When Repeal377A.com was launched, it made me very happy. To me, it represented people who were willing to stand up, make their views known and be counted. I was also encouraged by the level of transparency shown in the petition signing process, right down to identifying the regions where people lived in Singapore.
When the Keep377A.com website came out, the civil activism made me even more glad. To me, it was about having a voice that needed to be represented, in response to Repeal377A.com.
I was, however, surprised by the decision of Keep377A.com to keep the "silent majority" hidden. The creators of the website were encouraging others to sign anonymously.
Since I was not too happy with this arrangement, I set up a Keep s377A group on Facebook to complement the work of the website. I feel people, who feel strongly about retaining Section 377A, should have a choice to identify themselves and be able to engage others about the views they cherish.
My decision to do this attracted much criticism since I have come out to support the repeal of Section 377A. One person even accused me of being hypocritical.
Fortunately, I managed to persuade some of these critics on the importance of doing so.
I also feel it was important to set up this group since a good number of my friends support the retention of Section 377A and this would be a useful platform to make known their position.
In a few days, Keep377A.com has gone on collect over 10000 signatures. Perhaps, this is a sign that the "silent majority" is really not so silent after all.
In a way, I was happy because the number of signatures had shown the case that Singapore's political leadership and mainstream media have been endeavouring to make.
But this morning, a friend shared with me his experience in signing the petition on Keep377A.com. He had included his name in the petition but he had left a comment to say that he was not signing the petition. Instead, he stated that he was disputing it and, in the comments section, he went on to highlight his reasons for disputing it.
Some time later, he checked back Keep377A.com. His name still remained there but his comments had been removed, and this gave the impression that he supported the petition. He has written in to the creators of the website to have his name removed but his name remains. (Update on 22 October 2007: His name has now been removed.)
This experience is not isolated. A reader has wrote in to another website to share this: "I've noticed that there were a lot of spoof messages on the keep 377a petition, whose ironic comments were taken down. However, their names were NOT taken down. This is dishonesty: either they should have left the comments and names, or taken down both. Please draw attention to this fact, as I believe that through this ruse the petition organisers at Keep377a have inflated their numbers through, essentially, fraud."
It is unfortunate that this has happened. An exemplary exercise started by a well-meaning group is now stained.
It is also shameful for civil activisim since the very integrity of the creators of Keep377a.com can now be called into question. These creators have lost the moral authority to run the website.
They had sought to establish their case on the basis of "healthy and wholesome traditional family values" and "to do what is right". But their impropriety is a slap in the face to those same values they have sought to espouse and to the supporters of Keep377A.com that have placed their trust in the petition on Keep377A.com.
It also does not do justice the case that Singapore's political leadership and mainstream media have tried to make.
It also means that Members of Parliament in Singapore, who seek to make the case for retaining Section 377A tomorrow in Parliament, will now have to seriously think about their credibility if they seek to rely on the results of the Keep377A.com petition.
The honourable thing for the creators of Keep377A.com to do now is to apologise for their actions, step aside and let a fresh group of persons run the website.
The fresh team can decide to re-start the petition process.
Alternatively, the fresh team can submit the petition to an independent audit of the signatories before the results are submitted to the Prime Minister of Singapore.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?