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Saturday, 12 July 2014


The NLB saga continues with several local writers pulling out of events organized by the National Library Board.  Although it was reported that they were unhappy with the pulping of the books in question, the underlying displeasure lies in censorship of books.  The conundrum arise from the reasons given for the books withdrawal, that of pro-family and being guided by community norms.

The notion of "pro-family" had come to the forefront of public discourse lately, and especially so during the run-up to the Pink Dot annual party at Hong Lim Park.

Pro-Family, rightly so Pro-Creation was used to described the government's stand in crafting certain of its polices, most of which have to do with equality of privileges and benefits.

Some examples are the entitlement to public housing policies, where Build To Order flats, which is also classified as subsidised housing, is once only available to parties with a "family nucleus".  Even now, 3-room BTO  flat types are still not open to singles.  Read more on eligibility.

Other examples are related to leave and benefits that married couples and those with child can enjoy.  Read more.  All in all, the government's pro-family policies are largely geared towards better reproduction amongst Singaporeans, such as the "baby bonus scheme".

And these government policies are seen as discriminating singles, straight or otherwise.  The voices of singles had been extremely feeble, but citizens who are LGBTs found support amongst themselves as a community and had been strongly vocal primarily in the repealing of Penal Code 377A, referring to carnal sex with party of the same sex being illegal.

So the term "pro-family" had been broadly taken out of context to mean anti-LGBT, Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexuals, and Transgenders.  Is the government anti-LGBT?  PAP founder and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew thinks that they are born that way and they should be left alone as that.

And that was how the community norm was formed.  For the benefits, LGBT has been generally taken to also mean homosexuals, those who engage in carnal sexual relations with another of the same sex.  Society generally accepts that there are people who engages such relationship, and they have been left alone all along to their own privacy notwithstanding that there are groups who would outwardly decry homosexuality is a sin.

Thus the removal of three titles from the shelves of Singapore's libraries happened only a wink away from controversies surrounding the Red Dot party, was seen as the government's unfairness towards materials that are evocative of LGBT way of life.

But the confrontation this time is not so much on LGBT but that of "freedom of knowledge", "censorship-suppression of diversity", and government's neutral role in the Singaporean life.  

There are those who thinks that the government should be responsible enough to ensure young children are protected, and there are others who feel that young children should be free to experiment and learn, and then we have the government taking a stand to protect rather that expose.  Naturally when two against one, the odd one out would feel that the government is siding.  When it is about lives of little children, there is no two way for the government.

It is therefore unfair of many parties who champions freedom of knowledge & information and that of a diverse society to blame the government to take a cautious stand in protecting children who may not reach maturity to digest and understand the information they are consuming.

It is also extremely disappointing that certain Singapore writers had decided to boycott National Library Board.  It only shows the lack of broad consideration by these writers who chose to pivot on the proliferation of literature and disregard due care for little lives.

1 comment:

  1. Be it protest or conscience, I'm just glad these writers left instead of staying around as a fifth column.