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This report is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Letter from Singapore and New York Jee Leong Koh
The barricades around Hong Lim Park were supposed to protect us against the possibility of anti-gay terrorism. We should even have concrete blocks in front of the barricades, the police advised, to stop any vehicular attack. What was left unsaid was that the barricades were first instituted a year ago to prevent any ‘foreigners’ from participating in Pink Dot, Singapore’s annual gay equality rally. Citizens and Permanent Residents had to produce their identification papers at the one sole entry point to the park. Local politics for locals only, is the mantra of the People’s Action Party (PAP), who has governed Singapore since independence from the UK. And so the political controls continue under the paternalistic guise of security and self-governance.

Like many others, I was outraged when the barricades went up in 2017. As one rally banner protested memorably, ‘Out of the closet and into a cage.’ I cast around for something I could do to express my sense of indignation about the wrongness of the situation. By that time, I had been awakened from political slumber by two key events.

First, the re-election of the PAP in 2015, with seventy percent of the popular vote, a reversal of a decade of decline in electoral support. Many political observers ascribed the unexpected result to a wave of gratitude and nostalgia after the death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Whatever was the cause, the result was crushing for civil society. The hope for greater political freedoms and stronger democratic guarantees dimmed. The PAP would ...

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