A meeting with Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Lee Bee Wah last night turned awkward, according to an activist representing the Ready4Repeal movement.
Edward Foo, a volunteer of the group that wants the contentious Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code abolished, wrote about his experience on Facebook after he attempted to speak with Lee yesterday during a Meet The People Session in Yishun. He brought along with him a petition containing 859 names of residents in her constituency who signed their support to repeal the colonial-era ruling that criminalizes gay men.
But the MP, according to Foo, had no interest at all in hearing him out, choosing instead to leave instead of engaging in honest, open discussion.
Foo, along with his close friends and another volunteer of the Ready4Repeal movement, had arrived at the session venue in Yishun, ready to speak to Lee about their views on Section 377A. To be fair to the MP, the matter was sprung on her as the group did not declare their intentions to her assistants, but knowing how sensitive the topic is, the group might not even get some face time with Lee if she knew what they were planning to say.
Nonetheless, the group managed to have a sit down with the MP, who was said to have shooed everyone except Foo away. According to him, Lee stated that she had an inkling of what he was there for as she had heard her fellow MPs mentioning similar cases.
When asked for her views on the ongoing debate about Section 377A, she abruptly left the room, wrote Foo. But not before stating: “I have other residents with real problems”. Which is a perturbing statement to make if Foo’s account is true — it implies that the discrimination, shame, and the official refusal to accept the LGBT community are no “real problems”.
The MP returned after fifteen minutes but allegedly refused to entertain Foo, “actively avoiding” his table and ignoring the calls made by him and her assistant. Eventually, he got her attention and tried to pass her the petition.
“She gestured her hand away and asked me to pass it to the volunteers instead,” noted Foo.
The MP has yet to respond to Foo’s post, which has since gone viral after he posted it last night. We’ve reached out to her for her side of the story.
When contacted by Coconuts Singapore, the MP directed us to a statement made on the PAP Nee Soon South Branch Facebook page. Without mentioning anything about the Ready4Repeal movement or the debate over Section 377A, the post established that Lee spoke to two residents “briefly” and that an appeal letter was written for one of them.
A firm stance
As much as Ready4Repeal remains hopeful that its volunteers can make their voices heard by Singapore’s politicians, the reaction hasn’t been encouraging. Back in September, a petition urging for the law to be abolished signed by 44,650 citizens and permanent residents was submitted to the Home Affairs and Law Ministries, but an official spokesman informed The Straits Times that the government does not have any plans to repeal Section 377A.
The Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam himself has insisted that a majority of Singaporeans remained opposed to the removal of the controversial ruling, even after India abolished its own colonial-era ruling that outlaws consensual gay sex.
Religious groups here have also chimed in their opposition to the repeal, stating that decriminalizing consensual sex between men is a slippery slope that could lead to the utter devastation of Singapore.
While Foo’s attempt to bring the matter up to the MP was lauded, some pointed out that a Meet The People Session was not the right avenue to air his view.
Editor’s Note: Article updated to include the statement made on behalf of MP Lee Bee Wah.