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Questions emerge over foreign corporate sponsorship rules for Pink Dot

The Ministry of Home Affairs said late Tuesday that it will make it clear that foreign entities should not "fund, support or influence" events held at Speakers' Corner, the venue for Pink Dot.

SINGAPORE: Some of the corporate sponsors of Pink Dot have been left scratching their heads after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said late Tuesday evening (June 8) that it will "take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence" events held at Speakers' Corner, like the annual Pink Dot event.

Whether a locally-incorporated subsidiary of a foreign-owned multinational corporation counts as a foreign entity is an area of confusion that has emerged, after Pink Dot came out to say that its corporate sponsors supporting the event over the years “are all registered and incorporated in Singapore”.

The non-profit event organised in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community had 18 corporate sponsors for the 2016 edition. The majority were foreign, including Facebook, Google, Barclays, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, BP, Bloomberg, and Twitter.

A representative of one long-time corporate sponsor of Pink Dot told Channel NewsAsia the company was “shocked” when it saw the MHA statement, and had activated its legal team to look into what laws and regulations it might have fallen foul of.

“We thought we had followed everything – in terms of the regulations. So it will be good to hear from MHA more on that front,” said the company representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It’s always about interpretation, when it comes to regulations and laws. Perhaps they will be clarifying it more with individual companies, and that can only be what we hope for – so that we don’t have to speculate.”

Another returning sponsor, which requested not to be identified, said it would “stay put” and wait for clearer guidelines to be communicated.

Channel NewsAsia understands from one of the sponsors that it also has questions over what penalties it would face should it continue to sponsor and support events like Pink Dot. 

On top of event sponsorship, many of the corporate sponsors have posted a statement of values – supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives – on their website or on web platforms like Twitter. Bloomberg, for example, had produced a video featuring its founder Michael Bloomberg, which contained a “Proud to support Pink Dot” statement.


Corporate sponsors for Pink Dot, including Bloomberg, were actively publicising their support for the LGBT event. (Screengrab: Twitter/PinkDotSG)

Channel NewsAsia reached out to 14 of the corporate sponsors for official comment, but only three responded.

Barclays and JP Morgan declined to comment, while a Google spokesperson said: “We've been proud supporters of Pink Dot since 2011."

At the same time, Pink Dot said it will be unable to provide further comment beyond the statement it issued on Wednesday morning, in which it said that it has “done all [it] can to ensure Pink Dot SG stays within the law”.

NO ACTION AGAINST FOREIGN CORPORATE SPONSORS: MHA

In response to queries, MHA clarified on Wednesday that "no action will be taken against the foreign corporate sponsors, and the event organisers, in relation to the foreign corporate sponsorships this year”.

MHA did not state what it considers a foreign entity, as well as what laws and regulations these foreign entities would be contravening if they continued to fund and support events at the Speaker's Corner, like Pink Dot. It also did not give guidance on what it had called "controversial social issues that foreigners and/or foreign entities should not attempt to influence".

However the ministry said it "will take further steps, including reviewing the exemption conditions for Speakers’ Corner to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, sponsor, support or influence such events held at the Speakers’ Corner".