09 February 2007

Workers' Party shies away from the gay issue

At a forum on 3 February, the Chairperson of the party was asked what its stand was regarding the retention of Section 377A in the Penal Code. Full essay.


Teck Soon said...

I heard Sylvia speak at the rallies before the last election and I got the impression that she and her party were against discrimination and for human rights. It appears now that I was wrong. Now they are defending their "morals". Fine. Go ahead and defend your bigoted "morals", WP. Sylvia, if you do not speak up on this issue, and if you really think it is ok for gays to be imprisoned, caned, jailed, and fined (as the law stands), then I will never vote for you again. If you don't speak up, it means you agree with the law. If you have "sympathy for the government's position", why don't you join the PAP? If my district has PAP against WP, I'll cast a blank ballot. I promise. Because now I can't see any difference between you and them. You WAYANG PARTY.

Anonymous said...

The continual lack of a clear ideology from the Worker's Party means people have no real idea of what to expect from them even if they are voted into power.

At the individual level, too few have public personas, of people contributing to civil societies.

While on a party level, their knee jerk reactions to PAP policies means they will continue to be retrospective policy pushers, not proactive but reacting to policies put forward at the pace of the PAP or to social issues brought into the public arena in a haphazard unclear dialogue of their intentions.

Are they left or right, conservative or liberal, they allow themselves to measured against the PAP yardstick (not necessarily their fault) and therefore lack the political will to push for change because PAP hold the power to determine the moderate line.

IMHO, i would suggest WP focus on gathering the support through working with non-political group, like charity organisations, NGOs etc to have a focus to your fight to develop a coherent identity.
PAP no soul doesnt mean WP also dun need a soul.

It doesnt mean they have to support homosexual politics but at least they take a stand, not when the issue is boiling at the forefront but by working with involved parties on a grass roots level and letting their actions speak for them when the spotlight shines on the issue. Its difficult yes, but that how you gain the public trust.

boon said...

Teck Soon:

Why is gay rights the ONLY issue you consider when voting for the people who represent you in Government?

KiWeTO said...

Thanks to the government's effective policies of "segregation", there is little hope that any kind of ghettoisation of politics in Singapore.

Without any form of ghettoisation, then any political party intending to win the majority in any ward would have to look to being all things to all people - that is - following the ruling party's formula. That means taking firm stands on issues that have already been repeatedly 'championed' by representatives of the ruling party, and attempting to be whiter than white.
(now, if that is not a strategy doomed to failure, I wonder what is. In business, most copycats that follow the lead business' models have it so much harder to be leaner and faster than the front runner. Why would politics be any different?)

And given the generous re-zoning of wards every election that is biased towards a party that seeks to be all things to all people, any party that would attempt to build partisan support over 10 years (by attracting to its "ward" (figurative or in reality) people of similar political opinions), would find their support base divided neatly with the stroke of a pen (ostensibly due to population shifts...)

so then, what possible political strategies can there be left for political parties that seek to represent the lesser heard voices of the people who are not all things to all people?

What voice those who are on the fringes, be they gay, single-parent, disabled, financially burdened, lonely, and all the outliers that exist in all societies? Who can speak for them? who will represent them to greater society, or to the elected ranks of representatives? will we one day see a Gay/lesbian/bi/transgender/disabled/blind/single/etc requirement in our GRCs?
(By ruling it as a adminstrative fiat, will our society be more inclusive, or more divisive?)

Unfortunately, in a society practicing political pragmatism, not enough will come together to care for these outliers, nor will enough be energized to give these issues voice and the attention they require to make us a kinder, gentler, more truly inclusive society.

And thus, the merry boat sailed on, continuously throwing societal detrius in its wake, pursing the perfectly functioning ship.

Anonymous said...

The only politician in Singapore who is very clear about his ideology is Dr CSJ.

Anonymous said...


I suppose I must be one of the rare Singaporean who has the opportunity to vote in elections, especially where WP stood.

Before I comment about WP, I must declare that ever since Low Thia Khia ng took over, I did not vote for WP. I voted for the party under the leadership of JBJ. I suspect, based on their performance I would not vote at the next one. I must also admit if I had a choice at the next elections I would vote for the SDP.

That said, my observations of WP follows much of what you have indicated your article. My disappointment with the party seemed so directionless and, worst of all, so paralyse with fear that they can't seemed to offer an alternative vision.

I know that the often repeat argument that JBJ always "bang-on" about human rights and that Singaporean only care about economic issues, which is why WP got no where. Of course, then there is the fear of the kind of fate that has befallen the SDP. However, even so, they don't seemed ready to even offer an alternate vision even on, seemingly matters that concern Singaporean, the economy.

For example, are they avocating a free market policy or a kind of managed economy? For example, if they were to avocate a free market economy, they can they address issues of dominance of the GLCs. And from that they can draw issues of transparencies and open-ness wuth a degree of consistencies.

I know some of my friends who are WP supporter say that are in no position to implement policies. But my counter is that whilst that may be the case, it is better for you to present some kind of vision, and constantly push for it, than keep quiet. Even if policies may be painted wacky by PAP, it should be done. Who knows wacky ideas may turn out to be rational later. For example, several of the SDP policies (i.e. need for differentiation in educational policies, importance about generating economic value and not just rely on overseas investment, etc) advocated by them are now being poached by the PAP.

Even on the parlimantry front, I have noted how poor debaters Low and even Sylvia has been. I note that they seemed so lacking in self confidence to the point of being self deprecating. Whilst humility may be seemed a virtual, in politics humility is not a virtue. For instance, Low's speech always seemd to be peppered with phrases like "urging" the government to do this or that. A good debater should be pointing out the responsibilities of the incumbent -- i.e. PAP -- by such phrases as "As the government, I like to remind the house that it is the responsibility of the government...."

If we took your hypothethical dialog starting at the point...

PAP: "Is the honourable member for such-and-such constituency standing up for the decent citizens of Singapore, or taking the side of criminals and terrorists?"

I would have expected a WP responses on these lines....

WP: Let me put it this way, decent citizen of Singapore, would no doubt expects the law to enforced fairly. Is the honorable member's party suggesting that we not enforce our laws fairly by bringing up threats of terrorisms?

In short, if WP is to polish up their parilmentry act, stop acting like a suplicant and be prrepared to assert it's role as a check on government.

Teck Soon said...

Hi Boon,

Gay rights isn't the only issue I consider, but it is the first issue. It looms over our heads, with onerous life-imprisonment penalties that could be enforced at the whim of the government. I don't want to go to prison for life. I don't want to be caned or fined or jailed just if I were gay.

I also hate the defamation laws and media ownership laws. But if I irritate them and get sued for defamation, I would only suffer financial damage. I'm already poor so I am not so scared. Compare this with the anti-gay laws' punishment -- life imprisonment. And Sylvia wants me to spend life in prison. If she didn't, then she would be speaking up for me in parliament.

Teck Soon

bobo shooter said...

To anon 18.47, we always hear PAP repeating ad nauseum asking the opposition parties "what are your policies?"

Looking at GE2006, the PAP is in fact the weakest when it comes to manifesto and vision. Other than a few reductive slogans like "Moving ahead, stay together" PAP offered nothing. All the opposition parties (except SDA) have come up with directions and "manifestos". WP has a complete manifesto. SDP's one is centred on key principles and values. This is what ideology is about, from such a foundation and starting point all policies and bills can begin to be scrutinised or studied and new ones crafted. PAP's ideology is non-existent and at best can only be summed up by the principles of pragmatism and reactionary.

When a person is voted into parliament, he/she becomes a legislator or a lawmaker. To expect this person to have an instant and ready range of clearly spelt out policies is ridiculous. Especially for the oppositionists they do not have think tanks or public resources or civil servants at their disposal to conduct the kind of nitty gritty work needed to research and craft policies. If you look at some of the NMPs nominated into parliament e.g. Eunice Olsen, Tio Li Ann, what kind of special capabilities or expertise do they possess? Do they have ready programmes and policies to share? No.

If you remember there was a candidate by the name of Edmund who took up MAh Bow Tan's challenge to build HDB flats at lower prices. To do that one needs to look at HDB's books first but Mah and his ministry promptly refused. So really challenging the oppositionists to share detailed policies is missing the point and a red herring.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with opposition parties in Singapore, esp the WP, are their assumptions of the profile of the conservative heartlanders whom they are keen to represent.

Therefore, they would never fight for the rights of supposedly deviant sexual minorities, or those without the vote, like foreign transient workers.

I am just waiting for an opposition figure to come up to say that I am gay and proud of it or vote me to help represent those who cannot vote.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article by YB. It throws up three distinct possibilities concerning WP and gay rights. (While I say "gay rights" here, I mean it in the down-to-earth threat of incarceration rather than the more esotheric rights of same-sex marriage or adoption of children.)

The three possibilities are:

(1) WP are unable to understand the injustice of the law against gays, or

(2) Worse than that, WP are actually bigoted against gays, or

(3) WP may understand the injustice against gays, but they take action only on issues that gain votes for themselves from the majority population rather than address any injustice faced by only a small minority of the population.

(At this point, may I quote President John Kennedy: "When one man is enslaved, all are not free".)

You take your pick of any of the three possibilities above. There is no right or wrong answer. Personally, I'm not happy with any of the three possibilities, and do not find it useful to know the answer. But if anyone can think of any more distinctly different possibilities, I'll be much interested in hearing them.

Robert L

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Robert L - all three possibilities can exist at the same time since different people make up the Workers' Party. However, taking Sylvia Lim's words literally - that the party is split on the matter - it also means that there are also others within the WP who favoured speaking up on this issue. My take therefore is that we don't write off the party, but keeping working on them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, YB, for that comment.

There is no question of writing off WP, since the PAP and any other party are no better off on this issue (with possible exception of SDP). I'm glad to get the chance to make this clarification. I'm glad to stress that just because a friend doesn't do what you wish, that doesn't make him an enemy.

I'm also guessing that there's no objections on my assumption that those three possibilities cover pretty much the whole spectrum and that there are no other explanations for WP's inaction.

I'm still hoping to learn more if other readers can point out any other distinct possibilities.

Robert L

Anonymous said...

So what?

The Workers' Party has its priorities -- it has to help those who are stuck in low-paying dead end jobs, those who lost their jobs to foreigners and can't pay their bills, old folks picking leftovers in food centers and cleaning toilets, vagrants living in HDB void decks, etc.

So forgive them if championing for the few yuppies' rights to screw each other in the ass doesn't rank too highly on their to-do list.

The WP will be stupid if they put gay rights issues ahead of more pressing livelihood problems.