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Straits Times - June 9, 2005
No licence, so gay party moves to Phuket
THE Nation party, billed as Asia's largest gay celebration and held here annually since 2001, has been moved to Phuket after police here denied its organisers a licence.
The party, which is being organised by Fridae.com, an online gay and lesbian network, has been held here in August every year, ostensibly to celebrate Singapore's National Day.
The first evening of this year's three-day bash, Nation 05, had been scheduled to be held on Aug 6,with the other two nights at private clubs.
It will now be held in Phuket from Nov 4 to Nov 6.
The police said on Tuesday that it denied the organisers' request for a public entertainment licence because the 'event is likely to be organised as a gay party that is contrary to public interests'.
Pointing out that the party had been given the go-ahead here four times already, Fridae.com chief executive Stuart Koe said the refusal this time round is a 'direct contradiction to Singapore's aspirations of becoming a more cosmopolitan city and a creative centre'.
I see many interesting aspects in the above matter. The particular aspect I want to discuss is Fridae's purposeful response to the Singapore government's denial of a licence.
Instead of merely protesting or complaining, Fridae has decided to take some concrete action. And simply organise the gay party somewhere outside Singapore.
I admit that I am writing this post under the heavy influence of The Road Less Travelled. Psychotherapist Scott M Peck wrote this classic book (about spiritual growth and mental health) way back in 1975. But I only recently got around to reading it.
Scott Peck devotes an entire chapter to the topic of discipline, which to him means consistently facing up to life's problems and solving them. Rather than merely avoiding problems. Or just complaining and whining about them.
It occurs to me that many Singaporeans are great complainers. They whine a lot about different aspects of the Singapore government but they often don't actually do anything concrete about their gripes.
But those who do decide to do something may well discover that they possess more control and power over their own lives than they ever realised before.
I am not saying that if you decide to do something, you will definitely succeed in changing the government's policy or position. Far from it. But if you are really dissatisfied about some aspect of life in Singapore, it is for your own good to consider how you can try to do something to reduce your own dissatisfaction.
Once you start thinking along those lines, you may discover solutions more powerful than you would have expected.
Fridae's plans of shifting their party to Phuket reminds me, curiously enough, of Sim Wong Hoo. Years ago, when Creative Technology was relatively unknown, Sim repeatedly tried to get the company listed on the Singapore Exchange but his application was denied.
Sim went on to the US and tried to list the company on NASDAQ, a stock exchange far more prestigious and well-known than the Singapore Exchange. Logically, he ought to have failed but he succeeded. Creative Technology went on to grow into the massive international success that it is today.
Now Sim has become the Singapore government's poster boy for entrepreneurship. Ironically, it seems to me that Sim succeeded despite the Singapore system, rather than because of it. But I guess the important thing for Sim personally is that in the end, he did succeed.
Now the government has decided to kill the Nation party in Singapore. Fridae can't do anything about that. But they can hold the party elsewhere. And they will. It may even be a lot more fun in Phuket than in Singapore. Open-air beach parties, maybe?
The idea actually isn't so radical. For example, I know that many law firms in Singapore no longer hold their annual dinner & dance in a Singapore hotels. Instead they do a firm trip to somewhere overseas.
Everyone in the firm - partners, associates, secretaries, admin staff - leaves Singapore on a long weekend to enjoy the event in Phuket, Bangkok, Bali, Sydney or Bintan.
Maybe Fridae can even do what the law firms are already doing - arrange for bulk discounts from airlines and hotels. I can already see Tiger Airways hatching ideas ("Tiger Airways Nation 05 Group Discount - 4th gay travels free!", etc).
I think that the way Fridae's decision to move the Nation party to Phuket offers an important lesson to Singaporeans - irrespective of their personal views on homosexuality.
A Singapore government decision or policy may be adversely affecting you. It could be a decision or policy on education, the economy, income tax, healthcare or NSmen. But you might not be as helpless as you think. You might be able to do something to help yourself.
Think. Come up with an idea. Then put it into action.