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MFA reminds US embassy 'not to interfere' with domestic matters following webinar with LGBT organisation

MFA reminds US embassy 'not to interfere' with domestic matters following webinar with LGBT organisation

A rainbow flag flies with a flag of the United States outside the US embassy in Singapore to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Screengrab: Facebook/U.S. Embassy Singapore)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (May 19) has reminded the United States embassy in Singapore that foreign missions here "are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters".

This includes issues such as "how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy", it added.

The MFA issued the statement in response to a webinar the US embassy had co-hosted with local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) non-profit organisation Oogachaga on Monday.

“MFA has reminded the US Embassy that foreign missions here are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy,” said the ministry.

“These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide.”

Founded in 1999, Oogachaga describes itself on its website as “a community-based, non-profit, professional organisation working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals, couples and families”.

According to the website May17.org, an invitation-only webinar titled The Economic Case for LGBT Equality: Exploring Global Trends with Professor Lee Badgett was co-organised by Oogachaga and the US embassy in Singapore on Monday evening.

“Professor Lee Badgett teaches Economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a renowned author and speaker on the economic impact of LGBTQI+ equality,” the website says.

In response to CNA's query, a spokesperson from the US embassy in Singapore said that "the United States promotes the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons worldwide".

"The US embassy regularly works with civil society partners on a wide range of issues to build awareness and advance the human rights of all persons," the spokesperson said.

"The May 17 webinar marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and focused on the economic advantages of LGBTQI+ equality and inclusion around the world."

In response to CNA's queries, Oogachaga's executive director Leow Yangfa ​​​​​​​said they noted MFA's statement "with surprise".

Mr Leow added that the webinar was held to mark the publication of Prof Badgett's book.

"It involved an academic discussion on Prof Badgett's book and published research on the economic cost of LGBT discrimination around the world, including US, Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, India, China and Singapore," he said.

"None of the speakers discussed how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy.

"The event was invitation-only, and moderated by an Oogachaga volunteer, a Singapore citizen who reminded multi-national corporations to consult with local community organisations and to always abide by the laws of the territories in which they operate, especially in Singapore."

He also said that no financial remuneration was received from the US government for the conduct of the event and that invitations were extended to officers from MFA and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

"At least two MSF officers were in the audience," Mr Leow said.​​​​​​

Source: CNA/kg(ta)

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