Candlelight gathering at Hong Lim Park

More than 700 people joined a candlelight vigil at Hong Lim Park last night following the Orlando gay club shooting. Members of Singapore's LGBT community said they do not rule out the possibility of violence taking place here and called for a dialog
More than 700 people joined a candlelight vigil at Hong Lim Park last night following the Orlando gay club shooting. Members of Singapore's LGBT community said they do not rule out the possibility of violence taking place here and called for a dialogue with the wider community to pave the way for greater understanding.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

More than 700 people held a candlelight vigil at Hong Lim Park last night in the wake of the Orlando gay club shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 injured.

Shaken members of Singapore's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community told The Straits Times they do not rule out the possibility of violence occurring here and called for a dialogue with the wider community to pave the way for greater understanding.

Vigil organiser Nicholas Lim, 36, founder of LGBT online community GLBT Voices Singapore, said in a speech: "The LGBT community and our allies are used to discrimination and we are still here. We are resilient. It is a strong statement to the people who often misunderstand us and label us with ugly names.

"We want to tell them that hate will not win. Tonight we show that in times of tragedy, people come together in the name of love."

Photographer Audi Khalid, 28, told ST: "There needs to be a very open civil discussion about how LGBT issues relate to religion, Singapore society and everyone."

Ministers also weighed in on the issue. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong wrote on Facebook: "We cannot condone hate crime of any form against whatever community. We may have disagreements in faiths, views and perspectives but these should be resolved or accommodated by engagement, dialogue and debate... not through senseless violence."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said differences in religions, beliefs and sexuality "will never be settled by force or rigid rules".

LGBT Singaporeans said the nation's security and safety cannot be taken for granted. Doctoral candidate Ching S. Sia, 33, who attended the vigil, did not rule out violence here, given a June 4 Facebook comment that many have come to view as a threat against LGBT people.

Facebook user Bryan Lim posted a comment on a page against the annual LGBT rally Pink Dot, asking for permission to "open fire". The user, who has since deleted his account, wrote: "I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes."

Ms Sia said: "All it takes is for one person to snap and it will be a wake-up call that something like that can happen in Singapore."

Gay clubs here have said they will increase vigilance. Tantric Bar, a prominent gay nightspot in Neil Road, said bars in the area will notify one another if they see anyone suspicious. Said Tantric manager Roy Chao: "These few days, we have been quite strict. We look around more intensely... to make sure there is nothing funny going on."

More than 15 local LGBT groups released a joint statement backing the Government's stance to protect Singaporeans regardless of race, religion or sexuality.

It said: "It is our hope that through meaningful dialogue and engagement, our leaders will get the opportunity to better understand the LGBT community. At the end of the day, we want the same thing - a safe, peaceful and united Singapore for all Singaporeans."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Candlelight gathering at Hong Lim Park'. Print Edition | Subscribe