The Art Of Compromise

What’s a Poor PM to do?

If he repeals the law, he’s gonna lose his support base among the conservatives, and he probably won’t get enough support from the LGBT community to make up for that loss.

I’m of course referring to S377A.

Poor LHL. He knows he’s behind the times.

He wants Singapore to be hip and happening, to have “buzz” and be “vibrant”, he went against his father’s wishes to bring in the casinos, he spent so much $$$ to bring in F1 just to make Singapore “vibrant”.

Yet, among the major cosmopolitan cities of the world, Singapore is the one which does not have gay bars, gay personals, etc.

He lost the goodwill (and votes) of a lot of conservative Singaporeans when he brought in the casinos. Till now, many of them still have not forgiven him.

That’s why he fudged it, by retaining the law and yet saying it will not be “proactively” enforced, hoping to calm the conservatives while giving “assurance” to the gay community that they won’t be specifically targeted.

That’s what politics is all about—the art of compromise.

He knows what the conservatives are thinking. Today—no 377A, tomorrow, they’ll want gay marriages, gay bars, gay personals, gay rights, HDB flats for gays, gay floats at NDP, etc.

He knows that the conservative majority are not ready for such developments (whether the conservative majority are right or wrong to think in this manner is irrelevant, what matters is how they will vote).

That’s why he fudged it.

But the gays are of course still not happy, they still want him to give up 377A, starting with this legal challenge.

Legally, I doubt the law is unconstitutional. We take a lot of precedents from Commonwealth jurisdictions and I don’t recall the Courts in the UK or other Commonwealth countries finding such laws unconstitutional.

But I’m not a Constitutional lawyer, so we’ll have to see what our learned friends decide.

Politically, I can say that the gays are heading into a minefield.

The difference between Singapore and other countries is that a few percentage votes can make or break a govt, so their politicians have to accommodate gays, greens, Jews, pro-lifers, Hispanics, etc. because even a few percent in votes can make a difference.

In Singapore’s case, the downside for the PAP is much higher than the upside, so if the PM is forced into it, he will most likely side with the dependable conservative PAP voters than to go with the LGBT community.

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About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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5 Responses to The Art Of Compromise

  1. federick says:

    i seriously hope the evolution of SG law depends more on whether it will cultivate a more inclusive society then basing it on political gains or religious views. The more conservative the people tries to be, the harder they will fight to maintain status quo, and this “status quo” will become the stress points for the society at large.

    • One can always hope. But as shown in America, some differences can’t be bridged. Like pro-lifers vs pro-choicers, and politicians inevitably have to take a position that will lose them support from the other side.

  2. Anon says:

    Here’s an alternative view : What if this legal development is precisely the govt’s way of threading the needle? ie. Not lose the conservative vote, but move Singapore with the times too. How so? By “hinting” to the judge that the govt may in fact be OK if the law is held unconstitutional. So the judge then does exactly that. Problem then solved — s377A is repealed not because the Govt wanted to do so, but because the courts struck it down. Conservatives can’t blame the Govt. At the same time, the Govt no longer has to be villified in the global community such a backward law. But this only works if the courts are not 100% independent. Of course, I will have to say that the courts are 100% independent otherwise it will be contempt of court.

  3. twasher says:

    I don’t recall the Courts in the UK or other Commonwealth countries finding such laws unconstitutional.

    “In their decision, Chief Justice A. P. Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar declared Section 377, as it pertains to consensual sex among people above the age of 18, in violation of important parts of India’s Constitution”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/world/asia/03india.html

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