Our Farce-Sighted Leaders

My friend Yi-Sheng was supposed to be participating in an IndigNation (a gay pride festival) short story reading event today, but because the Media Development Authority (read: censorship board) classified the event as an arts performance requiring prior licence, as part of the licence application Yi-Sheng had to submit the story he had been intending to read. So he decided to give them something to get their censorial teeth into, and submitted the extremely naughty Lee Low Tar, which I would advise you neither read at work nor while consuming any beverages which are harmful to computer screens or keyboards.

Of course, it was banned, the official reason for which being that it went “beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers”. You just can’t make this shit up.


  1. We believe that Vladimir Koh represents an inaccurate reflection of the homosexual community, which is commonly known for its adoration of young, muscular men.

    I thought that particular bit in the letter was, if lack of a more accurate phrase, ABSURDLY HILARIOUS.

  2. I attended the event and I assure you, we all had a good laugh, especially when Yisheng produced a nice big whip and proceeded to invite everyone to whip him as he dressed up as an unknown representative of our lovely censorship board.

    Kudos to Yisheng for injecting humour into a rather unfortunate incident. He’s right, the more the authorities try to ban such things, the more publicity it generates. So goooo MDA!

  3. Thanks guys! Actually, the comment about “inaccurate reflections” was inspired by the MDA’s actual rationale for banning the cotton-candy-happy gay Taiwanese film “Formula 17”.

  4. Yi-Sheng’s piece was hilarious, and a great piece of Nabokov ventriloquism.

    I’m quite concerned about the recent surge in homophobic noises in the press and in particular to the approach to IndigNation. Singapore has never exactly been gay-friendly (understatement of the millennium) but it seems as though there has a particularly intense and concerted effort to attack such little liberties as gay people have – amongst other thing, I am told that the policy of non-prosecution for s377A is no longer being adhered to.

    It seems to me that the policy of compulsory HIV testing is so transparently ineffective, over and above being intrusive, and that the PAP should at least have the brains if not the heart to realise that – so why is it being aggressively pushed, if not out of homophobia? (As for why it’s clearly ineffective, even laying aside privacy concerns – what, health workers are going to drink the blood of those who test negative? They all believe HIV is the only blood-borne pathogen, so they wouldn’t take the same precautious regardless of the HIV status of hospital patients? Do they really think someone who engages in regular risky sex is going to voluntarily change their behaviour because of an enforced test leading to a positive result? If they won’t voluntarily change their behaviour, what are they going to do, enforce changes in sexual behaviour? How? A big yellow star on their arms indicating HIV status to all potential sexual partners? Throwing them into jail so long as they are male and therefore “bad AIDS” sufferers?

    Moreover, if I’m not wrong, anti-retro viral treatments aren’t even subsidised in Singapore on the grounds of being “non-standard” drugs. (I’ve heard, although this is just a rumour, that they are even taxed to make them more expensive, in the bizarre belief that people who are about to engage in risky sex will somehow be deterred by the knowledge that, should they contract HIV, the drugs will not be readily available to combat AIDS – as if just contracting HIV wouldn’t, if considered, be enough of a pause for thought, but this additional factor would somehow massively tip the scales.) So all this concern about the “AIDS epidemic” takes on sinister overtones when they the government doesn’t actually even care about the suffering of the people who do have AIDS. I think it’s a case of just rendering everything within a 20 mile radius of “sexual immorality” verboten in the hopes that this will somehow ward off the taint. (It’s like the American religious right campaigning for HPV vaccines not to be given to little girls – what? I mean what?) The whole thing is just screwed up.

    OK, sorry, the rant ends here.

  5. Sorry, just wanted to add one more important reason why mandatory testing is ridiculous: there is a three-month window between infection and turning seropositive (i.e. developing the antibodies that are what the test detects). Making the claims that this is meant to protect health workers even more thoroughly bogus, because even if it were true that AIDS was the only disease they had to worry about when handling blood, they couldn’t reasonably rely on a negative test result anyway.

  6. Uhh.. sorry to go off topic,

    but.. isn’t this your national day?

    Happy National Day Michelle (& Alec)


  7. so Yi-Sheng’s story had me in hysterics, I absolutely loved it…

    then i read Jol’s post and it totally sobered me up. compulsory HIV tests? what? Is this for all groups deemed at risk (partners of, people in DRH, etc?)?

    am horrified, and off to google it

  8. I realise it is, well, very specifically discriminatory to only force “at risk groups” to undergo these tests (though as far as I’m aware, most of the at-risk groups are doing activities that are still technically illegal in Singapore, so that’s something to address first) but wouldn’t it potentially be a positive thing? I mean, if there was any chance I was carrying a probably-fatal condition and the test itself wasn’t too unpleasant (maybe that’s the crux of it) I’d be all too willing to find out and see if there was something I could do. In fact I’d almost see it as a step forward from the government just pretending homosexuality doesn’t exist, rather than it implying “Oh you’re gay, you probably have AIDS then”.

    I ask for information, more than trying to put forward an informed opinion (as is probably obvious). Being none of Singaporean, homosexual or intravenous drug user (the only other high risk group I could think of on the spur of the moment), I haven’t looked into it a lot, but you’ve got me interested.

  9. Sorry, read Jol’s post now. I get it. But I do stand by the point that it’s positive the government admits something’s happening, even if it’s rather mismanaged.

  10. Hi Michelle,

    I’m Brian and i work with Ogilvy Public Relations. I’m trying to seek your assistance in one of our upcoming campaigns, but can’t find another feedback channel apart from this comment box.

    if you’re open to conversation, please drop me an email at brian.koh@ogilvy.com


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