Pink Dot 2016, the eighth iteration of Singapore's annual LGBT pride gathering, reverted to a daytime event, just as when it first started in 2009. It was held at 4:30pm on Saturday, 4 June 2016 at Speakers' Corner, Hong Lim Park.
The LGBT rally secured the sponsorship of a record number of foreign multinational corporations (MNC) which were registered in Singapore, as well local companies. For the first time, placards were held up by the participants instead of pink torchlights.
In a shocking development shortly after the event was over, probably reacting to complaints from the anti-LGBT factions of society, the Government announced that MNCs would no longer be allowed to sponsor or support Pink Dot, even if the companies were registered in Singapore.
- 1 Announcement of event date
- 2 Campaign launch
- 3 Campaign videos
- 4 Ambassadors
- 5 Placards instead of torchlights
- 6 Official event videos
- 7 Photos
- 8 Community voices
- 9 Media reports
- 10 Ban on foreign sponsorship
- 11 MHA's Review of Speakers' Corner Rules, 2016
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Acknowledgements
Announcement of event date
The campaign launch event of Pink Dot 2016 was held at 7pm on Thursday, 21 April 2016 at The Projector, located on level 5 of Golden Mile Tower along Beach Road. Hosts Deryne Sim and Paerin Choa started the event off by providing a recap and showing the audience the previous year's campaign video.
Announcement of back-to-daytime event:
For the first time, three campaign videos were produced instead of one. Under the direction of Boo Junfeng and Leon Cheo, a collaboration with fellow filmmakers Sun Koh, He Shu Ming and Karmour Chia was undertaken to produce the final products. The theme for the year was "Our Heroes".
Joan and Pauline:
Rose and June:
AJ and Honey Bee:
The ambassadors for the year were ShiGGa Shay, Anita Kapoor and Liu Ling Ling who shared their thoughts in support of the Freedom to Love in a specially made video:
Credits - Director: Koo Chia Meng; Executive Producer: Boo Junfeng; Film produced by Fiction Shore; Producer: Xu Xin'en; Director of Photography: Kevin Yeoh; 1st Camera Assistant: Nelson Yeo; Sound: Lesh J Parekh; Translator: Koo Chia Meng; Offline Editing and Colour Grading: Gravitate; Audiopost and Music: The Gunnery; Hair and Make-up: Jeffrey Linus Lee
Placards instead of torchlights
On 22 April 2016, Pink Dot announced that it was changing its format for the year's event - participants would hold up placards instead of the customary pink torchlights. The organisers would be giving out 5,000 round placards to Singaporeans and permanent residents in attendance, along with marker pens to write messages. Foreigners would be allowed to attend but not to hold placards. "We want to let people have a say at the event," Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa said. "People are ready to take this step forward."
The Hong Lim Park event, scheduled to be held on Saturday, 4 June 2016, had seen attendances rise from 2,500 in its first year in 2009 to 28,000 in 2015. Organisers said it was a sign that society's attitudes were changing. "As the movement matures, we think the way people participate can also mature," said Choa. Although the use of self-written placards could see some participants writing pro-LGBT messages that could alienate mainstream society, Choa said the purpose of Pink Dot was to show diverse viewpoints: "It will allow conversation to mature even further."
The year's event had attracted 18 sponsors - twice as many as in 2015. They included tech giants Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, banks like Barclays and law firms Clifford Chance and Cavenagh Law. Investment analyst Andee Tay, 29, who would be one of around 500 volunteers at the rally, said: "The cause is something I care about a lot and I wanted to be a part of that."
Official event videos
From The Straits Times:
Ban on foreign sponsorship
MHA Statement on Foreign Sponsorships for Pink Dot 2016
There have been media queries as to whether foreign companies can provide sponsorships for the Pink Dot event which is held annually at the Speakers’ Corner.
2. The organisers of the Pink Dot have held the event at the Speakers’ Corner for several years now. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community expresses its views, on issues of concern to it, during this event.
3. The Government’s general position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones. These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves. LGBT issues are one such example.
4. This is why under the rules governing the use of the Speakers’ Corner, for events like the Pink Dot, foreigners are not allowed to organise or speak at the events, or participate in demonstrations.
5. The Ministry of Home Affairs will take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence such events held at the Speakers’ Corner. In the context of LGBT issues, this will apply both to events that advocate the LGBT cause such as the Pink Dot, as well as events whose purpose is to oppose the LGBT cause.
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
7 June 2016
The Ministry, however, did not say what action it would take, and whether there would be legal penalties. It also did not state whether or not a multinational company (MNC) with a Singapore-registered arm was still defined as a foreign company.
Pink Dot 2016 had attracted 18 sponsors, twice as many as in the previous year. They included multinationals such as Google, as well as banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Apple, Facebook, VISA and General Electric were first-time sponsors. Local sponsors included restaurant PS Cafe and Cavenagh Law. Attendance at Pink Dot rose from 2,500 in its first year in 2009 to 28,000 in 2015.
Reaction to ban
Pink Dot statement on corporate sponsors
Pink Dot SG started off first and foremost as a platform on which values of inclusion and diversity are celebrated, and over the years this has only strengthened with the growing support of Singaporeans from all walks of life, including a significant portion of its corporate citizens. For all the LGBT Singaporeans and their allies that this movement has striven to help give a voice to and done its part to push the envelope in helping to create greater visibility of Singapore’s LGBT community, we have done all we can to ensure Pink Dot SG stays within the law.
Our Corporate Sponsors that have supported us over the years are all registered and incorporated in Singapore. We are fortunate to count among them admired household names, employers of choice for a sizeable portion of our workforce, inextricably linked with and fully a part of this beautiful fabric we call home.
Lawyer George Hwang, commenting on The Online Citizen's website wrote: "You cannot consider MNCs' locally incorporated subsidiaries as 'Singaporean' for tax purposes and as alien for Speakers' Corner." The issue of what was "foreign" when applied to Pink Dot sponsors was one grey area. Another grey area was what constituted "interference". If sponsoring an event constituted interference, then why did iconic summits organised by Singapore government agencies seek sponsorship from companies, including foreign ones? The World Cities Summit and Singapore Energy Summit, for example, both had foreign sponsors. In the Cities summit, there was a discussion on whether culture mattered in a city - a potentially sociopolitical issue.
The Singapore International Film Festival included Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen as official time partner, and Marina Bay Sands, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands Corp, as presenting sponsor. Movies too could feature "controversial social issues with political overtones" - as everyone knew from the Government's periodic moves to ban the public screening of films such as Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore with Love.
Straits Times journalist Chua Mui Hoong wondered if the ban on foreign sponsorship would be extended beyond the pro-gay Pink Dot event, to film and other cultural events and even conferences on sociopolitical themes. If not, why single out Pink Dot as an event that could not get foreign sponsors? Or perhaps the concern about Pink Dot was over law and order, given its exponentially rising popularity. Gay pride parades in Turkey and Russia, among others, had sparked riots, sometimes when anti-gay protesters clashed with gay pride marchers. The previous week's horrific mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando highlighted the potential for violence over this polarising issue. But if law and order were a concern, Chua felt that the MHA should say so explicitly and offer solutions that made sense from a security point of view, and not restrict foreign sponsors. In making the arguments, Chua was trying to sketch out the anomalies and contradictions that ensued when one tried to apply the rule that "foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones". To be sure, the rule on no foreign interference in domestic politics was not a new one. Chua, as well as most Singaporeans, would support the line in the sand against foreign meddling drawn by the Government. Citizens wanted to evolve their political system at a pace they were comfortable with. They did not want, or need, foreign democracy activists or human rights groups - some with dubious sources of funding - to push their tiny, fragile and extremely beloved island-nation down paths they would find hard to turn back from. What is unsettling about the MHA statement was its addition of the category of "controversial social issues with political tones" to the list of off-limits issues for foreigners. This definition was so widely written that it could become a trawler net to catch any issues that became embarrassing or inconvenient to the Government.
Activist group AWARE asked if its advocacy work - such as on workplace harassment, and support for single parents - would be affected by the rule. Citing the latter issue, AWARE executive director Corinna Lim wrote in The Straits Times' Forum page: "If a group objects to this and floods the Government with letters of complaint, would it become a 'controversial' social issue? Would any support we might have from foreign entities thus be deemed 'interference'? We are troubled by these potential implications of MHA's statement, which is ambiguous, leaves too much open to possibly arbitrary interpretation, and seems to go much further than previous pronouncements." Lim had a valid concern. Singapore was at a transition point. The country had a Committee on the Future Economy to chart its economic blueprint. It was rethinking its school and training model, to integrate in-school and after-school learning better. It was concerned about the limits of its meritocratic system, and wanted to broaden its social safety net.
Chua felt that Singaporeans should not close themselves off, mentally or culturally, from the rich debates raging worldwide on many issues of social equity that had a bearing on the challenges the nation faced. These ranged from income inequality to disruptive technologies and the impact these would have on jobs and incomes, to the equity of health systems, and to the continued relevance of our industrial-model education system. Many of these issues could all justifiably be described as "controversial social issues with political overtones". What did keeping out foreign interference in these issues then mean? No foreign sponsors, even from local subsidiaries of foreign firms? No foreign academics allowed to speak at a conference on these issues? What was a "foreign academic" anyway? Did a foreign lecturer at a local university count? There were many grey areas and questions arising from this loosely written rule against foreign interference in "controversial social issues with political overtones". Keeping debate on difficult social issues entirely local hindered Singaporeans' ability to learn from the experiences of others. An open, inclusive attitude can help them better reach a national consensus on difficult issues.
As for LGBT issues, they were certainly contentious and emotionally charged because they dealt with people's freedom to love without breaking the law, and some religions had clear teachings against homosexual practices. Debate on these issues would be fractious. They may even be "controversial social issues with political overtones". Pro- and anti-gay camps may want to tap foreign sponsors and foreign groups (such as churches, universities, organisations) to talk to Singaporeans about such issues. To be sure, it made for a messier sociopolitical environment. But did LGBT issues fall under the category of domestic politics that were core to Singapore's interests and identity as a nation, and from which foreign participation and sponsorship of events should be banned? Chua did not think so. Singaporeans were a nationalistic lot. They would support a government that ring fenced their political system and domestic political contests from foreign interference. But Singaporeans were also a probing, sceptical bunch. If the Government wanted to keep out foreigners from some debates and events, yet include them in others, they needed more convincing on why, and how.
MHA's Review of Speakers' Corner Rules, 2016
- Main article: MHA's Review of Speakers' Corner Rules, 2016
Review of Speakers’ Corner Rules
1. The Government established the Speakers' Corner in 2000 as a space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that concern them. The Government's position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature. Thus, only Singapore citizens have been exempted from applying for permits to engage in public speaking and organise demonstrations at the Speakers' Corner subject to conditions under the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016. Foreigners will need a permit if they organise or participate in an event at the Speakers' Corner, subject to assessment.
2. MHA will be introducing amendments to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016, which will come into effect on 1 November 2016. The amendments reinforce the key principle that the Speakers' Corner was set up primarily for Singaporeans.
Key Changes to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016
3. The existing exemptions for Singapore citizens will now be extended to Singapore entities subject to the conditions in the Order. Singapore entities, such as local companies and non-governmental organisations, can organise or assist in the organising of an event, e.g. by sponsoring, publicly promoting the event or organising its members or employees to participate in the event, without the need for a permit. Conversely, non-Singapore entities will need a permit if they want to engage in such activities relating to a Speakers' Corner event.
What is a Singapore entity?
A "Singapore entity" includes entities which are incorporated or registered in Singapore and controlled by a majority of Singapore citizens. For example, in the case of a company, it must be incorporated under the Companies Act in Singapore, the majority of its directors must be Singapore citizens and the majority of its ownership must be held by Singapore citizens or one or more Singapore entities.
4. The conditions applicable to public speaking at the Speakers' Corner will be extended to include speaking through remote means, e.g. via tele-conferencing or pre-recorded messages. Events with Singapore citizens engaging in public speaking through such means will continue to be exempted from the need to apply for permits.
5. The rules for exempted indoor assemblies under the Public Order (Exempted Assemblies and Processions) Order 2009 will be amended to be consistent with the revised rules for exempt events at the Speakers' Corner.
Pink Dot's reaction
In response to the new sponsorship rules, Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa said: "We respect and understand the Ministry of Home Affairs’ position, however, we are disappointed by the latest clarifications from the ministry. Pink Dot has always been a local movement dedicated to bringing LGBT Singaporeans closer to their friends and families and closer to Singapore society as a whole – a universal aspiration that we do not consider to be controversial or political. As our society continues to evolve, we hope that this will be the start of an ongoing dialogue and we look forward to continue engaging with the various government agencies to better foster understanding between the government and the LGBT community in the long term. In light of the new rules, we call on more Singaporeans and local companies, who share in our desire and vision for a more diverse and inclusive Singapore, to step forward to support us in Pink Dot 2017."
- Pink Dot SG
- Sequence of events leading to Pink Dot
- Pink Dot 2010
- Pink Dot 2011
- Pink Dot 2012
- Pink Dot 2013
- Pink Dot 2014
- Pink Dot 2015
- Pink Dot 2016
- Pink Dot 2017
- Pink Dot 2018
- Pink Dot 2019
- Pink Dot 2020
- Pink Dot 2021
- MHA's Review of Speakers' Corner Rules, 2016
- Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016
This article was written by Roy Tan.