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Vaccinations, culture wars, and book clubs

I was going to write about the TraceTogether developments in this round-up, but had so much more to say that I ended up splitting it and sending it out as a special issue yesterday. If you haven’t read it yet and would like to, you can catch up here.

COVID-19 update

Did you know we have a logo for Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme? Because of course we do.

Following the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine has now been granted interim authorisation for use in Singapore, with the first shipment expected in March.

Vaccination appointment slots are now open for frontline workers, healthcare workers, and the elderly. If you fall within these three categories, you can register your interest for the vaccine here.

The World Economic Forum, which was meant to be hosted in Singapore for the first time in May, has been pushed back to August. This was a decision made by WEF, “in light of global travel restrictions and the international challenges in combating the virus at this stage.”

Also, for those who want to collect TraceTogether tokens, you don’t have to collect them at your own constituency anymore — you can go to any community centre to get them. Whew, no need to queue!

CuLtuRe WaRs~~~

Here we go in the next tiresome instalment of “importing Western values/influence”. When asked about the Ministry of Education’s policies regarding students with gender dysphoria, Minister for Education Lawrence Wong made some general comments about striving to provide “a supportive environment in schools”, then moved on to say:

“Issues of gender identity have become bitterly contested sources of division in the culture wars in some Western countries and societies. We should not import these culture wars into Singapore, or allow issues of gender identity to divide our society.”

Funnily enough, the very concept of the “culture war” is an import from the American context.

Characterising gender identity issues as “imports” also ignores the fact that Asian — including Southeast Asian — societies have our own long queer and transgender histories and contexts, and that a lot of the prejudice we have normalised today were brought over by the colonial powers. (Section 377A, 👀 👀 👀)

If you haven’t read the previous issue on the #FixSchoolsNotStudents protest and the guest post written by a youth worker at Oogachaga, you can catch up here.

Speaking of “culture wars” — a concept closely related to conservative, right-wing churches in the US — the connection between conservative churches in Singapore and its right-wing American counterparts has come up in the light of the detention of a 16-year-old Christian boy who had allegedly planned to attack two mosques on the anniversary of the Christchurch shootings.

Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, urged leaders and churches with connections to the Western far-right to steer their members away from such extremist ideology.

I’d say if we’re so worried about importing foreign influence, copying the far-right is much more scary than sharing ideas about gender justice and fighting transphobia.

Farewell, Substation

The Substation, Singapore’s first independent arts centre, will leave Armenian Street in July; the National Arts Centre is taking the space back for renovations.

It’s the end of an era; the Substation has been there for about three decades. It was founded in 1990 by the playwright Kuo Pao Kun, and has been an important space not just for the arts, but for civil society too.

The Substation is looking into some other venues, but isn’t ready to share details yet. Hopefully it finds a good new home and continues to provide space for arts and civil society activities for years to come — space for such things are in precious short supply here.

Statements to the police

Terry Xu, chief editor of The Online Citizen, and Daniel De Costa, a contributor to The Online Citizen, have had their criminal motions filed against the public prosecutor dismissed. The two wanted the prosecution to disclose the police statements they made pertaining to their ongoing criminal defamation case, but the prosecution has refused.

I find that I can’t really say any more about this because I really don’t understand why they can’t get hold of their own statements…

Got some more

A man has been fined S$1,000 for defacing a People’s Action Party poster. Not that he particularly hates the PAP — he said he just couldn’t reach the Singapore Democratic Party one.

ISA, the latest tuition fad

A Raffles Renounced book club!

Last weekend (although it now feels like a year ago to me) we had a great launch of Raffles Renounced at the Substation! For those of you who missed it — there was an in-person audience plus streaming on Facebook Live — you can tune in to the What Is A Merdeka History? webinar at 10:30am today.

If you’d like to discuss the book with your friends, there’s also a Raffles Renounced starter pack available on Ethos Books’ website with chapter summaries and discussion questions.

(If Milo Peng Funders are interested in starting a little virtual Raffles Renounced book club, I’m happy to open up discussion threads via this newsletter for people to discuss the book in the comments — we could do a chapter a week, or every two weeks. Let me know!)

Apropos of nothing…