Today: Three NMP hopefuls come under fire

14 May 2009
TODAY newspaper
Source

Three NMP hopefuls come under fire

By Leong Wee Keat

SINGAPORE: Barely had they thrown their names into the hat for the post of Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) when the criticisms began on the government feedback website, REACH.

NMP hopefuls Loretta Chen and Beatrice Chia-Richmond – along with incumbent Siew Kum Hong, who is seeking a second term – have been accused of being “homosexuality activists” by some Netizens.

Postings on REACH questioned if their applications, in the words of one, were “a back door for more pro-LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)” to have a voice in Parliament. The debate has set REACH’s thread on NMP candidates abuzz.

First opened for comments on May 1, the thread picked up steam since last Thursday and has attracted 93 postings and more than 1,400 page views as of last night. In comparison, the thread on Influenza A (H1N1) has attracted eight comments.

With his role as a legal adviser in the recent AWARE leadership saga, Mr Siew, 34, bore the brunt of the criticisms; many accused him of “pushing homosexual lifestyle” and of being “against the majority Singaporean”.

On the other hand, Ms Chia-Richmond, 34, and Ms Chen, 32, both arts practitioners, came under fire for their past projects, which forumer ‘Very Worried!!’ alleged about Ms Chia-Richmond’s application “is far more serious and worrying than Siew Kum Hong being re-nominated”.

Ms Chen, a theatre director, has been charged as being “no different”. “She’s openly gay and has also directed films with mainly controversial themes,” wrote forumer ‘isay’.

When asked about this, Ms Chen said, “I am who I am and I don’t intend to pretend to be someone that I am not. If you can be honest to yourself, you can then be honest to the team you are leading and only then you can be honest to society at large.”

Ms Chen, who hopes to speak up on arts, youth and elderly issues, added, “I don’t see this NMP as a backdoor (for LGBT issues). Human beings are capable of being multi-dimensional, multi-perspective and multi-layered. I think it’s sad when some Singaporeans choose to be so single-minded and so single-focused that you can only be defined by your sexuality or by your race or your religion.”

Ms Chia, who is married and a mother of one, could not be reached for comment last night.

When contacted, Mr Siew said he had not seen the full comments posted on REACH, but has seen similar objections to his re-application online. He also received several emails.

“It seems there’s some effort to organise a campaign to target me,” he said. “It does bother me to be a target, to be singled out for expressing a sincerely held opinion.”

Mr Siew, who is married and is a corporate lawyer, reiterated that he does not support homosexuality but is rather against discrimination, which is why he sought to repeal the law against gay sex in 2007.

The criticisms on REACH is another sign that the two camps – those with concerns over the gay agenda and those seeking more equality for gays – are turning to “mainstream portals” as their sounding boards, according to Singapore Management University assistant professor Eugene Tan.

“The two groups are fairly educated and are not afraid to use the new media to draw and canvass for support,” he said.

Feedback on REACH is typically passed to the relevant agencies.

But Mr Siew hopes the Special Select Committee of eight MPs will evaluate his record in Parliament, which he feels “speaks for itself” as he had spoken out on numerous topics.

“The only thing I hope is that rational minds will prevail,” he added.

The panel, led by Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi, will make its recommendations to President SR Nathan after it has interviewed the candidates. The new NMP term begins in July.

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