Mr Baey Yam Keng – one of three speakers at a forum meant to explore the definition of a family unit in Singapore – on Thursday (Mar 19) called for more “cordial and respectful dialogue” between groups debating hot-button social issues.
Noting that the other two invited speakers at the National University of Singapore Political Association’s “Our Families” Social Policies Forum “roughly stand on the same side of the fence”, the Tampines GRC MP said that there was a danger of groups falling into an echo chamber in which their own views were reinforced.
The other two speakers on Thursday were AWARE programmes and communications senior manager Jolene Tan and LGBT counselling group Oogachaga’s Deputy Executive Director Leow Yangfa.
“Let the discussion not be limited to one end of the spectrum, or have separate forums focusing on one specific segment of the spectrum,” said Mr Baey.
“I understand that a discussion just between the extreme ends of the spectrum may become heated and non-constructive. That is why it is also important to proactively seek out those who hold more moderate views in the middle spectrum, and hear their views.
“We need to build trust among the different parties, and this takes time and sincerity. We also need maturity to accept that we will disagree, and agree to disagree. Only when there is cordial and respectful dialogue can we move forward.”
Singaporeans must be prepared to respect the decisions made and accommodate one another, he added. “Without this social compact, it would be very difficult to stay united as a people and build a harmonious nation.”
“A MAN IS NOT A MOTHER, A WOMAN NOT A FATHER”
Speaking in his personal capacity, Mr Baey said he was not in support of same-sex marriage.
“Man and woman are just made differently. While two men or two women can love and care for a child as good as, or even better than a man-woman couple, we have to understand that a man is not a mother and a woman is not a father,” he told the audience at UTown in NUS.
“I may cook better than my wife but I will never be a mother to my three children. Even if my wife becomes the breadwinner, she cannot be their father. To be fair to the child who is innocent and cannot choose, I am not for same gender couples to have and raise children.
“Likewise, I do not support people wanting children and choosing to do so as a single parent, not because of divorce or bereavement. The child is missing something in such a family.”
S377A: MOVING WITH THE TIMES?
At the forum, Mr Baey called for continued discussion on Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminises gay sex between men, saying that policies needed to reflect societal sentiment.
“I want to especially encourage voices from individuals, organisations and institutions, so that the discussion will not be driven to periphery,” said Mr Baey, who had spoken in favour of repealing S377A in 2007.
“Hopefully the discussion will be ongoing and not just during the next review of the Penal Code. Hopefully the review will happen earlier rather than another 23 years later, which was the period between 2007 and the previous review of Penal Code.
“No policy should or needs to remain the same forever, it must move with times.
“How is the Government to make sense of all the different views and perspectives? Policies and decisions should not be based on who speaks the loudest, the most frequently or even the most eloquently. The Government must know when to take the lead to shape sentiments and make difficult choices if necessary, and when to realise that the landscape has shifted and policies need to reflect changing demographics and worldwide trends.”