Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Note On Comments

I welcome comments on my blog. But since I have started posting on the issue of homosexuality in Singapore, I have received numerous crude, insulting, and inappropriate comments, some even with explicit sexual contents. These comments were even posted on irrelevant blog posts i.e. posts on evolution, the carnal Christian etc.

Unlike some of my friends who are bloggers, I do not have a list of rules for fellow netizens. I believe in basic civility, and if you are able to comment with the civility and rationality becoming of an average netizen, your comments will be left alone. I have, however, taken the liberty to delete a series of comments by some anti-s377a perpetrators. I do not waste my time replying to such comments; a person with a lack of civility cannot demand the required attention from me.

Due to the impressive volume of comments from homosexuals lobbying for the repeal of s377a, I have started to moderate the comments. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Giving Voice to the Religious

A recent article from a legal professor in the Straits Times buttressed my personal views on the S377a debate. I had argued that, even within a secular state, the views of the religious majority ought to be substantially audible, yet moderated and argued with a rationale which is accessible to secularists and of course, the government of Singapore.

Professor Tan’s prescription for the religious voice is as follows, “Laws made in conformity with public reason as expressed by the majority are legitimate. By extension, decisions made in conformity with public reason expressed by the majority are legitimately made. While Rawls' elaboration of his idea of public reason and other aspects of his theory are too problematic to be dealt with here, the basic idea of offering reasons in public debate that one thinks reasonable for others as free and equal citizens to accept is attractive. The religious may formulate arguments for public decision-making by reference to reasons accessible to all, rather than particular religious texts or commands of deities (unless their veracity is further supported and accessible to all).”

She continues, “Anecdotal evidence, online and in conversations, suggests, however, that it is sometimes the agnostic and the atheist who are not ready for the religious to offer such reasons, or even to listen to the religious. For example, as I, a rational human being, cannot, if I am authentic, deny my religious beliefs even while I engage in legal philosophy, a few persons have wondered if a religious agenda belies my philosophical arguments. ...

Understandably, the atheist or agnostic may be suspicious of reasons offered by the religious, and vice-versa. ...

Writing off opposition as 'religious objections' was just an easy way out for some, saving them 'the trouble of examining the rational arguments' and enabling them to 'evade the very pertinent questions raised, questions which have nothing to do with religion but which have a great deal to do with the welfare of our people' ...

With the understanding that the religious, as well as the atheist or agnostic, have a place in Singapore, every argument should be tested on its own merit, even if it is made by a religious person. This is to prevent a Catch-22 situation where if the religious made a religious argument not accessible to all, they would be silenced, and if they made a non-religious argument, they would be accused of a facade of rationality. ...

Surely for the future of our enlightened democracy, we would not want to exclude any of the 85 per cent of Singaporeans from public discourse.”

As the debate gathers momentum in Singapore - knowing that the LGBT activists would be advocating their “rights” with even greater fanaticism since the retention of S377a - I would advise my fellow pilgrims to take note of the following article by Tan Seow Hon, “Giving voice to the religious.”

Note: The excellent parliamentary speech by Prof Thio Li-Ann is available here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Please sign the petition to retain S377A

Singaporeans and Non-Singaporeans, I hereby urge all who care for this nation to sign this petition.

Please sign the petition here.

From the website:

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Singapore

Mr Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister
Prime Minister's Office
Orchard Road
Singapore 238823

Dear Mr Prime Minister,


As concerned citizens of Singapore, we support the government in wanting to retain S377A of the Penal Code for the good of our children, our families and all Singaporeans.

There are many reasons why the retention of S377A is so important:

S377A is a reflection of the sentiments of the majority of society. Most Singaporeans hold conservative family values and do not accept homosexuality as the norm. (see Singaporeans’ Attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay Men and their Tolerance of Media Portrayals of Homosexuality, by Benjamin H. Detenber, Mark Cenite, et. al., International Journal of Public Opinion Research) Repealing S377A is a vehicle to force homosexuality on a conservative population that is not ready for homosexuality.

Sexual preference is not about civil rights and has nothing to do with equality or tolerance. Repealing S377A would in fact be the first step towards mainstreaming the homosexual lifestyle, which has been shown elsewhere to lead to:

1. Calls to specify the minimum age for consensual homosexual sex;
2. A public education system that teaches acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle under the banner of "tolerance";
3. The redefinition of marriage to include (gay) civil unions and same-sex marriages, and to extend marriage and parenthood benefits to them;
4. Adoption by same-sex parents.

In short, repealing S377A could lead to the modification of core family values and the family unit as we know it.

The majority of Singaporeans want our children to grow up in a traditional environment that espouses healthy and wholesome traditional family values. We do not want the homosexual lifestyle to be promoted or celebrated.

We ask the Government to do what is right and retain S377A for the future of our children and our nation.

Yours faithfully,

The Majority

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Digression into Something Secular

I asked a question. Here is the answer. Thank you for your reply, Mr Ong Hui Guan (Secretariat of the National Longevity Insurance Committee).

Here is the unedited letter with references:

As I reflect upon the recent proposal of the compulsory annuity scheme, it becomes apparent that there might be a probable deficiency in its policy. Will a significant portion of octogenarians from the lower socioeconomic groups benefit from such a scheme?

I would like to point out in this letter that there is indeed good statistical evidence to support a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and life expectancy within developed countries. As such, the compulsory annuity scheme should take this fact into consideration.

We can begin by looking at epidemiological data from the United States. From the paper by Gopal K Singh and Mohammad Siahpush in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2006 35(4):969-979), entitled “Widening socioeconomic inequalities in US life expectancy, 1980–2000,” it is clear that the life expectancy of the less-deprived groups is notably higher than that of the more-deprived groups.

An abstract of this paper writes, “Those in less-deprived groups experienced a longer life expectancy at each age than their counterparts in more-deprived groups. In 1980–82, the overall life expectancy at birth was 2.8 years longer for the least-deprived group than for the most-deprived group (75.8 vs 73.0 years). By 1998–2000, the absolute difference in life expectancy at birth had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 vs 74.7 years). The inequality indices also showed a substantial widening of the deprivation gradient in life expectancy during the study period for both males and females.

Singh and Siahpush subsequently concluded that, “Between 1980 and 2000, those in higher socioeconomic groups experienced larger gains in life expectancy than those in more-deprived groups, contributing to the widening gap.” Thus, there is not only a greater life expectancy for those in the higher socioeconomic status, but the gap in life expectancy between the higher and lower socioeconomic groups is progressively widening.

Not surprisingly, we see a similar trend in the United Kingdom. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK-based government department responsible for collecting and publishing official statistics about the UK's society and economy. The ONS published a paper providing figures on trends in life expectancy by social class in England and Wales over the period of 1972 to 2001.

According to the data from ONS, life expectancy at birth for those from social class I has improved from 71.9 in year 1972 to 1976 to 79.4 in year 1997 to 2001. Comparatively, life expectancy at birth for those from social class V has also improved from 66.4 in year 1972 to 1976 to 71.0 in year 1997 to 2001. Nevertheless, it is evident that life expectancy at birth for those from a higher social class is significantly better than those from the lower social classes. There is likewise an increasing gap in life expectancy between the higher and lower social classes.

It is well-known amongst sociologists and epidemiologists that social class or socioeconomic status is a prominent life expectancy indicator, and is assessed through occupation, income, housing or educational level. Besides data from the United States and the UK, a 1999 study by Tapani Valkonen also showed strong correlation between socioeconomic status and life expectancy in Finland. (Kunst, Anton E. et al, “Occupational class and ischemic heart disease mortality in the United States and 11 European countries,” American Journal of Public Health 89 (1999): 47-53.)

As Kinsella and Velkoff conclude, “the weight of existing studies clearly supports a strong relationship between social and economic factors on the one hand and health and mortality outcomes on the other.” (Kevin Kinsella and Victoria A. Velkoff, “Life Expectancy and Changing Mortality,” An Aging World (2001): 46.)

Apart from life expectancy, it is interesting to note that socioeconomic status is an important determinant of disability among older Asians. The effect of socioeconomic characteristics is also strongest when predicting perceived health. In fact, sociologists have discovered that the perception of income adequacy proves to be the most important predictor of health. (Information acquired from the Department of Sociology and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.)

Although socioeconomic differences in adult life expectancy are growing in Western populations, more research is probably needed to confirm a similar trend in Singapore.

Closer to home, “The Old-Old in Singapore,” a paper published by Ang Seow Long and Edmond Lee from the Singapore Department of Statistics, might suggest a similar association between socioeconomic status and life expectancy in Singapore.

The old-old are defined as those aged 85 years and over. If the housing of an old-old Singaporean has any indication of his current socioeconomic status, then it is significant that in 1999, 43.5% of those who are considered old-old live in HDB 4 room or larger flats. In comparison, 29.1% of the old-old Singaporeans live in HDB 3 room flats, and the remaining 11% stay in HDB 1 and 2 room flats. In other words, a large proportion of those who survive till 85 years and beyond are not living in HDB 1 and 2 room flats. Close to half of them, in fact, lives in HDB 4 room or larger flats.

If it is indeed true that a majority of those who are old-old are from the higher socioeconomic groups in Singapore, then there might be a probable weakness in the compulsory annuity scheme. As this scheme works on the principle of risk pooling, CPF members who die early may not live to see the benefits of this scheme. In fact, their premiums may go towards paying the annuity pay-outs of other CPF members. It is also highly probable that CPF members who survive till 85 years and beyond are those from the higher socioeconomic groups.

In conclusion, we must ensure that those from the lower socioeconomic groups are not unduly burdened with the care of the old-old belonging to higher socioeconomic sectors. Only then can this annuity scheme be of greater aid to the old-old Singaporeans who are truly in need of such pay-outs.