#5: Another discussion series while Pink Dot tries to make ends meet
Also: Changes at SCDF after Cpl Kok's death, unhappiness as Singapore chairs ASEAN and a new leader for NTUC
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The most annoying pendulum
On the same day that the Ministry of Communications and Information opened the media accreditation process (even though they weren’t 100% it was going to be on 12 June), Trump cancelled the summit with Kim Jong-un. But the next day he said he was open to it still happening. I’m not going include this in the newsletters any more unless they are actually on the plane or in the country, because this could go on forever. Spare a thought for the civil servants, security staff, diplomats and journalists left hanging!
Here comes another dialogue
Heng Swee Keat has promised a new discussion series. It’s not clear how this is substantially different from initiatives like Singapore 21 (in 1999), Remaking Singapore (2003), Our Singapore Conversation (2013), and SGfuture (2015). A former MP asks what the “tangible outcomes” of those previous exercises were. Bertha Henson says to keep an open mind because Our Singapore Conversation wasn’t that bad, but others point out that recent charges against activists aren’t exactly confidence-boosting. We might not actually need more dialogue, but a change in the relationship between elected officials and the people.
Separate but related: it’s a pity it’s behind a paywall because David Chan says some really important things about the “vocal minority” label: “What a position says, how valid an argument is, and how effective a policy is, are all separate from how vocal a minority is, how small or big the minority and majority groups, and what the majority wants. Group labels are not views.”
Singapore’s annual gay rights rally Pink Dot is set to take place on 21 July this year, but organisers say they are struggling to raise funds. On top of the ridiculous barricades that they are required to erect to make sure that only Singaporeans and PRs are present, they also have to construct their own stage. Send support their way.
Migrant workers, forced labour and trafficking
Two employment agencies have been charged for bringing in domestic workers from Myanmar who turned out to be way below the minimum age of 23—the two girls were only 13 years old. (Lianain Films made a documentary earlier this year about underage girls from Myanmar ending up as domestic workers in Singapore.) Another firm is being investigated for owing 48 migrant workers thousands of dollars in salaries.
Human trafficking tends to conjure up particular stereotypes. My piece for Esquire Singapore on the myths of trafficking and how it manifests in Singapore, with photos by Tom White, is now available online.
The family of Benjamin Lim says they engaged a lawyer last year using money raised via crowdfunding, but the lawyer hasn’t done anything. They are looking for pro bono legal help to get the $15,000 deposit back and seek justice for their son’s death. 14-year-old Benjamin killed himself in 2016 after being questioned by the police for alleged outrage of modesty—the case brought the public’s attention to police protocols when it comes to dealing with young persons, and triggered a review. There was also a Coroner’s Inquiry into Benjamin’s death.
Singapore’s ASEAN year
This got left out of last week’s newsletter (sorry!), but the Indonesian representative of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights wasn’t very pleased with a recent meeting chaired by Singapore: “Rather than talking about program activities, in the-just-finished 27th meeting, country Representatives spent most of the time getting pushed to cut back activities (and budget) for the sake of effective and efficient AICHR.”
A new NTUC leader
Ng Chee Meng took over from Chan Chun Sing (or Brother Chun Sing) as Secretary-General of NTUC on 22 May. We even know what time: 1628 (that’s 4:28pm for those who don’t do 24-hour time). He might be a unionist now, but he’ll always be a military man at heart. Ng described Singapore’s labour movement as having “bucked the global trend of shrinking union footprint”, which is ridiculous because NTUC hasn’t behaved as a union should for yonks.
A step forward at MND
This totally slipped under the radar last week, but the government’s developing public housing estates that mix rental flats (for low-income families) with sold units—it’s not enough to tackle inequality, but a positive step nevertheless.
And now for a visual break
It’s International Sex Workers Day on 2 June. Project X, which advocates for sex workers’ rights, is collecting quotes to be compiled into a video to be released on that day. Tag your quotes with #ListenToSexWorkers on Facebook or Twitter, or email them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. The cut-off date is 27 May, so get on it!
Ng Yi-sheng is giving a tour on Southeast Asia’s queer art history on 27 May at the National Gallery. It’s free, but please consider donating to his next project Ayer Hitam: A Black History of Singapore.
Decolonisation in contemporary social theory
On 28 May the Bras Basah Open: School of Theory & Philosophy is hosting the session “Why Decolonise Social Theory?” with Prof Syed Farid Alatas as the guest discussant.
Join the naysayers
Simon Vincent is hosting an event for his book The Naysayers Book Club on 2 June—the various interviewees featured in the book (including me!) will be there. Seating is limited so remember to register!
Photography for single parents
Another reminder for those who might be interested: AWARE is organising a photography workshop for single parents and the children of single parents (above 10 years old) on 2 and 9 June.
A new zine fest
Singapore’s first Queer Zine Fest is taking place in July. They’re calling for Applications for exhibitors and workshops are open. They’re relying on donations, so support them here.