Support for the annual Pink Dot celebration remained strong with thousands attending the event despite the long queues, tighter security measures and new regulations preventing foreigners from attending the event.
According to the official statement from Pink Dot 2017’s organisers, “close to 20,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)” turned up at Hong Lim Park on Saturday (1 July) for the event, which is held in support of Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Long queues were seen from early in the day, with many also watching from the periphery as the main event area progressively filled up. The crowd was so dense that, at one point, an event emcee announced that the venue grounds had reached “full capacity”.
At each of the venue’s seven entrance points, bag and body checks were conducted by security officers, with the process taking around two to three minutes per participant.
Student Kimberly Hay, 19, described the checks as “troublesome”. Comparing her experience this year with the previous year’s event, Tay said, “Last time there were no barricades so the movement was more free. We had to queue for 5 to 10 minutes (this time) and it’s more troublesome to get in.”
Also at Hong Lim Park was market researcher Jo Beth, 38, who had brought along her two daughters, aged five and three. The Australian permanent resident said she had no issue getting through the security checks and was just asked to show her identity card.
“I wanted to have my kids involved in a community activity in Singapore that I think is worth being involved in,” she said.
Banned but still showing support
Dozens of people were also seen gathered at the grass patches along the periphery of Hong Lim Park. While some said they wanted to avoid the crowd inside the venue, others were foreigners who were unable to enter the Pink Dot grounds given the new regulations that allow only Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) to participate in Speakers’ Corner events.
One such person was Swedish national Karin Sundstrom. Wearing a pink dress and matching accessories, the 36-year-old biologist said she was aware of the ban on foreigners attending the event but wanted to show her support anyway.
“Of course, it’s really important to show support even if you’re banned. And hopefully, one day (the government) will change or they will listen to the people,” she said.
Also seen just outside the event area was Russian student Elijah Zamyatin, who was playing Monopoly with three Singaporean friends when the group was approached by Yahoo Singapore. The 18-year-old, who has lived in Singapore for seven years, said he had been unaware of the new regulations until he read the signs placed around the area.
“I don’t understand why (it is like this). It seems like love is for everyone except foreigners. This event is to spread love, but you ban foreigners,” he said.
Chiming in, his friend and fellow student, Singaporean Mark Lim, 19, said, “If you’re pushing for a law, or a Bill, then you should exclude foreigners, but now we’re just supporting love for all.”
Sponsors react to restrictions
In June last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that foreign firms would no longer be allowed to sponsor or participate in Pink Dot.
Despite this restriction, 120 local firms rallied to donate a record $253,000 in support of the event. The new regulations appear to have also galvanised some into coming out strongly in support of Pink Dot, according to some corporate sponsors.
Dalvinder Singh, the chief executive of sustainable energy company Gaia – one of the local corporate sponsors – said he donated money to the cause for the first time this year “since (the government) cut off foreign sponsors”.
Similarly, Aamer Taher, the founder of Aamer Architects, cited the gulf of foreign sponsorship as an impetus for his donation.
“A lot of local sponsors stepped up because foreign companies are banned. The government should understand that this event is important as it represents the freedom to love,” said Taher, whose business was a first-time sponsor for the event. He added that the move to ban foreign sponsors would only drive support from even more local companies.
Lawyer Ng Bin Hong, an associate from Peter Low and Choo – another corporate sponsor – said that half of the firm’s lawyers had showed up in support of the event this afternoon. “This is something the firm believes in… We have challenged 377A (a section in the penal code that criminalises sexual intercourse between men) in court as well, so this is in line with what the firm does,” said Ng.
Said Pink Dot SG spokesperson Paerin Choa, “Despite the barriers that have been placed in front of us, we are immensely grateful for the massive support Singapore has shown which we feel reflects a turning point in attitudes towards the LGBT community within the greater Singapore fabric.”