July 2003

Extract of PM Goh Chok Tong's interview with Time magazine 

This extract was released by the Prime Minister's Office to the press, at the request of the press, on or before 3 July 2003.





5 February 2003

Q: How much is it a marketing problem as much as because the perception that Singapore isnít somehow, Singapore is still controlled from the top-down will hamper certain types of foreigners from coming here and setting up a business. And if the reality is different, your message isnít getting out there to a sufficient degree."

Mr Goh: "Youíve got to be realistic. I think the reality is different from the word "boring" alone. But there are certain areas which foreigners would like to do which we would not allow at this stage. Those are the areas where as a government we are prepared to look into."

Q: "Like what?"

Mr Goh: "The question of gay rights is an example. We have told them itís an offence because itís in the criminal code and the Muslims too will be against gays. But the government is not going to chase you all over the place but donít flaunt your gay rights."

Q: "No gay parades."

Mr Goh: "No gay parades. So thatís a movement whereas had we been more strict we say no, youíre committing an offence."

Q: "Youíre excluding a certain proportion of foreign talent."

Mr Goh: "Correct, exactly and then we employ you."

Q: "Excuse me?"

Mr Goh: "We would employ you so long as you declare yourself, I mean, in certain positions in government. In the past, if we know youíre gay, we would not employ you but we just changed this quietly. We know you are. Weíll employ you."

Q: "So you have a donít ask, donít tell."

Mr Goh: "No, in certain sensitive positions, you have to tell so that if you tell, you are open about this, you cannot be blackmailed. You follow what I mean? If you are working in a sensitive position and youíre trying to hide your sexual preferences and instinct, I mean, you are born that way and of course, if youíre discovered by somebody else, then he can blackmail you. You have to openly declare and people know youíre gay. Then, you canít be blackmailed."

Q: "Is that a publicly announced policy? That must not go down too well for some."

Mr Goh: "So let it evolve and in time to come, the population will understand that some people are born that way. We are born this way and they are born that way but they are like you and me."

Q: "Why not just change the criminal code?"

Mr Goh: "Itís more than just the criminal code. Itís actually the values of the people. The heartlanders are still conservative. You can call it double-standard but sometimes itís double-standard. They are conservative and for the Muslims, itís religion, itís not the law. Islam openly says the religion is against gay practice."

Q: "So this is also part of the process of opening up."

Mr Goh: "Itís part of the process. This is a practical government and when you understand more about social trends, about people, of course, we are practical and we allow those things. Of course, if we're ignorant, we can be quite narrow in our point of view."     


Foreword by Yawning Bread

This extract is a verbatim transcript of a portion of an interview that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong gave to Time magazine journalist. Do note that this interview took place on 5 Feb 2003, some 5 months prior to Time magazine publishing its article.