In the past week, I have received a range of reactions from different sections of the legal fraternity in relation to the AWARE coup.
Firstly, there are those who consider themselves "God's Children" and see it as their religious mandate to do all that they can to endorse the work of those who wash away their sins and of those around them.
Secondly, there are others who are absolutely appalled by the intolerance and immaturity displayed by some very senior members of the profession. The letter below is one example of those in this category.
Another lawyer is going further and initiating a customers' revolt. He writes, "I am going to call up DBS and terminate my credit cards. The DBS person on the line will ask me why (they always ask for that kind of customer feedback). And I am going to say that it's because of their Head of Marketing, Josie Lau. I will say that I have a very poor opinion of her behaviour in the Aware saga, and that for that reason, I have decided to stop using DBS credit cards. Furthermore I will request for my feedback to be given to DBS's senior management. It's a matter of principle. I am only one customer. But I will do what I think is right."
Thirdly, there are others who ask me, "Why should I care?"
Of the three categories of persons above, the third worries me the most. To these persons, I respond with a poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.
It is important to care about what happens around us although I wouldn't go as far as the late Winston Churchill. He said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."
Another young lawyer, Sivarajan Sivalingam, has best summed up the importance of being taking an interest in such issues: "Be AWARE lest you be caught unAWARE."
Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?
I write in response to the article titled “Lawyer's key role in Aware coup” (ST, 24 Apr 2009) detailing Dr. Thio Su Mien’s involvement in the AWARE saga. I was disappointed with the contents of the report, and what Dr. Thio had to say on certain issues.
She feels that AWARE has given too much precedence to what she naively calls “promoting a homosexual agenda” – i.e. the fact that “homosexuality is regarded as a neutral word, not a negative word” in AWARE’s secondary school sex education programme. I think this misses the forest for the trees.
Dr. Thio (given her credentials) must be familiar with the ordinary linguistic difference between the passivity of a neutral stance and the element of “activeness” involved in "promoting a homosexual agenda" (quite frankly, a tired turn of phrase). More significantly, it ought to be noted that during the heated debate early last year surrounding the Petition to repeal section 377A of the Penal Code, AWARE unlike the Law Society did not comment on the matter. Most importantly, the examples Dr. Thio cites are all premised on hearsay and carry an element of scaremongering – i.e. “The suggestion is that in this programme, young girls from 12 to 18 are taught that it's okay to experiment with each other. And this is something which should concern parents in Singapore. Are we going to have an entire generation of lesbians?” This undeniably is nothing but hyperbole, and as such, I find it impossible to agree with Dr. Thio’s view.
Her insistence that AWARE “seems to be only very interested in lesbianism and the advancement of homosexuality” is a fallacy that does a great disservice to the previous committee, whose past reports to the CEDAW Committee have been comprehensive in addressing the discrimination that women in Singapore face, and how this can be addressed have been nothing short of impressive. Dr. Thio seems to fixate on the work of one of AWARE's sub-committees thereby effectively ignoring the wide-ranging support AWARE provides to women in Singapore. This is not only inaccurate, but unfair.
It has been repeatedly said that AWARE is a secular and non-partisan NGO premised on the equality of women and furthering the best interests of women. As a woman, I cannot condone an organisation that claims to speak for me while in the same breath claiming that all women are equal, but some are more equal than others.
25 April 2009