Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Singapore Songkran Failure

I have to laugh when I heard that Singapore will hold its own “Celebrate Songkran 2014” festival at the Padang open field opposite Singapore’s City Hall. In my opinion it is nothing more than a blatant attempt to try to cash in on the festival itself by the Singapore Tourism Board. Songkran is a festival that welcomes in the Lunar New Year and is celebrated in many countries but famous in Thailand for the uninhibated celebrations with water a plenty.

Just as the Grinch stole Christma now Singapore is trying to steal Songkran, chasing visitors to attend its own version of the traditional Thai New Year water festival. No doubt the Singapore Tourism Board realised that at this time of year tourism figures go down as many people all over the world and even from Singapore head to Thailand during this period for the festivities. So they decided to jump onto the bandwagon in what has got to be the most dismal failure ever. So much so that I would advise the organisers to quietly quit their jobs to save themselves from further embrassment.

Yes, Singapore will celebrate Songkran but there will be no water pistol fights, celebrity dunk stations, or really, any kind of water fun at Singapore's first Songkran water festival on April 12 and 13. The organisers of Celebrate Songkran 2014 at the Padang have taken heed of the national campaign to conserve water and dropped the water-based activities.

Instead, (sic) they will host a Water Conservation and Water Heritage Exhibition in conjunction with national water agency PUB.

And so the very meaning of Songkran has been diltued (pun intended) before it's even got of the ground. You see the use of water isn't just a frivalious activity, no, it is meant as a blessing and a sign of respect. In fact it is the most fundemental element of the festival itself, so without it there can be no Songkran.

Local reaction in Thailand has been swift to the news that Singapore intends to hold its own Songkran festival at the same time as Thailand's traditional festival. Indeed the Culture Surveillance Bureau director Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn is reported to have said "Singapore is using the festival to promote tourism, without acknowledging the value of the traditions behind Songkran". And it would seem given the distinct lack of water available at Singapore's small scale copycat version the words have proven to be true.

In my opinion Singapore simply cannot compete for this Thai festival and it's attempt to do so it quite frankly laughable. It will be the LAST place anyone with any interest in Songkran would want to be. You see Thailand doesn't celebrate Songkran in a tiny little field with no water, no, it's a Country wide celebration involving every member of the community because THAT is what Songkran is really about.

I have been to Songkran many times, and although I hadn't planned on going this year I might just change my mind in silent protest.

Shame on you Singapore.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

An Open Letter

An open letter sent to Faith Community Baptist Church, Nation Council of Churches in Singapore  and to The Real Singapore.

To whom it may concern

While I appreciate anyones right to follow the religion of their choice, that choice is between them and their God. Any beliefs they may hold as a result of that choice cannot be placed across the wider society as a whole, many of whom do not follow that same religion. With respect, while as an individual they are free to challenge any decisions the government may make with regards to the laws of the land, that challenge should not be one that is based solely on their religious belief. We are a secular country with a separation of religion and state and are striving to build a society based on “Justice” and “Equality” regardless of “Religion” as enshrined within our Nation’s pledge.

Any religion is free to advise it’s followers on how they should conduct their life in accordance with that religion’s morals, principals and/or beliefs. However, such advice should be limited to those individuals and in the correct forum. I did not, nor will I ever give anyone dominion over my beliefs.

In my personal view the Christian religion is clearly biased in relation to anything to do with LGBT and seeks every opportunity for that biased view, based on its religious beliefs, to be aired publically. I, like many others, do not support that same view. I will not challenge your religious beliefs in this area as I have no right too, but likewise you have no right to challenge mine or to try to impose your view on me or the wider society. If you feel that followers of your religion need to have such religious beliefs made law in order to adhere to them then there is a fundamental disconnect with your understanding of the role of religion in a secular state.

Already in Russia innocent people are being bullied, raped, mutilated, tortured and murdered simply because of who they are. In Uganda the same is happening now as a result of a change in the law there. In both cases these changes have been in part driven by religion. I cannot believe that any God would endorse this violence against individuals who have broken no law, who have committed no crime, who are worthy of our love and respect. And just as religion is in part to blame for this situation, religion must by association hold itself accountable for the direct suffering of these same people.

Recently a federal Judge has ordered Pastor Scott Lively to stand trial for crimes against humanity under international law for his alleged role in the persecution, arrest and murder of gay people in Uganda. The federal judge went on to say that ‘The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. ‘The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.’

Religious beliefs, like mankind must evolve and we have seen examples of this evolution already.  Gone are the days of drunken debauchery of its clergy and the mass murder of innocents through the inquisition and crusades and witch hunts. Gone are the days when a wife must be shriven for consummating her marriage, gone are the days when it was forbidden to handle the Eucharist and so on. History, if anything, shows us that change is possible.

I am saddened to the very core of my being as I write this knowing that it will do little to change anyone’s views today, and though I am not a Christian I pray that the Christian community see’s the light and love of the God they follow and come to understand that all of his creations are equal in his eyes and worthy of our love and respect and not our condemnation for simply being who God intended them to be.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Stand up for Equality

I have to admit to being extremely annoyed recently with the amount of negativity that has been directed at the original HPB FAQ on sexuality from the christian community. On top of that it then comes to light that there was a publication distributed with cut and paste scripts that gave tips on who and what to write titled “family.foundation.future SUPPORT 377A a simple guide to giving feedback” which is believed to be addressed to pastors and leaders under the LoveSingapore movement, urging the church to take action against the repeal of Section 377A.

While I have no issue with anyone's religion, or their religious beliefs, I am tired of having those same religious beliefs rammed down my throat at every opportunity, and equally tired of seeing challenges at attempts to build Singapore as an inclusive and progressive society simply because it does not aline to those same christian religious beliefs.

"We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation" SINGAPORE NATIONAL PLEDGE : 1996

As a citizen of Singapore each of us is familiar with the words of our national pledge a pledge many of us have spoken many times before. But there are elements within our society that seek to undermine it. They are intent on pushing their agenda based on their religious beliefs as the social norm, and intent on ensuring the inequalities in the law among Singapore citizens remain unchanged. As long as the majority of Singaporeans remain silent then their voice will be the only one heard.

We need to ensure that all of our voices are heard so that any debate that affects us as citizens of Singapore is not one sided. All of us should be concerned, not only with the moral future of Singapore, but with Justice and Equality for all citizens. We should not allow a religious minority to attempt to define a moral view that is based on their religious beliefs, especially one that affects all citizens of Singapore.

We must register our strongest unwavering support for the continued separation of state and religion to minimise the influence of these religious organisations so that all decisions made in relation to the laws that govern Singapore apply to all citizens of Singapore without any religious bias.

So I've taken a leaf from their book so to speak and edited and updated the publication I mentioned previously. My version is titled "Justice.Equality.Progress Supporting Our Nation's Pledge a simple guide to giving feedback".

You can read it, or download it by clicking on the image below. Feel free to share it around too!.

 Click to view, right click and select "save as" to download

                       Click to view, right click and select "save as" to download