the world beyond four walls


Singapore not ready for same-sex marriage as society is still conservative: PM Lee

The Straits Times/June 5 2015/By Wong Siew Ying

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think Singapore is ready for same-sex marriage because the society is still conservative although it is changing gradually.

But the gay community have the space to live their lives in Singapore, he added. “We do not harass them or discriminate against them,” he said when replying to a Filipino journalist who was interviewing him with other visiting Asean journalists on Thursday.

Mr Lee noted that same-sex marriage is gaining acceptance in some developed countries such as Britain and some states in the United States.

But, he added: “Even in America, there is very strong pushback from conservative groups.”

Similarly, the range of views on gays in Singapore include those of “religious groups who push back”, he added. “And it is completely understandable.”

His comments reflect the government position expressed in the past several years. In the 2011 book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said he believed homosexuality is in a person’s genes: “Some people are that way and just leave them be.”

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had also said homosexuality will eventually be accepted. “It’s already accepted in China. It’s a matter of time before it’s accepted here.”

On Thursday, PM Lee told the Asean journalists: “Where we are I think is not a bad place to be.”

He also said that if asked, most Singaporeans would not want the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community to set the tone for Singapore society.

“There is space for the gay community but they should not push the agenda too hard because if they push the agenda too hard, there will be a very strong pushback,” Mr Lee said.

“And this is not an issue where there is a possibility that the two sides can discuss and eventually come to a consensus. Now, these are very entrenched views and the more you discuss, the angrier people get,” he added.



Man who killed himself at Dignitas explains decision in film

Thanks to Zhiyan for sharing this report with me so that i can share this with all of you!

The Guardian/26 May 2015

A businessman with an inoperable tumour has killed himself at an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland – after spending his last seven days making a film for his widow and three children.

Jeffrey Spector died on Monday, six years after he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour that was growing near his spinal column.

Doctors had warned him the condition would eventually lead to paralysis and death and so Spector said he decided he wanted to be in control of the final stages of his life.

When his illness began to get worse he decided that he had no option but to travel to Switzerland due to UK law. He said: “Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK sHe added that he decided it was time when his symptoms increased in severity. “I put one date off so that my daughter could do her exams – but I was going downhill and was finding it hard to use my hands. I had no pressure in my fingers.

“I felt the illness had crossed the red line and I was getting worse. Rather than go late, I am jumping the gun. I call it the least worst option, which is best for my family in the long term.”

Spector, who was the director of a number of advertising and internet firms in Blackpool, Lancashire, chose to be joined by a film crew for the last week of his life. His decision to be filmed has echoes of the death of Guernsey-based hotelier Peter Smedley, whose assisted death in 2011 was screened in a documentary by the late Sir Terry Pratchett for the BBC.

Spector, whose family joined him at the Zurich clinic, described his condition as “a walking timebomb” as he could be struck with neck-down paralysis at any moment.

In an interview released by Dignitas, Spector said he was not scared of death and added: “Never judge someone until you have worn their shoes.

“I know I am going too early. My family disagree, but I believe this is in their best interests.” Stating he wanted to be “in control of the final stages of my life”, he said: “I was a fit and healthy person and my life has been turned upside down.

“What started as backache in 2008 developed into an illness that led me to having to make this most awful decision. Friends, and most of all my family, have urged me not to go through with it.”

Spector first discovered he was ill when he complained of having a sore back and stiff neck. He collapsed at a hotel after attending a friend’s retirement party and sought medical advice. He said: “I thought I had overdone things. My legs went in the hotel room. I got back home and booked in for an MRI scan.

“The phone call from the clinic asked me to go for another scan, which revealed a large tumour high up in my spine in and around the spinal cord.

“My surgeon was confident he could remove the tumour but tests revealed it would be too dangerous. I woke up thinking it would be out, but he told me he could not even take a biopsy.”

Instead, surgeons removed bones elsewhere in his back to relieve pressure caused by the tumour, but it continued to grow.

Spector added: “Had it been lower down the spine, and I lost the use of my legs, I would have been distraught but I could cope. Where it was meant total paralysis from my neck down.”

As the tumour grew, Spector visited the Dignitas clinic and decided that he would kill himself before the tumour’s advance meant he would be unable to do so.

He said: “I know I am going too early but I had consistent thoughts without peer pressure. It had to be a settled decision by a sound mind. If I am paralysed and cannot speak, then what hope is there? I am a proud person – a dignified person, independent and self motivated. It is me who is doing this.”

In the UK, anyone convicted of assisting a suicide can face a 14-year jail term. Pressure group Dignity In Dying, which counted Pratchett as one of its patrons, have long campaigned to change the law.

Labour peer Lord Falconer proposed a bill stating that if someone has a prognosis of less than six months to live, they should be allowed to have an assisted death subject to a number of safeguards and checks. His private member’s bill was debated in the House of Lords in June 2014 and reached the committee stage in parliament in January. However, due to opponents delaying its progress, the bill did not reach the Commons before parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election.

“Some people will criticise me, but do not judge me,” said Spector. “I believe in my human right to dignity. I want the ability to have a cup of tea and hold a phone – I want to be able to do those things myself.

“I believe what I am doing is in the best long term interests of my family. They disagree, but they do accept I have my own opinion.”

A family friend said on Monday: “Jeffrey was not for changing his mind. He did not want to be unable to walk or talk.

“From the outside he appeared as normal – chatty, driving his car, but inside he knew he was getting worse. People have tried to talk him out of this, his own family have begged him.

“But if Jeffrey Spector could not be the Jeffrey Spector we all knew, because of this tumour, this was his way out.


Church in Ireland needs ‘reality check’ after gay marriage vote May 2015

The first gay marriages are now likely to take place in the early autumn.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people.

The referendum found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: “We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

“We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial. I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

The archbishop personally voted “No” arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage”.

“I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church,” he added.

Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and its referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland.

Among those voicing their approval of the outcome was UK Prime Minister David Cameron who tweeted: “Congratulations to the people of Ireland, after voting for same-sex marriage, making clear you are equal if you are straight or gay.” Read More


Singapore to offer US$200,000 to support countries providing help to Rohingyas

The Singapore Government will offer an initial contribution of US$200,000 (S$267,000) through ASEAN to support the efforts of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia that have been aiding Rohingya refugees, said Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (May 23).

Singapore is concerned about the situation and welcomed efforts by countries, in particular Malaysia and Indonesia, which agreed to provide temporary shelter for the Rohingyas, said Mr Shanmugam.

He said the financial aid is part of an ASEAN-led initiative, adding that Singapore is prepared to consider further assistance, if there are specific requests.

Mr Shanmugam said the Rohingya crisis has raised two key issues – one is how to help those currently on boats and stranded at sea, while the other is the need to deal with the problem at its source.

This would require looking at living conditions created by countries of origin as well as the criminal organisations putting them on boats, subjecting them to terrible conditions. That, he added, is a “more serious problem” because tens and thousands of refugees could potentially suffer.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that the countries where the refugees originated from should take responsibility, and both ASEAN and the international community needs to address this issue.

Singapore’s contribution comes days after the Government said it is unable to accept any refugees or those seeking political asylum because it is a small country with limited land.

Over the past week, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have provided shelter to Rohingya refugees who have landed on their shores. Food and medical aid were also provided.

Up to 2,000 migrants are thought to be stranded in the Bay of Bengal, many at risk of falling victim to people smugglers. Most are Muslim Rohingyas from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said finding and saving the lives of those migrants should be a “top priority”.


Ireland goes to polls on historic vote on same-sex marriage

Dublin, Ireland (CNN)/22nd May 2015

Irish voters were choosing Friday whether to change the country’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

It’s a landmark referendum that, if passed, would make Ireland the first country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage through a popular vote.

Ireland’s voters will be asked to approve this statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

If more say “yes” than say “no,” the change to the constitution will give gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage, but not to be wed in a church.

As in many other countries around the world, the issue is a polarizing one. And the referendum will be a test of whether in Ireland, a majority Catholic nation, more liberal thinking wins out over conservative, traditional leanings.

Opinion polls in the run-up to the vote suggest the “yes” vote is on track to come out on top — but that the gap is narrowing.

It wasn’t hard to find evidence of the divide in the streets of Dublin on the eve of the vote.

Read More


Turkey TV talent show: Woman contestant shot in head

Mutlu Kaya, 19, was in a critical condition after being shot in Diyarbakir province early on Monday.

Diyarbakir is a conservative region in south-east Turkey and Ms Kaya had reportedly received death threats for singing on the show, Sesi Cok Guzel.

One person has reportedly been arrested in connection with the incident.

The gunman was said to have been in the garden and fired through a window into the house.

Sesi Cok Guzel is similar to shows like Britain’s Got Talent. Ms Kaya’s mentor is Sibel Can, one of Turkey’s best-known folk singers.

Ms Can had visited Ms Kaya at the school canteen where she worked in March, in order to make sure she joined her team in the competition.

However, the Posta newspaper reported on Sunday that Ms Kaya had received death threats after appearing on the show.

“I am afraid,” Kaya was quoted as telling the show’s production team.

Ms Kaya’s father, Mehmet Kaya, told local media his daughter had been rehearsing to go back on the show when she was shot at her home in the Ergani district.

“I just want my daughter to be healthy and don’t want anything else,” he said.

“I am expecting help from Sibel Can, she is like a mother to Mutlu.”

“My beautiful girl Mutlu, how could they wound you? I am very sad,” Ms Can wrote on Instagram, Agence France-Presse reported.


Migrants rescued from sinking boat off Indonesia’s Aceh

It happened in Europe. Now it’s happening much closer to home.

Now you can read more about what’s happened here:



Bangladeshi Blogger Who Wrote on Site Promoting Secularism Is Killed

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A blogger who wrote for a website that promoted secularism was hacked to death on Tuesday by a group of four men, a police official said. It was the third fatal attack on a Bangladeshi blogger since February.

Four men chased the blogger, Ananta Bijoy Dash, through streets near his home in the northeastern city of Sylhet and attacked him, said Mohammad Rahamat Ullah, a police official in Sylhet. No arrests have been made, Mr. Ullah said.

The assailants walked away after the attack, leaving Mr. Dash’s body near a pond, Mr. Ullah said.

The attack was disturbingly familiar. Mr. Dash had written for Free Mind, a website that the Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy had moderated before being killed in February by machete-wielding assailants while leaving a book fair in Dhaka, the capital.

Five weeks after Mr. Roy’s death, another blogger, Oyasiqur Rhaman, was killed by three men with machetes in Dhaka. The deaths recalled the 2013 killing in Dhaka of the blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

Mr. Haider, Mr. Roy and Mr. Rhaman were all part of a movement known as Shahbag, which called for the death penalty for Islamist political leaders who were implicated in atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan. Young Islamic activists reacted with fury to the Shahbag movement. Read More


Indonesia’s Bali Nine

After so many weeks of going back and forth, the executions of the prisoners on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking have been carried out early this morning – all except for one.

You can read BBC’s article here on who escaped the gallows and learn about Australia’s angry reaction to the executions.


Students in South Africa march against xenophobic unrest

Thousands of students gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday to protest against xenophobic violence calling for Africa to “unite” against the unrest.

The demonstration, which took place at the University of the Witwatersand, saw students waving placards and chanting amid tensions with immigrants, who have been accused by some South Africans, in poor areas, of seizing economic opportunities at their expense.

More than 2,000 Mozambicans have returned home from South Africa because of violence across the country, according to Mozambique’s deputy health minister.

Hundreds of immigrants have also taken buses back to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

As many as 7,000 immigrants are living in South African refugee camps after fleeing their homes, according to humanitarian aid organisation, Doctors Without Borders.