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Penalise those who write ridiculous letters February 5, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

I refer to the letter hereby linked to here.

I must say i am rather surprised that such letters are often published in a newspaper that prides itself on a lot of professionalism. Indeed this letter calls to mind the chinese saying “ban men nong fu”, whereby someone with no knowledge attempts to pass himself of as an expert. But judging from the pattern of this writer’s letters i guess there is nothing new in such a self righteous tone. Indeed if such is the norm which is prevalent in Singapore then it comes to no surprise that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s prediction that Singapore will not be a gracious society in his lifetime will come true.

Now lest i be accused of engaging in ad hominems ( i declare my stand up front, i have never liked this particular writer especially after he wrote such letters)i shall attempt in my own way to show why his letter is utter bollocks.

From his letters he seems to be stating a rather sweeping view that all these issues with En Blocs is due to the greed of buyers who wish out because they want a higher price. While that may indeed be true in some cases, it is by no means a situation in other cases. Anecdotal and personal evidence both show that there are many many funny things going on in En Bloc sales, in fact what seems to happen in some sales is that the sellers are forced to sell because the rules are used against the seller by buyers who are infinitely in a better bargaining position. In fact the only reason why there are suits now is because somehow, along the way sellers decided to actualy cough up money to fight it out for their own homes. The cost of litigation is high, and the burden is higher for a seller who only has his apartment to fall back on, while the developers often have loads of cash to throw into the litigation fray. Indeed it is precisely because of the lack of resources that sellers often “lan lan suck thumb” so to speak and just allow developers to get away. The fact of the matter is there are instances of the big guys bullying the little guys. And the little guys rarely, if ever, are able or willing to do something about it.

Furthermore i find the fact that he claims its crystal clear that sellers want a higher price presumptous to say the least. For one the writer is not a judge, so until such time as a judge or tribunal rules the facts are in doubt, notwithstanding ST’s constant focus on the fact that enbloc sales make profit (not all of them do). Indeed i do hope such man as he never sit on the high seat in court for that would mean miscarriages of justice galore. It would be rather sad day for the law if it destroys the very people it is meant to protect(this is a  layman definition).

Of course then one might ask, is there not a contract whereby obligations are binding? Indeed obligations are often binding but there are many doctrines of contract to deal with situations whereby to hold people to an obligation would be tantamount to injustice. Misrepresentation for one, voids the contract, and is one of the basis by which the Strata Title Board can deny an application for sale. Proof of bad faith can also result in rejection of an application. If one were to take the writers course of action, to wit,  if” the irresponsible party defaults on the terms of the contract so the aggrieved party takes the issue to court, the court should immediately arrive at a verdict. Penalties should be meted out swiftly against the wrongdoer“, then one would essentially be throwing due process out of the window, and in addition fairness and justice for BOTH parties. While contract law places the idea of certainty of a pedestal, it nevertheless has doctrines to deal with situations whereby people are misled, where there is a total imbalance of bargaining power (unit owner v big developer)and whereby  a result would be so absurd to place a great burden on one party. Furthermore the doctrines are not easy to establish, and it is rather interesting that the writer seems to think that everytime the contract is challenged the court will find for the seller; i doubt that the courts will be so foolish as to do that. Indeed such doctrines often operate in the backdrop of the idea of “sanctity of contract”, whereby contracts are set aside only on very narrow grounds. Furthermore, to touch on an earlier point…it is more likely that the seller needs the protection of the law then the buyer…for the buyer is oft a corporate entity with big pockets. Thus i fail to see why the writer harps on protecting the buyer, when it is evident that the seller is the one who is handicapped.

In view of such letters, perhaps someone should conduct a contract 101 course in school. In addition, one should also introduce lessons which teach the virtue of withholding prejudice and developing critical skills of analysis and knowledge acquisition. Tis appears that there is a need for such measures to achieve some measure of sanity in our forum page.

As an aside i must say i am relieved that the jury system is abolished. If ever there was a compelling reason for such a policy it would be justified on the basis of the general quality of forum letters being published. The thought of being judged (prejudged) by such people frighten me, to say the least.

Singapore Renaissance? Not in my life time? January 11, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

I have not been blogging for some time, since I was and currently still am actively attempting to secure myself in view of the many increases that have assailed Singapore since the last General Election. (On an aside it is rather interesting that prices tend to increase after every election. Or so it seems.)

Nevertheless, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, or more specifically Mr Lee’s comments which can be found here  have made me decide to step backwards from the Singapore Race and say my two cents worth.

Personally I have never really thought much of the government’s proclamations on Singapore becoming a vibrant society and thus view the call for a renaissance in 10- 15 yrs the same way as I viewed Goal 2010. At the rate Singapore society has “progressed” I would be unoriginal and borrow MM Lee’s phrase “not in my life time” if people were to ask me whether Singapore would indeed have a renaissance on the scale of Italy. One need only look at the many examples of how Singapore restricts any form of expression to conclude, not unreasonably so, that despite the so called push for an Arts Hub, we are pulling away from the goal. Indeed there are a mulititude of justifications for such a situation; ranging from the doomsday scenario (that Singapore will become morally bankrupt or my mom will become a maid) to the oft cited but undefinable Asian Values of a Traditional Conservative Society. As long as people cannot (notwithstanding the relatively good education system: I’m not being satirical, the education system does have its good points) differentiate between art and pornography then Singapore Renaissance would become Goal 2010. Indeed Singapore refuses to make a baby step by repealing the infamous 377A, instead choosing to accept such arguments (and what worries me is that there was applause at the end of said speech). Thus this idea of a Renaissance will continue to remain a figment of the leader’s imagination unless the government choose to throw aside to concept of artificial dynamism and allow some “chaos” in society. As long as things remain the way they are, Singapore Renaissance will probably go the way of Goal 2010.

If Ned were in Parliament… October 24, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

( This whole post is not meant to impugn on the Parliament of the Republic of Singapore, that sacred and untouchable institution, by law said to be free from all fault, Mr Chiam, Mr Low and Ms Lim not included of course.)

Mr Speaker sir, I have had the benefit of reading my learned parliamentarian’s speech and shall now attempt to engage in such a discussion with as little emotion as ever, since I am of course extremely unwilling to subject my learned parliamentarian to the “harrassment” she was subjected to by rather “violent” people after her comments on homosexuality was made known. Of course I shall not comment on whether the article was well researched or not for I am but a simple faceless netizen without the impeccable credentials of a professor, what more a law professor. Nevertheless I find it rather strange that she should be surprised by such rancour; after all if you insinuate that a person is a sexually depraved monster you can’t expect him to come up to you with a smile and give u his other cheek for you to slap.

That aside I must say that as my learned friend Aaron has said, I am confused as to the idea of the “conservative” majority. In fact I must question just what makes a person a conservative majority? His homophobia? His desire to have three children? The fact that he goes to church? Indeed, Ned believes in ideals such as honor and justice, concepts dating back to the middle ages and beyond. So am I a conservative?

Moving on, my learned parliamentarian has said that the repeal camp is “marinated” with fallacies which obscure what is at stake. She claims that the repeal will subvert social morality, destroy the common good and undermine our liberties. Such a statement must receive a cautious reply. Regarding liberties one can respond with but one question, “What liberty?” But snide comments on Singapore aside, one must wonder what is the liberty and common good is she talking about. Furthermore what social morality is there to be safeguarded. Indeed I would also contend that social morality can be safeguarded by criminalising adultery, raiding Geylang, dispensing with Casinos (or if you would prefer IRs). Indeed, I find it rather weird that marital rape is still permissable under the law! So it is socially moral to rape your wife! Fascinating is it not?

Now on to harm. Indeed I do not dispute that harm can be intangible or tangible. The question is what harm? If A and B engage in homosexual intercourse in the bed room, what harm can there be? Maybe they made too much noise and woke their neighbours; the law relating to nuisance will deal with that. Maybe if they were in a hotel room and they broke the bed, then negligence will deal with that. Is there a need to impose criminal sanctions on people?

On the issue of science, one must wonder on what basis does the learned parliamentarian diss science, it is undeniable that scientists do have certain subjectivity (as do judges and all of us) but one cannot deny that research is in itself an objective enterprise. Indeed if one would like to rubbish science then one would have to do better rather than dissing science using rather doubtful examples of homosexuals who have turned straight (see this post for more information on that).

Furthermore, having a law and not enforcing it (or claiming to anyway) makes a person confused. As the late Lord Denning once so eloquently said, ” it tends to the discredit of a legal system in a country if its Parliament makes laws or its courts make orders which they cannot enforce“ Indeed what happens if A hears his neighbours getting it on, and knows that his neighbours are definitely both male? If A calls the police, would the police say, “Sorry but we are forbidden to enforce the law!” Indeed it would be a mockery of the law if there is no desire to enforce it. I do agree however that the retention of 377A does send a strong signal; to the inquisitors, this is a sign that the government does look favourably on them; this is in essence a tacit approval for them to commence their hate campaign against fellow human beings. This law is a signpost, that the law considers homosexuals to be no better than rapists; true from a strict literal interpretation it says nothing of that sort but from a broader perspective it does suggest that homosexuals are criminal or criminally inclined.

Furthermore I fail to see why the call to repeal a law which is discriminatory is tantamount to hijacking human rights. Indeed calling for the repeal of 377A is an action which shows great respect for this idea of human rights. Those calling for repeal are not limited to homosexuals; in fact NMP Siew is himself a heterosexual. Mr Hri to is most definitely not homosexual. I myself, last i heard am as homosexual as Aaron is homosexual. Indeed the composition of people calling for repeal is more varied than what is suggested by the learned parliamentarian; I know Christians who seek to repeal the law but do not approve of homosexuality, and Aaron has at times said he was slight homophobic. All those seeking repeal seek these things: That religion be kept out of the picture and that people be treated as equal as possible. Its a matter of human rights and attempting to fudge around with concepts such as equality and fairness cannot change the fact.

I now turn to the matter of the petition to Keep 377A. It maybe that there were 15 000 rather concerned people who signed. However one must question whether this is a good indicator of anything if “Jesus” himself signed the petition. Furthermore, just because many people say its right does not make it right. In National Service it is common for people to be tekaned, does this make it any more right? What about the murder of Jews? What of the prejudice against the african americans or africans? Did the fact that society deemed it right make it anymore right? There was also a time not too long ago when Christians were fed to lions in the Roman Arena.

Unfortunately not only is my time short, I must admit I lack the eloquence of my learned parliamentarian. Therefore I shall end off by addressing her use of history. While I must admit I do not know much about homosexuality in China, save that there were Emperors who were homosexual, I must say that I find it interesting that she talks about how there were the “bad old days” in Greece where homosexuality was allowed. Indeed it is rather interesting that she talks about the bad old days. I would like to highlight this salient fact to this august assembly, that the very institution, nay the very place, nay the very act, to wit, of debating now, indeed our very idea of government stemmed from those bad old days. These bad old days also gave us the Hippocratic Oath sworn by doctors, and philosphers such as Aristotle. In fact the bad old days of Ancient Greece gave rise to heroic men such as the 300 Spartans who chose to stand and die at Thermopylae. One must wonder whether one can find 300 NS men willing to do the same in morally upright Singapore. And with regards to Sodom may I highlight this interesting piece done by Mr Wang, it provides a rather interesting perspective.

But I have said too much, and fear that I would be subject to a rigorous analysis which would tear my argument apart. Indeed I fear that will be burnt at the stake by the Inquisition like Joan of Arc and thus shall say no more. Save this, I too was raised to believe, stand up and to speak for a cause. To speak up for what is right. And I say now that retaining 377A serves only to bolster those who seek to spread fear, hatred among members of society and that is stands, not as argued for morals, but for sheer prejudice, sheer disregard for the feelings of fellow human beings.

Sir, I long to be a member of a compassionate society, a city of possibilities; a place where men practise what they preach. But for 377A, this would forever be a way distant fantasy.

A Mega Post on a Mega Topic I October 23, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

377A. The law which has been cited in the blogosphere time and again. In fact, it appears that 377A has been cited more regularly than the law of defamation or the laws on public gatherings itself.

However matters have finally come to a head. As of this moment, NMP Siew Kum Hong would have submitted the petition to repeal Section 377A. Needless to say such a move is unprecedented, with some fellas beating their chests. In fact there was even a letter (part of a chain of letters whose quality was far from satisfactory) that deigned to chide NMP Siew for “overstepping” his role as an NMP. Indeed besides the usual “high” quality letters to the ST forum affirming 377A and demeaning fellow humans, some people went even further; several sites dedicated to the retention of 377A were created, and there were calls for a massive walk near St Andrew’s Cathedral (this brings to mind the People’s Crusade and the Children’s Crusade; though of course the two events where part of the skeletons in the wardrobe of the Catholic Church). Of course the validity of these websites must be doubted given the fact that “Jesus” was a signatory to the petition to keep 377A.

Of course, being the pessimistic person that I am I tend to think that the law would remain the same; the government would probably resort to the arguments that the majority say nay, that we are an Asian society with those mysterious Asian Values and then talk about how they will not actively enforce the law. Singapore being Singapore, the fact that there is no clear economic benefit to be gained from repeal, vis a vis the clear economic benefit to be reaped in allowing the Casinos (aka Intergrated Resorts), the law would remain, equality and fairness be damned, as far as homosexuals are concerned. Regretable but true. Nevertheless one must applaud NMP Siew for daring to make a formal challenge.

My fellow blogger FO has written a rather interesting post on this issue. However with all due respect I have to disagree with certain portions of his article.

It is of course, desirable to seek to change the mindset of the pro-retention camp. Education, either expressly or implicitly, could help change the mindsets of people so that in time to come the idea of repeal will not be anathema to some.

Unfortunately such a situation is unlikely to flourish in Singapore for a variety of reasons.

A perusal of the ST archives will show how much space those who are anti repeal have in the mainstream media. Observe the level of homophobic content and the scarcity of rebuttals. Thus it is unsurprising that Prof Michael Hor decided to publish his article on TOC instead; this would keep his content free from adulteration. Furthermore anecdotal evidence proves that the Christian lobby is rather prevalent, what with those family groups hiding a rather Christian agenda to influence people against homosexuality. Of course I admit that I am taking a rather pessimistic view of the situation but unfortunately as the facts stand there is nothing to make me feel that the “soft” approach can work, given the evidently skewed field. In fact I daresay it is entirely possible that with the dominance of certain groups in the public sphere there is a high chance that more impressionable people will be imprinted with the idea that homosexuality is disgusting, criminal.

Of course, that is not to say that this petition will do anything other than to raise hackles on both sides, in fact judging from the current parliamentary debates it is highly unlikely that parliament will decide to repeal and will probably leave it as it is, no doubt to the delight of some. Nevertheless this formal challenge constitutes a baby step in progress and is a sign to all those seeking to exert insiduous influences in society that there are people who do not take too kindly upon these sheenanigans and will try to stop them, as far as possible.

As of this moment I have had a chance to look at the parliamentary debates. I must say that I am rather confused by the logic of NMP Thio’s argument. It seems to lack the clearness that underlies Prof Hor’s article, with the fudging of issues. In fact i find it rather interesting that she actually says homosexuals deserve rights, the same as we all have. If that is the case should there not be a stronger case for repeal given the fact that the 377A criminalises the homosexuals right to intercourse? If heterosexuals can have intercourse then why can’t homosexuals do so? Once again the slippery slope argument materialises; by repealing 377A you will open the door to more demands for rights. Though it may be true that there will be those who will argue for same sex marriages, conversely the same could be said for the Christian Right, if the law is retained than this would serve to empower these rightists who will attempt to foist more of their dogma upon “right thinking” members of society.

Regarding her point on harassment, it is true that there are many times where criticism becomes nothing more than ad hominems, unfortunately this is a risk all bloggers, and I daresay most people take. Rather than gripe about it would it not be better to consider the reasons behind it? And if one does so one would realise it is inevitable to be subject to such harrassment. After all, you are essentially advocating an argument that a person is immoral, base and depraved just because he happens to have a different orientation from the norm. Sure it all sounds fine if you start talking about protecting children but if you pause to think, are homosexuals not children too? Are they not fellow humans who should be entitled to protection of the law and not have a section of the law which deals expressly with them?

Most of the above is just a mere restatement of what I have been saying. In fact NMP Siew and Mr Hri Kumar have done a better job at this. Nevertheless I really wonder what is so moral about dehumanising a fellow human being through the use of laws. Furthermore to those who think that homosexuality will result in the downfall of Singapore, might I remind you that Ancient Greece had some rather interesting homosexual practices, and yet their philosphies and ideals have lived on. Indeed it was the adaptability of the Romans which spelt the end of Ancient Greece and not homosexuality. But I am tired of this debate where I essentially rephrase and restate what ever I have said. The only way out in this deadlock would be to repeal 377A, because it is fair and just to do so.  Perhaps all of us should just stop and “climb into the skin” of a homosexual; how will you feel if you were a homosexual and there is this law which makes you criminal? How would you feel reading the ST letters labelling you as an anathema to man kind? How will you feel being dehumanised? And having done that we could then understand the anger and sadness that some experience and will be less likely to dismiss calls for repeal as activism, shit stirring and what have you. Or not if you believe that you have received divine instruction.

Anyway I find it rather interesting that homosexual is considered immoral while marital rape is not. How queer. As my fellow blogger puts it, man have more ways to rape wives with the repeal of section 377(?). So much for morality.

Much Ado About Exploitation October 7, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

Several rather interesting letters have appeared in the ST forum recently. To sum it all up, these letters share a common content; all of them talk about the situation in Myanmar; in addition all of them are, explicitly or implicitly, critical of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s organisation of a petition against the military junta and the Singapore government. Simply put, these letters amount to an accusation that Dr Chee is “exploiting the situation“.

And all these accusations reminded me of an old post, made during the aftermath of the furious debate regarding minister’s salaries. After that rather acrimonious debate PM Lee’s announcement that he was going to donate part of his increase to charity was met with scorn and accusations that it was all for show. Of course it may very well be all for show but at the end of the day one could say that everything a person does is for show. What has happened in Dr Chee’s situation and perhaps in Mr Lee’s situation is the work of preconceived notions which prejudice a person’s mind and makes men misconstrue their actions.

Perhaps there is some truth that Dr Chee is leveraging on the situation in Myanmar; although this is contrary to M M Aung’s and some others belief that he is doing it as part of his long running battle with the PAP; the fact that the petition to the Singapore government is a petition to stop arms sales, to do more in this crisis, disproves the idea that Dr Chee is getting innocent people involved in his feud with the PAP. At most one could say that Dr Chee is trying to gain international recognition for his efforts in Singapore; but is this wrong? Is this exploitation? 

I daresay few people actually embark on a course of action without hoping to gain from it. In fact even a person who does charity for the sake of charity can be said to “gain” intangible benefits, though thats a rather extremely example. In any event if one were to accuse Dr Chee of “exploiting the situation” to his own benefit one might as well accuse the organisers of the Myanmar Awareness activities from NUS, NTU and SMU of exploitation. You could accuse them of exploiting this incident so as to curry favour with their professors and impress future employers. And if doing anything related to Myanmar is exploitation why end there? Might as well accuse Aaron of blogging to gain the notice of the powers that be so as to improve his standing in society. Might as well accuse Mr Brown of “exploiting” the people’s dissatisfaction. Might as well accuse Ned Stark of exploiting the ST and society so that Ned can gain fame in the blogging community.  The list of accusations go on. And just a few months ago was not Lee Hong Yi accused of exploiting his position to gain a reputation in society?

In any event, it is rather difficult to define exploitation in these instances, easier to define exploitation in terms of forced labour. Anyway exploitation or not, what matters at the end of the day is the consequences, the end. There are instances where the end justifies the means and perhaps in this instance it can be said to be so, assuming of course that the so called accusations of exploitation is even valid in the first place.

* Unfortunately it appears that ST has refused to give Dr Chee the right of reply, and so the majority of Singaporeans will continue to perceive him as an opportunist.

October 3, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Free Burma!

The Tragedy that is Myanmar September 29, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

Much has been said about what has been happening in Myanmar. At this point in time it appears that the special UN envoy has reached the capital of Myanmar.

 Of course the tragic thing is that probably nothing more will or can be done. Yes, the International community, even ASEAN has sent strongly worded protests to the Military Junta but at the end of the day, what purpose would that serve? None whatsoever. For sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us.

 Furthermore, it is known that Singapore has several dealings with Myanmar, including but not limited to arms exports and investments. Then you have the fact that members of the Junta regularly come to Singapore for medical treatment (apparently the PM of Myanmar himself is in Singapore at this moment).

What makes matters worst is that besides applying sanctions and what have you, there is nothing much the international community can do. Sanctions by themselves also make the lives of the common people worst; I have no doubt that the Military Junta have prepared for that eventuality; and given the exalted status of the military in Myanmar there is no doubt that the junta will use the resources to keep the military happy, while the rest all starve. As Mao Zedong once said, “power comes from the barrel of a gun”. There is no doubt that the junta controls the gun.

There appear to be only two viable courses of action at this time; and by viable course of action I mean a course of action which could resolve this crisis and result in the downfall of the obnoxious junta. First option would be for the people of Myanmar to continue their struggle; to continue to resist until they get their rights back. Unfortunately that would be asking a whole bunch of people to allow themselves to be shot down, and it appears that the military has succeeded somewhat as the number of protests has gone down.

The second option (which works better with the first) would be for the International community to intervene, and by intervene I do not refer to sanctions (though admittedly the effect of sanctions on arms may be greater) but to armed force. For it is only through force, be it from “people’s power” (first option) or military force, will the junta be forced to back down. Negotiations can limit the casualties but it in itself cannot begin to resolve the numerous issues which have been festering in Myanmar. These numerous issues; poverty, military oppression among others, have been festering; the hike in fuel prices was merely the spark which brought all this to the forefront. The Junta will never back down and allow the elected representatives (Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow comrades) to rule; why should they? And given their abuse of power, a fortiori, they will definitely refuse to backdown as that could mean their doom in Myanmar. There is only one thing that could force them out and that is power of the kind that come from the barrel of a gun.

Unfortunately the second option two too is highly unlikely. Where would the military force come from? SAF? Malaysia? And with the USA mired in Irag and Afghanistan it is highly unlikely that the intervention would come from the West. Furthermore military intervention brings with it a hosts of issues, like sovereignity of a people among others.

Perhaps the above was rather callous, and I must qualify that I am as appalled by the Junta as any reasonable person ought to be. However the practical solutions to the problem are few and may turn out to be impractical at the end of the day. And that is a great tragedy for the people of Myanmar and for the world.

Megachurches and Homosexuality September 22, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

Recent letters to the ST forum have placed the spotlight on the mega churches in Singapore. It all began with Dr Lee Bee Wah’s letter. In that letter (reproduced on KTM’s blog) Dr Lee talked about how a family member had become distant from them and how the family member had ignored her studies as a result of her new found faith. In response there were letters both defensive and otherwise.

This is rather interesting as it coincides with another issue; namely the spotlight on homosexuals. The spot light on homosexuals arose as a result of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s comment that the unlamented Section 377A (or lamented; depends on whose perspective you come from) would have to go. This brought about a flurry of chest beating and cries from the fundamentalists ranging from academics and the common man in the street. Then you had the revocation of Prof. Douglas Sanders license to speak in Singapore, the ban of a picnic in the Botanic gardens, police filming a run at the Singapore river and Otto Fong’s coming out.

Of course it may seem as if there is no correlation between the church leaders and homosexuals; however if one would look at this letter by Derek Hong one would realise that the two related in more ways than one, so to speak.

Notwithstanding the usual misinformation inside the letter (how homosexuals want to influence society and all that crap), this letter highlights an interesting issue. I refer to the pastor’s line that “I have been reliably informed that NOW IS THE TIME TO SUBMIT OUR FEEDBACK. ” Indeed I do wonder who was the one doing the informing and whether the person is reliable a not. In a way this is similiar to the revocation of Douglas Sanders licence, where having been given the licence it was suddenly revoked as ” based on additional information received, police saw the event as ‘contrary to the public interest’. Then look again at Mr Alex Au’s post regarding the picnic.  This seems to suggest that the Christian right has friends in right places.

And if you look at the anecdotal evidence with regards to the prevalance of the megachurches, or take a walk to one of the places where these churches hold their regular services, then it can be seen that the possible influence of these organisations is vast indeed. While the situation in Singapore is by no means analagous to that in the United States, the fact that religious organisations are protected somewhat by the Sedition Act does make a situation possible. In fact on reading Derek Hong’s letter I was minded of an old historic event: The Council of Clermont. During the council Pope Urban II called for a crusade against the Saracens in the “Holy Land”, thus setting the stage for a violent confrontation between Islam and Christianity which does seem to continue on today. Derek’s attack on homosexuals seems to be no different from Pope Urban’s sermon at Clermont. And given the potential influence of these organisations, coupled with the support of friends in high places, there is a danger that if nothing is done to redress the evident imbalance between the homosexuals and conservatives in society, instances of discrimination could increase and Singapore’s progress could be stifled as a result.

There are many bones of contention; the above is merely a tip of the iceberg. Indeed in light of Derek’s letter I truly wonder how some can still talk about social responsibility when these organisations are actively trying to discriminate against fellow human beings; but of course perhaps I am unenlightened enough to comprehend the greater mysteries of life and what have you. Nevertheless there is one viable solution to be taken and that is to repeal that ridiculous law. However it appears that 377A will be here to stay, for now.

Otto Fong and To Kill A Mocking Bird September 11, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

” You never understand a person until you see things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” Atticus Finch

 Despite being published in the 1960s, Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mocking Bird, continues to be relevant to society. Themes of empathy for the fellow man, tolerance continue and will remain applicable notwithstanding the changes in society.

In TKMB, an african american is convicted of a crime he did not commit; he is eventually killed trying to escape. Meanwhile, a recluse is often harassed by pesky children and demonised by gossips. Underlying both situations is a blatant lack of tolerance and understanding; the former due to pure bigotry and the latter due to a lack of respect of the individual.

Having said that, let us now turn to the situation in Singapore. While racism appears to be an isolated affair, in so far as the constitution is concerned, there is a lack of protection of other groups of people; namely the homosexuals. In fact the law at present (Section 377A) places homosexuals at the same level as criminals. The fact that there is a hate campaign against homosexuals going on from religious and other quarters make matters worst. In fact if Harper Lee was living in Singapore, it is possible that TKMB would be about “sexual” prejudice rather than racial prejudice. Atticus Finch would probably be defending a homosexual Tom Robinson; and as the trial progresses the fundamentalists would be writing letters to the forum and beating their chests with self righteous fury.

And it is this issue of prejudice which Otto Fong’s letter deals with. Prejudice against a fellow human being. The ruthless dehumanising of a fellow human being on the account of his sexuality.  Then claiming that its not your fault; that you discriminate because some supreme being willed it.

In light of the letter, the earlier quote of “climb[ing] into” a person’s skin becomes extremely appropriate. It is true that at times the debate on homosexuality gets extremely ugly, with gay activists tarring all Christians with the same brush. However before one becomes critical, it is necessary to, as Atticus puts it, see things from their point of view. And then you will start to realise that homosexuals are, at the end of it all, fellow human beings who have their own dreams, aspirations and so on. And it really galls them to be treated as scum of the earth by people who, while professing to be upright, continue to deride them and, to borrow Otto’s words, go around:

actively preying on innocent people, recruiting them to their cause by spreading fear and misinformation. I hope thinking people will quickly see that it is this small group of vocal objectionists who have a more dangerous agenda, that their fight with gay people has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong, but is merely a litmus test of their political influence.

Indeed, such a situation is analagous to the Crusades of antiquity, whereby Pope Urban II preached a holy war against the Saracens in the East. His aims were manyfold, including but not limited to: restoring political control over the Eastern Orthodox Church and  gaining control of the East. While I will not presume to know what goes on in the minds of these vocal objectionists, I do believe that Section 377A is dangerous as it gives the greenlight to these people to continue spreading misinformation and hatred. The retention of 377A essentially gives these people ammunition to launch their hate campaigns and this is not conducive to the development of a more tolerant society.

Of course, it is undeniable that aversion to homosexuals cannot disappear overnight. Society has generally conditioned its members to frown on homosexuality and the prevalence of those mega churches do not make things easier. Furthermore there is no doubt there are homophobes in those countries who have gone on to legalise gay marriages. Nevertheless there comes a point in time when society needs to take the baby step. As the Chinese saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a few steps”. And in this case the baby step would be the repeal of Section 377A. And that is that.

The Permit, The Cycling Event and a Fourth University September 5, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

There is no doubt that the exchange between Mr Low Thia Kiang and Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee has been imprinted in the minds of the netizens. Indeed many bloggers have already said their piece. Personally I found Prof Ho’s comments on Mr Low insulting; much akin to a low blow and similiar to Bhavani’s comments regarding Mr Brown’s young daughter.

But mud slinging aside this issue is merely the latest in a litany of issues portraying the authorities unwillingness to give more space for alternate views. The rejection of WP’s application for a permit merely reinforces the notion that far from being a city of possibilities, Singapore is the direct opposite. Or a better way to put it will be Singapore is a city of possibilities as long as your not homosexual, you do not touch on opposition politics, you do not touch on historical opposition figures, your constiteuncy voted for PAP, and so on. Indeed this is one more regression in a series of regressions (Mr Brown, Martyn See’s films, Alex Au and his exhibitions…) which will restrain the progress of society.

While I do think that the rational behind a permit is sound (for purposes of policing), I find that the rational for rejecting the WP permit ridiculous. Of course having been in Singapore most of my life I must say i am not surprised that the permit was rejected; nevertheless the reasoning given by Prof Ho makes no sense. I do not doubt that YPAP themselves organise such events; but of course you won’t hear of any rejections from the authorities. Furthermore by talking about how there is a potential for public disturbances, Prof Ho has committed the slippery slope argument. In any event, while there may be people who would want to get Low Thia Kiang’s signature, it does not follow that there would be a public disturbance of the nature as alluded to. If his reasoning is correct, then celebrities should not walk around in public as people might want their autographs and this will lead to a public disturbance. And his statement about the park being an open area is a red herring; there is a potential for a breach of peace everywhere.

What has happened here is an attempt by the ruling party to restrain the WP. Perhaps the events of GE 2006 have made them more wary of the WP and thus there is an attempt to reduce the WP’s reach to the general public. Unfortunately this is not the first time such has happened; certainly it will not be the last.

This showcase of intolerance brings to mind another issue; namely the development of a fourth university. An interesting to note is that this 4th university could possibly be a “liberal arts college”. Unfortunately current events and history has shown that the phrase “Singapore Liberal Arts College” is something of an oxymoron. Singapore can hardly be considered liberal, and thus this translates into the arts sphere where people like Martyn See are restrained by the powers to be. Therefore if the government is serious about having a Liberal Arts College, then there needs be a loosening up of society and a tolerance for “dissident views”. However, from recent events, it appears that such a scenario is, at present, nothing but a dream.