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Etonhouse heir Ng Yi Sheng on why he protested for LGBT-rights at MOE

Feb 27, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Adapted from Coconuts

While one group of Singaporeans went to court to fight for a gay sex law to be removed, another went to the Education Ministry to protest discrimination against transgender students.

Writer Ng Yi-Sheng, 40, was the oldest of five people there yesterday holding signs with messages supporting trans students. He and another attendee left as soon as passers-by gathered, including some he thought might be plainclothes police officers. The three who remained, aged 19 to 32, were taken into custody and later released on bail.

“As soon as [ministry] Security came (which was maybe 2 minutes after we began standing at 5pm), I decided to leave. I had previously stated that I was willing to be part of the protest but would avoid engagement with the police,” the writer told Coconuts via message, hours after the incident.

Ng was photographed holding a sign that read: “Trans students deserve access to healthcare and support.” He, like the others, was motivated to attend by one student’s account of disregard by ministry officials.

He was invited to the protest by other participants and said he wanted to show his support “mostly as an ally” and so young trans people “know that cisgender people also care about them.”

“This protest is focused on the treatment of young transgender students in the school system and it’s something I care deeply about. I – and many other friends, of all genders and orientations – were also bullied in school because we did not conform to standards of ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity,’” he said.

The protest took place on the back of accusations early this year in response to the Education Ministry allegedly blocking the doctor-recommended hormone treatment of a trans student, who also alleged she had been threatened with expulsion for not conforming to a male identity.

After the student, identified only as Ashlee, rebuked the ministry in an online rant, officials issued denials in patronizing statements in which they suggested she might be better off learning at home. Facing a groundswell of criticism, it hasn’t addressed the issue since last week.

Protestors shared a statement calling for Education Minister Lawrence Wong to “end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by MOE schools” and highlighted some examples of the mistreatment of queer students by schools, such as controlling how they dress and wear their hair.

Regarding Ashlee, the student at the center of the recent controversy, Ng said her experience shows there is still work to be done on how schools treat students.

“Ashlee’s case was infuriating. When a student with the support of doctors and her parents for her transition can’t get [Ministry of Education] and school support… that clearly shows there is STILL something wrong with the way students are being treated based on their trans identity or gender expression,” he wrote.

About Ng Yi Sheng

Ng Yi Sheng is a Singaporean gay writer and the middle child of three siblings. His mother is the founder of global education group EtonHouse that teaches over 12,000 children around the world.

You can read his full Facebook post here.

Top photo by John Gresham

PSP's Tan Cheng Bock voted out as Sec-Gen after alleged party infighting

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel Francis Yuen has been appointed secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), taking over from party founder Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan, 80, has become party chairman. This was announced by the PSP on Thursday (April 1), after its central executive committee (CEC) met on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said Mr Yuen was the committee's unanimous choice to "lead PSP to the next level".

"Francis will lead and galvanise the party while (Dr Tan) concentrates on strengthening external support for PSP," he wrote.

Chairman role is basically a glorified flower pot

In many organisations around the world, the Secretary-General position has the authority to make all the decisions of running the organisation - or party. The Chairman generally does not have any more power pe se than any other voting member of the Executive Committee, except the power to run board meetings.

Comparatively, the Secretary-General is like the Chief Executive Officer of the company.

For example, the People's Action Party chairman is Gan Kim Yong while the Secretary-General is Lee Hsien Loong.

Party infighting?

The change comes amid reports of a rift in the party. An online news site, the RedWire Times, said in March that some party cadres have demanded for Dr Tan to step down as secretary-general, and allow for "more talented rising stars" to take over.

Commenting on the Redwire Times report, PSP member Kumaran Pillai said the new CEC line-up is in no way a reflection of any disagreement over the leadership of the party. Rather, Mr Yuen assuming the secretary-general role is part of a planned transition, he added.

“When Dr Tan started the party, he said he will mentor someone younger, and he hasn’t deviated from his original mission. People shouldn’t be reading too much into it.”

Mr Pillai added that he had a long dialogue with the party cadre who was quoted anonymously by Redwire Times as saying that some cadres are mustering support to demand for Dr Tan to step down from his post.

“His intention is not to stage a coup within the party. I think people have misinterpreted it and misunderstood what he said, sometimes it's like playing broken telephone, you say one thing and by the time you get to the last person, the whole story gets distorted along the way... there’s no infighting, there's no malice,” he said.

In other words, the flower pot needs watering.