SINGAPORE — Organisers of the annual Pink Dot gathering this Saturday to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will be deploying security personnel at the Speakers’ Corner for the first time, in light of the public opposition from some groups that has surfaced in the lead-up to the event, which is into its sixth year.
In an interview with TODAY, Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa said yesterday that the security arrangements were put in place for crowd control and to manage any unruly behaviour given recent developments. He said: “If (those who oppose the event) do come down, we will welcome them with open arms. We’re aware that they might come down and have a crisis management plan in place … We’ve also engaged security personnel, but more because of potential crowd issues.”
Earlier this month, an Islamic religious teacher, Mr Noor Deros, started a Wear White campaign calling on Muslims to wear white this Saturday to protest against homosexuality. Since then, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Catholic Church have put forward their views on the LGBT issue, with the National Council of Churches of Singapore the latest to chime in yesterday.
Faith Community Baptist Church senior pastor Lawrence Khong, who has been outspoken on the issue, also voiced his support for the Wear White campaign, and went as far as to say that it was time for the church and like-minded groups, such as Muslims, to oppose Pink Dot. Mr Khong had claimed that Pink Dot is part of a “game plan” — some 20 years in the making — by the LGBT community to “normalise” homosexuality here.
In response, Mr Choa said: “By saying that it means that being LGBT is abnormal … I won’t say that we’re normalising it, I’d say that we are exposing people to the truth of what being LGBT means.”
He said the event is solely about inclusiveness and diversity, and the organisers are not advocating other causes. “We support the repeal of Section 377A (which criminalises sex between men). However, our resources are not meant to advocate … we want to change society’s attitude. We also believe that when society’s attitude has changed, all these laws and regulations will naturally also change.”
He added: “Pink Dot has always been a social movement to change hearts and minds. When we first started in 2009, homosexuality in Singapore was taboo.” In fact, what has happened showed that discrimination is “still very much alive in Singapore, in certain segments of society”.
While the organisers have always been prepared for opposition, Mr Choa said the “extent of the negativity this year” saddened them.
He put it down to Pink Dot’s success over the years. Its inaugural gathering in 2009 attracted 2,500 participants. The figure went up to 10,000 in 2011 and, last year, 21,000 people attended the event. Likewise, the number of sponsors has increased sharply. Pink Dot got its first sponsor, Google, in 2011. This year, eight corporations — including Google, Barclays and Goldman Sachs, as well as Singapore-based companies such as PARKROYAL on Pickering hotel and audio branding agency The Gunnery — are sponsoring the event.
Mr Choa reiterated the organisers’ position — which they spelt out in a media statement on Tuesday — that they are open to dialogue with those who oppose their event. He added that Reverend Miak Siew of the Free Community Church had tried in vain to reach out to Mr Khong.
The organisers had explained that they had consulted their Muslim friends before deciding to have the event this Saturday, when the first evening prayer for the fasting month of Ramadan will be held. Mr Choa said they were assured it was not an issue.
In a letter issued to churches here — which was also provided to the media — the National Council of Churches of Singapore echoed the stand of other faith groups that have spoken on the LGBT issue. It said that while it does not condone homosexual or bisexual practices, it also does not condemn those who are struggling with their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Referring to Pink Dot, the council urged members of the Christian community to always act with grace and restraint should they engage with the LGBT community over the coming event.