Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When being too clever comes to the fore?

Say whatever you like about the Singapore government but it is filled with clever people. As much as the masses may like to think that things are changing, the way to the top in Singapore remains simple - study hard, get a government scholarship, work in the civil service for a few years and before you know it you will soon be asked to run for politics. When you have entered politics, all you have to do is to keep your senior colleague (usually a cabinet minister) looking good and before you know it - hey presto you're in the cabinet, earning a salary that is the envy of your counterparts in the rest of the world.

This formula has worked exceedingly well for Singapore. While other countries have gone to dogs whenever they've tried to use central planning, Singapore has succeeded brilliantly. Our Ministers and civil servants are genuinely clever people who are genuinely devoted to the betterment of Singapore. So, whatever one may say about the lack of freedoms in Singapore, or the "Nanny Mentality and super high salaries - we put up with it - no we actually quite like it because the government has done exceedingly well by us. How can you argue with an institution that has proved to be correct time after time in what its done.

However, my faith in the Singapore government and dare I say, Singaporeans has been shaken by recent debates in parliament. Yes, this is the case of section 377A - the section of the penal code that makes consensual sex between consenting homosexual adults a crime. But its also a case of other issues that were debated - namely the removal of marital rape and certain gender specific legislation.

Firstly, the way the PM handled 377A was exceedingly disappointing. As things stand, Singapore will keep 377A but not enforce it. The PM has said that we need to balance the rights of homosexuals in Singapore with the conservative values of the majority of Singaporeans. Keeping 377A but not enforcing it is the wonderfully legally ambiguous solution to make everyone happy. Sounds fair.... rather like Israel's stance over its nuclear weapons - we neither deny (so you'll think twice before trying to mess with us) nor do we admit (to stop us from having to actually submit to play by the rules everyone else is subjected to)

To be fair to the PM, ambiguity would probably would have been great if the Fags had not brought up the issue in the first place. Fags are allowed to operate quite freely in Singapore even if being a Fag is actually illegal. Had they not raised the issue, it would never have become and issue in the first place.

But now that the issue is raised, we can't for the hell of us go back to the way things were on this issue. Now that the whole nation knows that homosexuality is a criminal offence, a can of worms has been opened and the worms are crawling all over the rest of us. It's not just the Fags who are criminals. but the rest of us who deal with Fags should all get lawyers. As MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Mr Baey Yang Keam pointed out - renting a flat to a homosexual couple could actually put one in legal danger rather in the same way that renting out a room to illegal migrant workers or prostitutes is.

Is Mr Baey exaggerating? The government seems to think so. After all the PM has said that the law won't actively be enforced. If I'm to understand it correctly, its something like the US military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." You can be gay even if being gay is actually illegal. More importantly, for the rest of us non-Fags, we won't be prosecuted in our dealings with Fags - which is a relief for any of us working in the creative and media industries - which are incidentally industries that the government wants to promote.

What's the legal guarantee that we won't be persecuted for aiding and abetting criminals in our dealings with the Fags? The government's promise that 377A won't be enforced. Which leads to another Singaporean weakness - blind faith that the government will be good and sincere in its intentions for all eternity. Today's government may be good in its intentions towards Singaporeans but who or what guarantee do we have that some government down the future won't use a law like 377A to beat us over the head with. I am, of course speaking of a hypothetical situation. The government can easily argue that the public's tolerance for homosexuality will increase and we'll change the law by then. But then again, every argument used by the proponents of 377A has been purely hypothetical - ohh make Fags legal and the rest of us will want to have a stick up our buttocks. More importantly, as long as the hypothetical situation remains real ......we place ourselves at the mercy of the government of the day's good intentions.

My disappointment over the government’s copout over 377A was further compounded by its refusal to make marital rape a crime. As with 377A, the government has gone out of its way to fudge issues in the name of ….wait to you hear this…protecting family values. To please the “rights for rape victims” brigade, the government will make martial rape a crime but only if the woman comes forward to get a PPO against her husband. The reason given is because, according to our Minister of State for the Ministry of Law and Order is because men have been tricked into having sex and later been accused on rape.

You don’t need to watch CSI to realize that proving you have been rapped is harder than it looks. Rape victims are medically examined and the examinations they have to go through are often humiliating and degrading. So, for the life of me, I cannot understand who we’re doing anyone a favour by making a married woman who’s husband has forced himself on her to go through the extra hassle of getting a PPO. But then again, this is a conservative society and we need to protect the institution of marriage.

How nice of the Minister of State to realize that women can be as nasty and vindictive as men. I mean, we are talking about the same Minister of State who says that some crimes are not gender neutral because of certain physiological differences between men and women. So, a man who entices a married woman to leave her husband is a criminal but a woman who entices a man to leave his wife is not. Men, under Singapore law, seem to be made of exceedingly stern stuff!

I’m not sure if the learned professors who have been the biggest proponents of these views on marriage have observed the way men and women react. I’m no expert, but I’ve been around long enough to realize that women are very capable of making suckers out of men. We love pretty faces and are by nature willing to throw a relationship with a loving wife to the wind in pursuit of a pretty face. Women on the other hand tend to be calculative enough not risk a good relationship in pursuit of a good time in the sack.

I wonder what’s going on with the state of mind of people but it seems that common sense is no longer a natural part of the day. When someone ask you for something – never answer straight – it’s a sign that you’re not clever enough – just look at the people who are tinkering with our domestic laws.

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