Foreign views and Speakers' Corner: MHA replies

I refer to yesterday's commentaries by Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong ("Grey areas in rule against 'foreign sponsorships' of Pink Dot") and editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang ("Will 'follow-the-money' formula work in changed landscape?").

We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers' Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers' Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times' pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection.

But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

Ms Chua observes correctly that Singaporeans "support a Government that ringfences our political system and domestic political contests from foreign interference".

They do so because they know this principle has been applied consistently over 50 years and that it has helped keep Singapore politics the sole preserve of Singaporeans.

The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees.

However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Lee May Lin (Ms)

Director, Information Planning and Strategy

Community Partnership and Communications Group

Ministry of Home Affairs

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'Foreign views and Speakers' Corner: MHA replies'. Print Edition | Subscribe