Last edited: December 11, 2004

Snowball Crushed

Yawning Bread, December 9, 2004

It was on the TV news, for goodness sake.

Channel News Asia announced last night (8 December 2004) that the police had refused an entertainment licence for Snowball 04, which had been planned for Christmas Day. This dance party was to have been the third in an annual series.

Snowball 04, like Nation 04, is organised by Fridae, a gay and lesbian portal.

Snowball was originally one of a set of three events. On the 26th of December, Meltdown, another dance party was planned for China Black. Furthermore, I recall hearing about Swell, an all-gay cruise to nowhere and a recovery party pencilled in for the days after Meltdown.

Somehow, Swell had disappeared from the Fridae site by the time the police rejection issue flared up so I don’t know what happened to it. One of my employees said it had earlier been cancelled due to poor sales. True or not, I don’t know.

As for the 26th December Meltdown, the venue, China Black, has its own entertainment licence, and thus is not the subject of the rejection discussed here. However, there will be spillover effects since it is a conjoined party with Snowball. We shall have to see if Meltdown can survive Snowball’s meltdown.

Actually, it’s more a case of Snowball’s crushing. The violence is unprecedented.

It was on the news (and in the Straits Times and ‘Today’ the morning after) because the police had issued a lengthy press statement. This is very significant.

The police do not normally issue a press statement each time they make a decision on an entertainment licence application. They handle so many every month. In this case, either they expected Fridae to publicise their grievance, and thus the police felt they should fire a pre-emptive shot, or the authorities wanted to use this to make a broader point about gay space in Singapore. Quite possibly, both these motivations applied.

Fridae immediately wrote an appeal letter, but I would think the chances of reversing this decision poor. It is likely that the police licensing unit referred the matter quite high up before they made the decision, and almost certainly consulted superiors before making the additional decision to issue a press release.

The very act of making the decision so public has the effect of casting it in steel—impossible to change without loss of face.

Next, here is the full text of the Police News Release. Below that is my commentary.

Approved Press Statement on the Rejection of Snowball.04 Application - December 8, 2004

The statement is relatively long, and it does give the impression that they doth protest too much. They seem to be trying very hard to make their case, which suggests that they know (at least subconsciously) that they have no case.

Stripping it down to the essentials, the statement said that Snowball 04 is a gay party, and because it is a gay party, it’s no go.

Thus its significance is much, much broader than Snowball. It is marking out a policy that the police will not approve any events that are predominantly gay. But then, as my friend Sal asked, what about pubs and bars that serve a predominantly gay clientele? They too have similar entertainment licences.

In a sense, it was foreshadowed by the bans on gay forums which also required a police entertainment licence. See My forum was banned and Another gay forum banned. But these were talk-fests which nobody saw any connection with mindless partying. Snowball’s precedents were the Nation and other parties organised by Fridae over the last 4 years, which all had police permits.

The police, in their statement, alluded to how the organisers had denied that they were organising a gay party, hinting at bad faith on the part of Fridae. And then they cited observations (a) to (d) to prove that these were in fact gay parties, at the same time trying to give the impression that it was only this year, they discovered so.

Stuart Koe, writing as guapochino in the Fridae web forum pointed out how disingenuous this was. He said in a posting 9 December,

The police have always known our parties are gay. They’ve been present at every single event since our very first Nation. They KNOW we are a gay company, and we have never made any pretense.

However, in the interest of public appearances, they have requested that Fridae make a statement that our events are not gay events. We rejected that request, and instead issued a more inclusive statement, saying that we welcome all, gay AND straight (in that order).

But make no mistake. Our disclosure to the police have always been complete.

Stuart’s explanation throws some interesting light on the matter. When the parties were not big and had little publicity outside gay channels, the police could afford to look the other way. But after talk about these parties got into the Straits Times last year, and despite this year’s gag on the local media, more features on these parties got into the foreign media (but circulating in Singapore) such as the Far Eastern Economic Review (see FEER: Gay Asia cover story ) the authorities’ hypocrisy was exposed. So the government scrambled to do what they felt their constituency wanted them to do [1]. Snowball had to be crushed and a blanket ban had to be signalled, in order to defend their Confucianist credentials.

In fact, their underlying tendencies are not Confucianist, but screaming-banshee speaking-in-tongues fundamentalist Christian. Just one phrase tells you this: “gay tendencies”—first sentence, last paragraph. Who the fuck uses terms like “gay tendencies” except the Christian rightwing?

This shows you how worm-infested our government is by religion-motivated extremists.

Just about everyone will have noticed the statement’s disclaimer about non-discrimination and how falsely it rings. The very act of banning Snowball simply because it is a gay party and the threat to ban all future gay events cannot be anything but a discriminatory act.

Simply saying “do not discriminate” does not wash.

Is the police so lacking in IQ that they think otherwise? Or are they so contemptuous of Singaporeans that they think people will swallow such illogic?


  1. What we have in Singapore is an acute contradiction. This is a government whose stated goals are modernisation and globalisation, and who realise that these involve almost a continuing revolution. Yet they believe their base of support comes from (and should come from) folks who are rigid, religious and reactionary. They then spend a lot of effort alienating the liberals and modernisers in our population, and caving in every now and then to the backward classes. Having created such an impossible situation, they are reduced to trying to achieve change and progress by stealth... a big article about this has been brewing for some time in my mind. Coming soon...

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