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No party, so gays plan to hold seven events (The Straits Times [Singapore])
29 Jul, 2005

GAYS and lesbians in Singapore are planning a month-long programme of events in response to the banning of the annual Nation gay party, which is usually held every August.

Under the banner IndigNation, the planned programme comprises seven events by gay activist groups and individuals. It kicked off yesterday with a four-day exhibition of children's book illustrations by artist Martin Loh.

Other events include a talk on classical Chinese literature, a poetry recital and a forum.

The programme will end on Aug 26.

There is no official committee organising the festival, said Mr Alex Au of activist group People Like Us, adding: 'It's very grassroots. Different people are organising different events.'

The organisers are: People Like Us, bible study group Safehaven, sports group Adlus and individuals including Dr Tan Chong Kee, activist and academic Russell Heng, artist Martin Loh and poet Dominic Chua.

IndigNation was organised after the Nation party, billed as Asia's largest gay celebration and held here annually since 2001, was banned. Police here declared it 'contrary to public interest' and denied organiser Fridae.com, an online gay network, a public entertainment licence. The event will now be held in Phuket in November.

'The gay community is indignant and extremely unhappy. All the talk about society opening up is just empty words,' said Mr Au. He stressed that the campaign was not a retaliation.

Fridae.com chief executive Stuart Koe also insisted that the online portal 'did not organise nor call for' the festival.

Commenting on the events, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC Sin Boon Ann said the groups and individuals are free to speak as long as they are 'mindful that our nation has certain constraints, boundaries'. He added: 'There is freedom of speech here as long as speakers don't incite violence and are sensitive to the views of others.'

When contacted, the police said none of the event organisers has applied for a public entertainment licence with the police or the Media Development Authority. A police spokesman said: 'Public entertainment activities, unless otherwise exempted, require a permit.

'The licensing authorities will have to assess activities on a case-by-case basis before deciding if an event can be approved.'

Dr Heng, who plans to speak at one of the events, said he had not applied for a licence because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in his National Day Rally speech last year that licences would not be needed for talks that are held indoors and do not cover subjects of race or religion.

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