The "Singapore Perspectives 2016" conference was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on Monday, 18 January 2016 and held at the Fairmont Ballroom, Raffles City Convention Centre. The theme of the annual event that year was “We” – the first word in the National Pledge summoning into existence that collective noun, "Singaporean". The conference was attended by almost 1,500 people. During the Q&A session, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng answered a question from Pink Dot representative Paerin Choa on LGBT rights in Singapore. Transcript: Choa: "My question is with regards to rights about the minority community, like the LGBT community, and single mothers. Now, we are often told when we are talking about issues that deal with these communities, that such issues are polarising, and it is most practical and beneficial to wait for society to evolve before we can see any change implemented in our policies. I have two observations. One, it means that protections of such minority interest would only be granted when the majority approves. That kind of defeats the purpose of protecting the interests of the minorities. Secondly, the time and pace of waiting for these changes to happen might not keep up to the needs that we need to deal with – i.e. bullying of LGBT children in schools, housing needs and healthcare needs. My question is: While we’re waiting for society to evolve, should the Government, or is there a role of the Government to intervene to take steps to protect minority interests in the meanwhile, and to help change misconceptions of such minority communities?" Ng: "In some ways, the best way forward is to allow for time to step in, to allow society to evolve and change. Perhaps over time we’ll find new equilibriums that society at large would accept it. However, I would separate the LGBT minority community with single mothers; they aren’t in the same category. In these areas, we can design policies to help. For example, single mothers with needs for housing. In other policies, however, we have to allow time. Another question on LGBT rights was also asked: Foo Ai Long, National Junior College student: "How are we to achieve cohesive identity when groups like single mothers and LGBT are marginalised, marginalised at the edges of society in the sense that they don’t achieve the same rights and benefits, like childcare benefits or rights to reserve BTO flats. For example, the petition to remove Adam Lambert from the New Year countdown attracted 20,000 signatures. And the next day, there was a counter-petition, attracting a similar number of signatures. Here we have two very different groups, with very different world views. On one hand, a group with pro-family values, who believe in the nuclear family unity, and the other with a more liberal view towards LGBT rights. My question is – does the Government have a definitive stance on LGBT rights, and how it going to handle this delicate clash of values?" Ng: "I have no new answer for you, because I have answered the previous gentleman. When you talk about two different views, do we come into the conversation to force our viewpoint, or do we come in with the humility and respect to consider other viewpoints? At the end of it, how do we look at the solution as the best way forward? It’s not just a simple debate. Maybe the solution is to allow for the luxury of time for evolution. It won’t be satisfactory for a young girl like you, but in the human dynamics of society and governance, sometimes time is a great resource. There will definitely be issues we won’t have consensus over. We will just have to find a way forward under this umbrella that is Singapore." Links: http://themiddleground.sg/2016/01/19/singapore-perspectives-16-question-and-answer/ http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/ips/events/singapore-perspectives
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Ng Chee Meng is a member of the People's Action Party (PAP) and a former air force general. He...