The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced that it will be introducing amendments to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016, which will come into effect on 1 November 2016. One of the key area of the amendments is that foreign entities will now have to apply for a permit before “sponsoring, publicly promoting … or organising its members or employees to participate” in Speakers’ Corner events.

This come after an earlier statement by MHA on 7 June this year, which stated that the ministry will take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence such events held at the Speakers’ Corner. In the context of LGBT issues, this will apply both to events that advocate the LGBT cause such as the Pink Dot, as well as events whose purpose is to oppose the LGBT cause.

MHA said that the amendments reinforce the key principle that the Speakers’ Corner was set up primarily for Singaporeans. Pointing that the Speakers’ Corner was established in 2000 as a space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that concern them, it reiterated its position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature.

Singapore citizens have been exempted from applying for permits to engage in public speaking and organise demonstrations at the Speakers’ Corner subject to conditions under the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016. Foreigners will need a permit if they organise or participate in an event at the Speakers’ Corner, subject to assessment.

MHA stated that the existing exemptions for Singapore citizens will now be extended to Singapore entities subject to the conditions in the Order. Singapore entities, such as local companies and non-governmental organisations, can organise or assist in the organising of an event, e.g. by sponsoring, publicly promoting the event or organising its members or employees to participate in the event, without the need for a permit. Conversely, non-Singapore entities will need a permit if they want to engage in such activities relating to a Speakers’ Corner event.

What is a Singapore entity?

A “Singapore entity” includes entities which are incorporated or registered in Singapore and controlled by a majority of Singapore citizens. For example, in the case of a company, it must be incorporated under the Companies Act in Singapore, the majority of its directors must be Singapore citizens and the majority of its ownership must be held by Singapore citizens or one or more Singapore entities.

 

According to MHA, the conditions applicable to public speaking at the Speakers’ Corner will be extended to include speaking through remote means, e.g. via tele-conferencing or pre-recorded messages. Events with Singapore citizens engaging in public speaking through such means will continue to be exempted from the need to apply for permits.

The rules for exempted indoor assemblies under the Public Order (Exempted Assemblies and Processions) Order 2009 will be amended to be consistent with the revised rules for exempt events at the Speakers’ Corner.

This year, three new sponsors joined to Pink Dot’s list of corporate supporters, local entertainment giant Cathay Organisation, popular social media platform Twitter, as well as global business and financial information and news leader Bloomberg.  Returning sponsors for Pink Dot includes Google, Barclays, J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, BP, and The Gunnery. This marks a new record in the number of corporate brands for the event.

The organisers of the Pink Dot have held the event at the Speakers’ Corner for several years now. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community expresses its views, on issues of concern to it, during this event.

Earlier this year on 8 June, Pink Dot SG published a Facebook post in response to MHA’s statement  :

Pink Dot SG started off first and foremost as a platform on which values of inclusion and diversity are celebrated, and over the years this has only strengthened with the growing support of Singaporeans from all walks of life, including a significant portion of its corporate citizens. For all the LGBT Singaporeans and their allies that this movement has striven to help give a voice to and done its part to push the envelope in helping to create greater visibility of Singapore’s LGBT community, we have done all we can to ensure Pink Dot SG stays within the law.

Our Corporate Sponsors that have supported us over the years are all registered and incorporated in Singapore. We are fortunate to count among them admired household names, employers of choice for a sizeable portion of our workforce, inextricably linked with and fully a part of this beautiful fabric we call home.

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