Singapore Rights Group Defeats Coup

I’m not a fan of the government getting involved in church matters, but otherwise, this story from Singapore makes me smile. This is an excerpt. See the original at Asia Sentinel for the entire article. It’s a great story.

An abortive coup by a group of anti-gay fundamentalist Christians has thrown the organization [Aware] center stage, in the process revealing the growing clout of Singapore’s online activists, and the surprising strength of civil society.

Singapore’s Church of Our Saviour, housed in an old cinema west of the city center, is one such organization and it is from within this church that the plot was hatched to seize control of Aware. Led by a 70-year-old lawyer called Thio Su Mien, a group of born-again Christians had become frustrated with the way that, as they saw it, Aware was promoting homosexuality and lesbianism through its sex education programs.

This in summary, is what AWARE should be about

Using classic sleeper tactics, scores of women from the fundamentalist Christian community were urged to join Aware ahead of its annual general meeting at the end of March. The born-again Christian soldiers followed orders faithfully and to the consternation of Aware stalwarts, six unknowns – who it would later emerge were all members of the Church of Our Saviour acting under the mentorship of Thio – were elected to the executive committee and several well-respected female rights activists voted off.

Like other blue chip companies in Singapore, DBS likes to keep tabs on what its senior executives get up to in their free time and the bank claimed that [Josie Lau, the new Aware executive committee president] had run for office against its advice. DBS stressed that it was concerned about the extra pressure that the new role would put on Ms Lau. But many saw another explanation for DBS’ nervousness: last year, the bank came under fire after the credit card marketing division, headed by Ms Lau, launched a charity campaign whose beneficiary was Focus On The Family, an evangelical American group known for its anti-gay views.

Even as further evidence of the coup continued to emerge, Ms Lau and the other new Aware executives continued to insist that they had no secret agenda and that they had not known each other before being elected.

But once they had pushed the boundaries of popular disbelief to their limits, Thio finally came clean in a hastily-arranged press conference, revealing that she had, in fact, been behind the coup. While the women had not known each other, she had operated as their “feminist mentor” and convinced them to take control of Aware in order to reverse its supposed support for homosexuality.

Public opinion began to turn against the group and hundreds of women joined Aware to voice their opposition to the new guard at an extraordinary general meeting that the old guard had called. The membership of Aware swelled from 300 to 3,000 in a matter of weeks as both sides prepared to fight it out.

Packed conference hall at the Aware meeting
Packed conference hall at the Aware meeting

At a riotous EGM last weekend, the Aware old guard triumphed with the anti-gay plotters eventually resigning after losing a vote of no confidence. But they are continuing their fight and have convinced the ministry of education to suspend the use of a sex education manual produced by Aware.

However, one thing is clear. Empowered by the freedom of communicating through the internet and fueled by a deep sense of justice and tolerance, people power (of sorts) has finally arrived in Singapore.

Viva la Internet!

Cheering after the coup is defeated
Cheering after the coup is defeated

Viva la Justice!

David Marshall's widow congratulates Hafizah Osman, a newly elected exco member
David Marshall's widow congratulates newly elected Hafizah Osman

Viva la Aware!

(images of the Aware EGM meeting via