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Refusal to allow pro-family event at Padang puzzling: Lawrence Khong

SINGAPORE — TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang.

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SINGAPORE — TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Khong — who has regularly spoken out against homosexuality — said he was disappointed with the ministry’s move. He added: “I am puzzled by MSF’s restrictions on TOUCH to organise (the event) and also confused with their position on family.”

As part of the organiser’s proposal, participants had been asked to wear red to the event which was to be held on June 28, the same day as Pink Dot — an annual event held at Speakers’ Corner in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, where participants wear pink.

The organisers had considered calling the event Red Dot Family Moment 2014 but it settled on #FamFest 2014.

On Wednesday, the media reported that the MSF had rejected the application by TOUCH Family Services as it deemed the event unsuitable for the Padang. The ministry proposed alternative sites, but the organisers declined as they felt that the alternative locations, which were in the heartlands, were less accessible.

Mr Khong, who is also a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, stressed that the event was meant to promote family values. He said: “#FamFest 2014 is about defending the family against the onslaught of sexual infidelity, divorce, family violence and media that promotes sexual immorality including the homosexual agenda.”

He added: “With 2014 being the International Year of the Family, there is no better time for us to highlight these issues and to promote the right values.”

The MSF declined to respond to Mr Khong’s comments. Its spokesman would only refer to a sentence in its previous response to the media on the rejection of the application, which said that the ministry “will continue to support social service organisations and projects that strengthen families in a socially cohesive manner”.

TODAY understands that TOUCH Family Services had booked the venue with the Singapore Recreation Club and applied for approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the police to hold the event. The voluntary welfare organisation also tried to engage the MSF as a partner for the event. The proposal was rejected by the URA last month.

The organisers had rejected suggestions that the event was pitted against Pink Dot. The red theme was inspired by Singapore’s national colour and the SG50 tagline Celebrating The Little Red Dot, while the date had been chosen because it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays and also the weekend when the annual National Family Celebrations traditionally culminate, they said.

The planned activities included honouring the Pioneer Generation, renewal of marriage vows by couples and the recital of the National Family Pledge.

Mr Khong said the event was meant to support the MSF’s efforts to strengthen family ties in Singapore. He added that TOUCH was familiar with using the Padang as an event venue, having previously held several charity events there.

He reiterated that the alternative sites suggested by the MSF were not suitable as they lacked access to public transport and crowd-friendly amenities.

“These factors are important criteria to consider as we expect many families with young children and seniors to attend the event,” he said. He added: “TOUCH would have accepted the MSF’s proposed sites if they were located at places easily accessed by public transport and with the necessary physical infrastructure to support the event.”

Despite the rejection of the application, TOUCH “will explore other opportunities to promote the right family values and celebrate the contributions of the family to Singapore”, said Mr Khong, who has made headlines in the past for his stance on homosexuality. In February, a leaked copy of a guide — mainly drafted by Mr Khong — on how to support Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, went viral, triggering strong reactions online.

Mr Khong said it was meant to be circulated internally “as a private communication to group leaders for their personal reference (and) study, and for their wise and discerning response”.

The same month, Mr Khong also waded into a debate over an FAQ on sexuality that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) had posted on its website. Apart from writing a seven-page response to the FAQ, he also wrote to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong to seek a public inquiry into who was responsible for the publication of the FAQ.

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