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(Bad) nasi lemak, the retirement of Chiam See Tong, and challenges to 377A

Issue 77

I’m writing this late—like, late—at night because I didn’t get home from New Naratif’s democracy classroom on youth activism until about 11:45pm. My cats, who expect to have their dinner at 5pm, were furious. But they’ll get over it, and there were great conversations at the democracy classroom as usual!

On Thursday evening I watched Merdeka at Wild Rice’s beautiful new theatre in Funan. ❤️ I’m still mulling things over and processing it, and will be working on something that’ll be sent to Milo Peng Funders, hopefully soon!

Political rustlings

After over 40 years in politics, Chiam See Tong has officially retired, taking a step back from the Singapore People’s Party. His name wasn’t put forward for the party’s Central Executive Committee, which means that he’s stepped down from being Secretary-General. The new committee will have to meet to decide on key appointments soon.

Unwilling to just sit and wait to find out when the elections are going to be, the Singapore Democratic Party is having a pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park later this afternoon.

Lee Hsien Loong is getting lots of kudos from the mainland Chinese media for his comments on Hong Kong. He’d earlier said that the demands of the protesters were meant to “humiliate and bring down” the Hong Kong government. Then he said that Singapore would be “finished” if such protests were to happen here. I don’t get why government officials keep talking about this as if the Hong Kong protests were going to spill over or be replicated in Singapore. It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen. What. Are. They. Paranoid. About?!

Chan Sek Keong takes a swing at 377A

Former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong has written a paper arguing that the constitutionality of Section 377A—which criminalises sex between men—should be reviewed. That makes him the third former Attorney-General, alongside VK Rajah and Walter Woon, to take issue with the statute. There are three challenges to the law coming up, so we’ll see how that goes.

Related on the LGBT front:

This profile of Becca D’Bus, who is always on fire 🔥

This (paywalled) piece in The Straits Times that’s a good explainer-type piece about gender non-binary people.

And also this piece about how censorship has pushed LGBT artists towards more creativity and ingenuity in working around the authorities.

Ugh, this Telegram group

Four men suspected of being involved with a Telegram group called “SG Nasi Lemak” (why defile nasi lemak in this way?!) have been arrested for allegedly circulating obscene materials and promoting vice activities. Multiple women had reported the group.

Since then, another SG Nasi Lemak Telegram group has sprouted—this time actually sharing photos of nasi lemak.

No offence, but !@%$ Jewel

Lee Hsien Loong is really leaning into taking up Jewel. (Almost as if he wants it to be remembered as his legacy as his premiership approaches its close or something 🤔) During a speech, he said that Jewel and Changi Airport are symbols of how Singapore must “dream boldly”.

I don’t have a problem with bold dreams, and am a big fan of Changi Airport, but it’s still depressing AF if a symbol of our aspirations and dreams for Singapore is an airport mall. I’ve been to Jewel. It’s a mall. A mall with a nice waterfall in it, sure. BUT A MALL.

We can do better with our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations. We must.

This week we published a new comic explainer, this time looking at the need to deal with difference and disagreement in society, and to navigate tensions in ways that don’t marginalise groups with less power.

The comic was a nice intro to the next piece we published on a Christian community in Aceh Province, Indonesia, who have seen their houses of worship either torn down or burnt to the ground. This is a story our deputy editor Aisyah has wanted to tell for years, and she was finally able to with the support of New Naratif’s community—people came forward to donate to cover expenses. This is why we keep saying our community are utterly indispensable to what we do.

You might notice that some of the New Naratif links have banners above the header image saying that I’ve gifted the article to you; while New Naratif has a paywall, members have unique member URLs that they can share with anyone they want, anywhere, anytime. It’s our way of balancing access to information with reminding people that such work needs to be paid for—please support our work (longform journalism, research articles, comics, podcasts, events like the democracy classroom) by becoming a member of New Naratif!