Yawning Bread. August 2007

Pity the heliconias




I was astounded when I saw where they erected the metal frames of the market stalls to come.

It was built right over a bed of lovely heliconias, along some 100 metres of Commonwealth Avenue West in Clementi Town.

Before long, the pasar malam (Malay for "night market") syndicate will have boarded over the plants and turf, suffocating them to death. This, iin order to make some money by renting out the stalls so created. On the right is a closer shot of the flowers. Look at them before they die.

Has no one in Clementi spoken up in protest?

Presumably the Town Council, in issuing a permit to the pasar malam syndicate to set up their stalls, will have specified that they should returf and replant the heliconias on quitting. But even so, is this they way we treat our environment? Everything's dispensable for a bit of money?

Surely, it will be quite a while before the new plants mature?

In any case, I've always wondered whose interest is served by pasar malams. There are plenty of shops in Clementi. In the topmost picture, you can see a whole row of them at the right edge of the photograph. By permitting pasar malams to operate, isn't the Town Council undercutting the shops' traffic and sales?

* * * * *

I was in Clementi on National Day (9 August 2007) because I wanted to take a picture of an electioneering billboard (even though it's not an election period), which I had noticed a week earlier while passing through in a train. I noted how the billboard said "Celebrate Singapore - City of Possibilities"

I thought this display of bitter irony should be preserved for posterity before it is dismantled, thus the photograph. What city of possibilities when the same week, we've faced ban after ban?

* * * * *


On the subject of the banned lecture by Douglas Sanders, I thought this comment posted online in the Straits Times discussion board to be quite typical of the attitudes of the (almost always Christian fundamentalist) anti-gay lobby.

The Ministry of Home Affairs did the right thing to have banned such a morally bankrupt event. There is a already a plethora of information and education on homosexuality that a person can obtain through the internet and even travel to overseas to actively particpate in such activities. So it is a lame excuse to demand one's right to attend the unlawful seminar, and to hear a foreigner talk about homosexuality. How deceitful these arguments are. The international laws on homosexuality are already perverted in their values and ways. What more 'new' information is there but to hear the foreigner promote the morally regressive lifestyle which is actively spreading the deadly disease of AIDS on a global scale?

-- Comment by gerogezee, posted on 8 August 2007 in response to Ho Chi Sam's letter, 'Why is gay forum against public interest?'

As readers would know from the Home Affairs Ministry's press release (see box at right), the government insinuated that Sanders would be interfering in Singapore's domestic politics. 

I had never suggested to the police that that would be the intent or direction of the talk, and now that I have seen the paper "377 - and the unnatural afterlife of British colonialism", I'm even more confident that the ministry had no basis whatsoever for making such a sinister claim.

Sanders wrote that paper as the basis for a lectures he would give in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore -- and I stress that Malaysia didn't think Sanders was interfering in the country's domestic affairs. In the paper, Sanders traces the origins of the law from the time of King Henry VIII of England. He discusses how the law found its way into many countries' lawbooks from the US to Nigeria to India and Australia, albeit in different forms. He then discusses what has since happened to this law in these various countries.

If you read georgezee's comment, you'd see him taking a very anti-intellectual position that in effect says, "we already know all there is to know". There's nothing foreigners can teach us. What's happening internationally is, in his words, "perverted".

How similar this sounds, to the stance taken by Islamist extremists! 

And yet, our government mollycoddles this bunch.

* * * * *

Coming to the banned picnic amidst the Botanic Gardens' heliconias, again the government's fevered suspicion of all bottom-up organising, especially gay ones, came to the fore. The National Parks Board told Miak Siew, the organiser, that his event, In the Pink, was disallowed.

Miak cancelled it, but by then, lots of people were incensed. Enough to do their own private picnics. On 9 August 2007, around 150 of them -- four or five times more than the organisers had ever hoped -- showed up at the park either wearing pink or carrying something pink. They set up picnic mats in small groups around Symphony Lake.

Photographs of the picnic by Kelvin Wong. For more pictures, see his blog.

"A sea of pink," my friend Jean told me. However, "there were many straight families there too with their kids, playing with frisbees and goofing around. Nobody batted an eyelid even when we were so obviously gay."

Clearly, the gulf between the laissez-faire reality of Singapore society and the intolerant campaign by our government and their bedfellows, the religious right, is wider than ever before.

© Yawning Bread 


3 August 2007
Ministry of Home Affairs

Press Statement on Public Forum on "Sexual Orientation in International Law: The Case of Asia", 

Police has cancelled a licence under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act to organise a public forum on 7 Aug 2007 at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road on gay issues by a foreign participant [Douglas Sanders, a professor emeritus in law at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Thailand's Chulalongkorn University]. A Singaporean, Mr Au Wai Pang, had applied for the licence. He had separately applied to ICA [Immigration and Checkpoints Authority] for a professional visit pass for the foreign national to speak at the forum.

2. In reviewing the application, Police has assessed that the event is contrary to public interest. Our laws are an expression and reflection of the values of our society; the discourse over a domestic issue such as the laws that govern homosexuality in Singapore must be reserved for Singaporeans. Indeed there have been public forums where Singaporeans have debated and discussed the issue of homosexuality at length. Singapore’s domestic politics is the domain for Singaporeans and foreigners should refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Singapore. [emphasis added]

3. Police has therefore cancelled the licence to conduct this public forum. ICA has also rejected the professional visit pass application for the foreign national on similar grounds. It is an offence to organise an indoor public forum with foreign speakers without a licence [1]. It is also an offence for foreigners without professional visit passes to be speakers at the forum.

[1] Under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, Singaporean organisers of indoor public talks are exempted from applying for a permit if it is confined to Singaporean speakers. However, if the forum or talk involves foreign speakers, the organiser is required to obtain a permit.



  1. See the article My kissing project, part 3 
    Return to where you left off

  2. See the article Lee Low Tar 
    Return to where you left off

  3. See the article Bark and crumble 
    Return to where you left off

  4. See the article Picking on a picnic  
    Return to where you left off