First gay protest at Speakers’ Corner?

Source: Straits Times
25 September 2008

First gay protest at Speakers’ Corner?
By Kor Kian Beng

A SINGAPOREAN man is planning to hold possibly the first gay outdoor protest at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, where rules on public speaking and demonstrations were relaxed recently.

Mr Roy Tan, 50, a self-confessed gay who works in the health-care industry, has applied to the National Parks Board (NParks) to hold the event on Nov 15.

He told The Straits Times yesterday there will be speeches on gay rights and a march in the park with placards protesting against Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual sex.

There will also be an informal public forum on the difficulties that gay Singaporeans like him face here, he said.

Mr Tan said he was prompted to plan the event by the comments of gay rights activist Alex Au on the Government’s move to relax the rules at the Speakers’ Corner.

Since Sept 1, speakers need only register online at the NParks website any time before they speak. They have to state the topic of their speech or demonstration, but race and religion remain out of bounds.

Mr Au had described the change as tokenism, arguing that citizens should have the rights to public speaking and demonstration beyond the park.

Said Mr Tan, who is a friend of Mr Au’s: ‘By saying that, Alex implies he does not want to organise any gay pride parade at Hong Lim Park.

‘I thought we should not give up this opportunity to set a precedent to make subsequent gay pride parades easier.’

When contacted, Mr Au said he still regarded the recent changes as tokenism. But he was supportive of Mr Tan’s planned activity, which he believed could be the first gay outdoor protest here.

Mr Au said: ‘Not everybody needs to agree with me…I will encourage him to live up to his own aspirations and evaluation of the change.’

A spokesman for NParks has confirmed it has received Mr Tan’s registration, which had described the event as a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual) pride parade.

So far, only one person – a gay Singaporean man – has sent an e-mail to Mr Tan to express interest in participating in the march.

However, he said at least 50 other people have indicated by word-of-mouth that they will turn up to lend him support, said Mr Tan.

He added that he was not a member of any gay groups here.

He expects the final turnout to be bigger as he is planning to send publicity materials of the event to the websites of gay groups.

Two American men have told him they were keen to take part in the march, but Mr Tan said he is keeping it a Singaporeans-only activity to avoid having to apply for a police permit.

Such a permit is required if foreigners were to speak or participate in or organise activities at the park.

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