Faaez Samadi
Oct 24, 2016

Google holds firm as Singapore tightens rules on brand support of festivals

The new rules impact the annual Pink Dot festival, which has enjoyed strong brand support. The Ministry of Home Affairs said foreign brands “should not interfere” in "domestic issues".

Singapore's Pink Dot festival, held at Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park.
Singapore's Pink Dot festival, held at Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park.

SINGAPORE - Foreign brands operating in Singapore that want to support a local event at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, renowned for the annual pro-LGBT Pink Dot festival, will now have to secure a permit under new government rules.

The Ministry of Home Affairs announced the change on Friday, saying it is seeking to return Speakers’ Corner, established in 2000, to being “a space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that concern them”.

Consequently, as of 1 November, foreign entities looking to support an event will need a permit to do so. Furthermore, the exemptions that currently apply to Singaporean citizens over organising or participating in an event at Speakers’ Corner have been extended to Singaporean entities and businesses.

The ministry defined a Singapore entity as being “incorporated or registered in Singapore and controlled by a majority of Singapore citizens”.

The Pink Dot LGBT rally, one of the most popular held at Speakers’ Corner every year, has always been a hot-button issue in Singapore. The event organisers issued a statement saying they were “disappointed” by the ministry’s actions. 

The festival had 18 sponsors this year, most of which were foreign brands including Google, Apple, BP, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Twitter, JP Morgan, Visa and GE. Local companies have typically shied away from associating with the event.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company would continue to support the festival.

“We’ve been proud supporters of Pink Dot since 2011 and we will continue to show our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the statement said. “So we will apply for a permit to support Pink Dot in 2017 if required by this new regulation. We hope that these new rules will not limit public discussion on important issues.”

In its statement explaining the rule change, the ministry said: “The government's position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature. The amendments reinforce the key principle that the Speakers' Corner was set up primarily for Singaporeans.” 

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