SINGAPORE — While the People's Action Party (PAP) is not lifting the whip on its Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Parliamentary debate on the repeal of Section 377A, the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said on Monday (28 November) that the Workers' Party (WP) will do so.
He said that this is to allow his party's MPs to vote freely on their conscience on the sensitive subject.
Of the WP MPs who spoke in Monday's debate, Mr Singh and his fellow Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Leon Perera supported the repeal of 377A, while Hougang MPs Dennis Tan and Aljunied MP Gerald Giam opposed.
Two WP MPs could not be in Parliament on Monday due to COVID-19. Mr Singh said that Aljunied MP Faisal Manap is voting against the repeal as a matter of religion and conscience, while Sengkang GRC MP Louis Chua supports the move.
Mr Singh said that, given the varied public opinion on the impending repeal of the colonial-era law, the democratic value of Parliament risks being diluted if the views on the subject are "not adequately ventilated" in the House.
“377A is unique in that it is conceived through a religious lens by many in Singapore, in addition to being a matter of conscience for a no less significant number,” he said.
“From my vantage point as the Leader of the Opposition, my personal belief is that the repeal of S377A does not in any way signal the state’s hostility towards the family unit or religious freedom.”
Symbolic message of law should not be underestimated
Mr Singh said that while 377A was not enforced, its symbolic message that those that identify as LGBTQ+ are outsiders should not be underestimated.
In repealing the law, religious Singaporeans are not asked to endorse homosexuality, but to instead honour the equality of all Singaporeans in the eyes of the law.
“Equality and justice - both stars in our flag - are plenty and bountiful. Unlike finite resources, we do not have less of either by extending it to our fellow citizens. We all gain from a more just and equal society," he said in Parliament.
For Hougang MP Tan, he said he found it difficult to support the repeal of 377A, as he is personally troubled by the removal of the marker it represents.
"The proposed repeal presents a number of difficult issues for different groups of Singaporeans; the symbolism of 377A is different to different groups, their differing views and even the experiences of individuals," he said.
"As an MP, in considering all issues, I am also guided by my own conscience in arriving at a position that I feel is right for our society and our people, even if some may disagree.
"I hope for greater understanding between those who share different views on LGBT and greater tolerance of different views. We may not always agree with each other on every issue but we can and should agree to disagree. We should still love and respect each other no less as fellow human beings."
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