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MFA reminds US Embassy ‘not to interfere’ in Singapore's domestic matters following webinar with LGBTQ group Oogachaga

SINGAPORE — Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (May 19) reminded the United States Embassy here that foreign missions in Singapore are not to “interfere in domestic social and political matters”.

A view of the United States Embassy in Singapore. The embassy co-hosted a webinar on May 17, 2021, with non-profit organisation Oogachaga — which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.

A view of the United States Embassy in Singapore. The embassy co-hosted a webinar on May 17, 2021, with non-profit organisation Oogachaga — which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.

SINGAPORE — Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (May 19) reminded the United States Embassy here that foreign missions in Singapore are not to “interfere in domestic social and political matters”.

This includes issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.

“These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide,” the ministry said.

MFA’s statement came in the wake of a webinar on Monday co-hosted by the US Embassy and non-profit organisation Oogachaga — which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals.

On the website May17.org, it was stated that an invitation-only webinar titled The Economic Case for LGBT Equality: Exploring Global Trends with Professor Lee Badgett was held on Monday evening.

The listing on the website said that Professor Lee Badgett teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a renowned author and speaker on the economic impact of LGBTQ equality.

MFA said it noted “with regret” that the embassy has co-hosted the webinar with Oogachaga.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the US Embassy said that the US promotes the human rights of LGBTQ persons worldwide and that the embassy regularly works with civil society partners on a wide range of issues to build awareness and advance human rights for all persons.

Its spokesperson added: “The May 17 webinar marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and focused on the economic advantages of LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion around the world.”

Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, said it noted “with surprise” at the statement put out by MFA.

He said that the webinar was held to mark the publication of Prof Badgett’s book on the topic and involved an academic discussion on the book as well as the economic impact of LGBTQ discrimination around the world, such as in the US, eastern Europe and Singapore.

“None of the speakers discussed how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy,” he added.

“The event was invitation-only and moderated by an Oogachaga volunteer, a Singapore citizen who reminded multinational corporations to consult with local community organisations and to always abide by the laws of the territories in which they operate, especially in Singapore.”

Mr Leow also disclosed in the interest of transparency that Oogachaga did not receive any financial remuneration from the US government for the conduct of the event.

He said that invitations were also extended to public officers, and two officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) attended the webinar.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, MSF said that it had told Oogachaga that foreign missions in Singapore should not interfere in domestic issues. 

The ministry added: “MSF officers regularly participate in events organised by local civil society organisations to engage stakeholders and understand their perspectives on various issues.  

“The attendance of MSF officers was not tantamount to endorsement of the webinar or the decision by Oogachaga to co-host it with a foreign mission.”

Related topics

LGBTQ webinar Oogachaga US Embassy MFA

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