ST: Govt explains why gay activist speaker was turned away (Sept 16)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Govt explains why gay activist speaker was turned away
by Imelda Saad, Correspondent
The Straits Times, Sept 16, 2007

Police cancelled a permit for a lecture by Professor Emeritus Douglas Sanders in August because it got additional information that the talk was part of gay activists' efforts in Singapore to promote their agenda.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee said Professor Sanders was an advocate for the decriminalising of homosexual sex - a topic that was divisive and should be reserved for Singaporeans.

Assoc Prof Ho was replying to questions from the House over why the Police had revoked the Public Entertainment License (PEL) allowing Prof Sanders to speak at a public forum here.

License had been granted and was cancelled just four days before the event was to proceed.

Explaining, Assoc Prof Ho said the police assesses each application for a PEL carefully based on the information available.

After approving a license, police will continue to monitor developments.

'There may be circumstances under which police may reassess the application and cancel the PEL if neccessary, for public safety, good order or public interest', said Assoc Prof Ho.

In the case of the public lecture that was eventually held on 7th August - without Prof Sanders in attendance -Assoc Prof Ho said 'it became subsequently clear to the police that the event was part of efforts of gay activists to promote their political agenda which involved a foreigner'.

'Our laws are a reflection of the values of our society and any public discourse in Singapore on such matters should be reserved for Singaporeans. Foreigners will not be alllowed to interfere in our domestic political scene whether in support of the gay cause or against it,' he said..

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Michael Palmer however questioned this point saying if foreigners are not allowed to interfere in local policies and politics, what about 'foreign experts engaged by the Government' to 'comment and give advice on local policies'?

To this, Assoc Prof Ho said 'the context is important'.

'It's not as if foreigners cannot make their comments or views known on Singapore policies and laws in fact they all do', he said.

But it is quite different if local activists invite foreigners to speak in Singapore on a issue that clearly divides the country. Prof Sanders is a known advocate for the human rights of gays and lesbians.

Further information made available to police also showed that Prof Sanders was invited as part of a two week stretch of events where local activists had organised other talks, exhibition and forums which promoted the gay cause.

It was also revealed that Prof Sanders was to speak at another venue where he was likely to touch on Section 377A which is the criminalising of homosexual sex.

'Police subsequently came to the knowledge that in fact he (Prof Sanders) was an advocate for the decriminalising of homosexual sex having spoken, for example at the United Nations.

'So we can hear his views on air or read it online but it's quite different to invite him here to speak to a Singapore audience at this time,' said Assoc Prof Ho.

There has been no similar cancellation of a license granted for talks by foreign speakers in the past 5 years.