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Singapore Literature Prize judges resign in protest over NLB book withdrawal

The three judges said they were resigning given the “close links and associations” between the National Book Development Council, which awards the prizes, and the National Library Board.

SINGAPORE: Three judges of this year’s Singapore Literature Prize have resigned in protest over the National Library Board’s move to withdraw several books in its children’s collection for having homosexual themes.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (July 16), Mr T Sasitharan, head of the Intercultural Theatre Institute, author Romen Bose and Yale-NUS professor Robin Hemley “condemned in the strongest terms” the decision to remove and destroy the books.

“We cannot in good conscience continue as judges for the Singapore Literature Prize (Non-fiction Category) 2014 given the close links and associations that exist between the National Book Development Council Singapore (NBDCS) and the National Library Board,” the statement said.

“The fact that the board has not even considered restricting access to the publications but has moved directly to pulping them is very disconcerting."

The three said NLB’s action was “censorship that has no place in any free and democratic society”, “bigoted and sets a very worrying precedent”, and “unbecoming of an institution entrusted to protect and preserve learning and literature”.

In response, the NBDCS issued a statement saying it regrets the decision of the three judges. However, the council says it wants to clarify its relationship with NLB, and that even though the NLB is a member of the NBDCS, "neither organisation is involved in the day-to-day decision making of the other".

"Apart from sending a representative to the NBDCS annual general meeting, NLB does not play a role in the management of NBDCS," it said.

It will seek to replace the three out of 36 judges who have withdrawn.

The NBDCS's Singapore Literature Prize is a biennial award supported by the National Arts Council, in which 12 writers across all four national languages can be awarded up to S$10,000 for their work.

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