted a report to

However, on Monday, Leader of the House Mah Bow
Tan moved to suspend the rule, or standing order,
requiring the petition to be referred to the committee.
Parliament agreed.

This was so that MPs could refer to the petition as they
debated Section 377A and the Penal Code. Otherwise, they
would not have been able to do so, as this could prejudice
the committee as it considered its report.

What this means is that with the end of the parliamentary
debate, the petition process also ended.

How did Mr Siew feel about it?

'The overwhelming response and feeling is a sense of
relief that it's over,' he said.

'But at the same time, it's not over for many people out
there, and that is the tragedy.'

He had not expected the Government to repeal the law,
he said, but it was not all in vain.

'This has been a useful and important debate in Parliament,
I don't recall 377A being debated in this manner before, and
that in itself is a significant and positive development,' he said.

Asked if he will continue to represent the gay community,
Mr Siew said he had no such plans for now, as he had other
issues he wished to concentrate on.

'Now let us move on,' he said. 'The world does not begin and
end at 377A.'