TL;DR – Thanks, MHA!
Pink Dot SG is an annual, non-profit, free-for-all event which started in 2009, in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore. Attendees of Pink Dot events gather to form a ‘pink dot’ to show support for inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love. The event relies on corporate sponsors to meet the costs of organising the event.
In 2016, there were 18 corporate sponsors. Big corporations like Google, Barclays, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and BP have supported Pink Dot for several years. In 2016, Apple, Facebook and General Electric joined the list of corporate sponsors of Pink Dot.
But late last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that it would would take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence events held at Speakers’ Corner, including Pink Dot. Back then, MHA said:
“The Government’s general position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones. These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves. LGBT issues are one such example.”
No sponsorship from foreign companies? No problem
Some people gleefully predicted that this marked the end of Pink Dot. Without such heavyweight corporate sponsors, surely Pink Dot won’t have enough money to organise such a large-scale event. It was a crisis for the organisers.
But you know what they say about crisis. In every crisis lies opportunities as well. And that is exactly what the organisers of the Pink Dot event did. Instead of rolling over and giving up, they persevered and sought out alternative sources of sponsorship. And their hard work paid off.
The vacuum left by foreign sponsorship has sparked off a far more inspiring turn of events. Into the breech stepped a massive influx of local companies. About 50 local companies have pledged to sponsor the Pink Dot event. Because of them, the Pink Dot organisers have already raised 70% of the funds they raised last year.
This entire episode give us at least two reasons to cheer.
1. Singaporeans have the never-say-die enterprising spirit
When MHA released their statement, the organisers of the Pink Dot event could very well have decided to throw in the towel. They could have said, “Alright. No money. Cannot do. Just give up lor.” But they didn’t. They didn’t give up. They pushed on. They looked for alternatives. They proved that it’s not about how much resources you have, but how resourceful you can be when push comes to shove.
That’s exactly the sort of never-say-die enterprising spirit that Singapore needs. When met with adversity, instead of just complaining and whining, we need to grit our teeth and soldier on. MHA’s ban on foreign funding showed us that at least one group of Singaporeans have that sort of spirit that is needed to fuel Singapore’s growth.
2. Proof that Singapore is closer to being more inclusive
Thanks to their perseverance, the organisers of the Pink Dot event has also shown us that Singapore society has become more inclusive. There has long been talk that the Pink Dot is driven by some foreign agenda. They think that if not for those foreign influences, the Pink Dot movement would crumble. The fact that there are now local companies who have come to support the Pink Dot shows that such talk is baseless.
Instead, what is closer to the reality is that increasingly more Singaporeans are willing to embrace diversity and respect other people’s freedom to love. As local film director, Boo Junfeng, said:
“Because there’s nothing “foreign” about love and inclusion.”
And thanks to MHA’s ban on foreign sponsorship for Pink Dot, we now know that more Singaporeans agree with Junfeng too. They agree so much that they are, literally, willing to put their money where their mouths are.
MHA’s ban on foreign sponsorship for the Pink Dot has shown that there are Singaporeans who are gung-ho and enterprising. It has shown that Singaporeans are becoming more inclusive of diversity. These are exactly the attitudes that we need to thrive in a rapidly changing, increasingly uncertain world.