Five things youth should know about PM Lee’s National Day Rally 2022 speech
Section 377A will be repealed, while masks requirements will be eased further, announced PM Lee on Sunday, Aug 21, 2022.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made several announcements in his nationally televised National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21).
Issues raised included repealing the law that criminalises sex between men to bring the law into line with current social mores while still protecting the definition of marriages as well as cost of living.
Here are five key things youth should know about the announcements PM Lee made during his NDR 2022 speech:
Section 377A will be repealed, sex between men will be decriminalised
In making the announcement during his English speech, PM Lee said that it is among the delicate tasks of the Government to update laws and practices from time to time, to reflect evolving social values and norms.
Bringing up the concerns the society has in the treatment of gay people under the law, PM Lee said that Singapore, by and large, is “a traditional society, with conservative social values” that believes that “marriage should be between a man and a woman, children should be born and raised within such families and that traditional family should form the basic building block of our society”.
He added: “However, like every human society, we also have gay people in our midst. They are our fellow Singaporeans, they are our colleagues, our friends, our family members.
“They too want to live their own lives, participate in our community and contribute fully to Singapore.”
Singaporeans will also have to find the right way to reconcile and accommodate both the traditional mores of our society, and the aspiration of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted.
PM Lee added that Minister for Law K Shanmugam and the Attorney General have advised that there is a risk of Section 377A being struck down, on the grounds that it breaches the Equal Protection provision in the Constitution, in future challenges.
Describing it “unwise to ignore the risk and do nothing,” PM Lee added that he believes it is the right thing to do and something that most Singaporeans will now accept.
“This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans,” he said.
Definition of marriage to be protected
While 377A will be repealed, the institution of marriage will be upheld and safeguarded.
This means that marriages in Singapore will remain between a man and a woman.
PM Lee said that most Singaporeans do not want the repeal of 377A to trigger a drastic shift in societal norms across the board. This includes how marriage is defined, what is taught to children in schools, what is shown on free-to-air tv and in cinemas, or what is generally acceptable conduct in public.
“In our engagements and soundings over several months, this has come through clearly. Among those with reservations, some feel strongly about 377A itself,” he said.
“But for most, their main worry is what they feel Section 377A stands for, and what they fear repealing it may quickly lead to. They also worry that this may encourage more aggressive and divisive activism on all sides.
“This is not only the concern of those with religious objections but is shared by many non-religious people. Even many Singaporeans who support repeal want to maintain our current family and social norms.”
He added that many national policies also rely upon the definition of marriage, including public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards, film classification. The Government has “no intention of changing the definition of marriage, nor these policies”.
As such, Singapore will “protect the definition of marriage from being challenged constitutionally in the courts,” said the Prime Minister.
“The legal definition is contained in the Interpretation Act and the Women’s Charter. We have to amend the Constitution to protect it, and we will do so.”
COVID-19 resilience medal for those who directly participated in the fight against the pandemic
A new state award, to be named the COVID-19 resilience medal, will be presented to everyone who participated directly fighting the pandemic.
Those who made exceptional contributions will also receive existing state awards such as the Commendation Medal, the Public Service and the Public Administration Medal.
The awards list will be announced at the end of the year. Ceremonies will be held next year.
Masks requirements to be eased
The Government will ease mask requirements in public. Moving forward, masks will only be required on public transport – where people are in prolonged close contact in a crowded space – and in healthcare settings, like clinics, hospitals, and residential and nursing homes.
Masks will be made optional everywhere else outdoors or indoors. This includes in schools.
The detailed announcement will be made in due time by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce.
“Don’t take your masks off at this very moment,” quipped PM Lee.
Government ready to help if cost of living rises further
PM Lee acknowledged that the issue about cost of living is at “the top of everyone’s minds”.
The Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated the issue of inflation, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government is “doing everything necessary” to support Singaporeans, especially middle- and lower-income families.
Highlighting the cash payouts, rebates under the GST Voucher-U Save scheme and for service and conservancy charges, Community Development Council vouchers and MediSave top-ups, PM Lee said these will lighten some of the burden on Singaporean households.
“If the situation worsens, we stand ready to do more”.
In his Mandarin speech, PM Lee reiterated that the planned GST hike will proceed. Not raising GST would be a “politically expedient move”, but it would be “irresponsible”, he added.
This is because Singapore’s population is ageing rapidly. In eight years’ time, one in four Singaporeans will be 65 years old or older. Singapore must be prepared to take better care of the elderly, and healthcare and social spending is increasing sharply.
“While the people worry about not having enough money to spend, the Government also worries about not having enough money,” PM Lee explained.
“We are concerned about not having enough resources to take care of low-income families and the healthcare needs of our elderly.”
He also added that the Government will continue to provide Singaporeans with support through the Assurance Package after March next year to offset the increase in GST.