The purpose of a Meet the People session is for the people of a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to have a chance to raise their personal issues – or any issue, really – to their MP. It’s supposed to make the MP more accessible to the people, create a direct line between citizens and their government.
But that didn’t quite work out for one citizen, Mr Edward Foo, a volunteer from the online Ready4Repeal movement. Just to remind you, the Ready4Repeal movement is a petition to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality, specifically it criminalises sex between two mutually consenting adult men.
Mr Edward has turned up for the Meet the People Session at Yishun as he wanted to personally hand over the petition – containing 859 names of people within that specific GRC – to his MP, Er Dr Lee Bee Wah.
Mr Foo recounted that he had arrived at the session with a few friends and they had told the registrant that they were there to discuss a personal matter with the MP. The registrant has also asked to see his IC, place of residence, and confirmed that he was indeed a Singaporean.
Once inside, he was met with a letter writer – letter writers volunteers who were there to help people write letters to the relevant ministries about their issues. When asked what they were there to discuss, Mr Foo again said it was a personal matter and he wanted to speak to the MP directly.
The follow description of the encounter give off all kinds of hostile vibes:
The MP walks over, shakes our hands one by one, and immediately asks if we are related. The other resident of the GRC replies that we are not, but we have come together as we were there to discuss the same topic. The MP then immediately asked them to leave as she only wanted to talk to her residents. At this point the other resident of the GRC replies, telling the MP that she does live here, and is a resident of the GRC. The MP then asks her to leave as well, and take a seperate queue number. The MP then stated that “she thinks she knows what this is about”, as her other MPs have “mentioned this before”. She waited for all three of my friends to leave, and I was left alone. She then asked me to “say what I wanted to say”. I then said: “This is regarding section 377a, and I was wondering what your views on this matter are.” The MP then said: “I have other residents with real problems”, and exited the room.
Mr Foo was left there on his own now waiting for the letter writer to return, and she did after fifteen minutes. The letter writer had apparently ‘actively avoided’ Mr Foo the entire time, speaking to other residents around him instead. Eventually as the MP was walking away, Mr Foo has called out to her and said, “If you don’t want to talk to me, can I at least pass you this” while holding out the Ready4Repeal petition addressed to her. Instead of accepting it, she simply gestured her hand away and asked him to pass it to one of the volunteers instead.
The letter writer accepted the petition and assured Mr Foo that it would be delivered to the MP.
At first read and I’d argue at every subsequent read as well, the MP’s attitude towards Mr Foo and his companions were cold, dismissive and bordering on hostile. Mr Foo and his friends were there as members of that GRC to speak to their representative in Parliament to hand her a petition over an issue that they hold close to their heart. They weren’t aggressive or hostile. They simply wanted to hand deliver their petition to their MP directly but they were essentially shooed away.
That is not how any parliamentarian should behave toward their own constituency. Even if Dr Lee disagrees with the petition and what it calls for, she still should have been respectful of her own residents and be open to at least accepting the petition.
She didn’t even bother giving them time to lay out their case nor did she give them the courtesy of accepting the petition herself. There really is no other word for it than rude.
Wading through the rampant homophobic comments in the comments section of Mr Foo’s post, you will find many who are equally appalled at the MP’s dismissive attitude:
But some netizens reflected that perhaps the GRC wasn’t the best avenue to bring up such an issue since the GRC was reserved for issues of a more ‘personal’ and ‘individual’ nature:
While others disagreed:
Whether or not you agree with the petition, I think we can all agree that the MP’s attitude was inexcusable: