Update, 16 June: The Ministry of Home Affairs has rejected the 10 international brands' application to support Pink Dot. A ministry spokesperson reiterated the rule changes on foreign sponsorship.
"Foreign entities which fund, support, or influence the Pink Dot 2017 event constitute a circumvention of the rules. Companies operating in Singapore should abide by our laws,” the spokesperson said. Our original story from yesterday (15 June) follows.
A coalition of some of the biggest international brands operating in Singapore has sent a letter to the Singapore police asking to be allowed to sponsor the country’s annual Pink Dot LGBT festival, despite a change in law effectively preventing foreign-owned companies from doing so.
Following new rules introduced in October last year stating that foreign brands must secure a permit to sponsor the festival, 10 big-name brands put their names to the letter, which Campaign Asia-Pacific has obtained (see below).
The signatories are Google, Facebook, Apple, Salesforce, Airbnb, Uber, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Twitter and Goldman Sachs.
The Singapore government made the rule changes because it said foreign companies "should not interfere in our domestic issues”, and that Pink Dot is a festival for Singaporeans.
This was followed by the news last month that, for the first time since it started in 2009, only Singaporeans and permanent residents will be allowed to attend Pink Dot. Hong Lim Park, where the event takes place, will also be fenced off and feature tighter security.
The Pink Dot festival has always been a controversial event in Singapore, and in the past has been primarily supported by foreign brands. In the letter, the signatories state clearly that they recognise the Singapore government’s position, and have always accepted that Pink Dot is a locally organised event.
“We believe that fostering and encouraging diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but results in greater creativity and innovation,” the letter reads. “We also believe that it is our responsibility as employers and global corporate citizens to ensure our employees, many of whom are Singapore citizens and permanent residents, are kept safe and feel accepted in their respective work environments, regardless of, among other things, race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
The letter asks permission to provide “modest financial and/or in-kind support” for the event, subject to three conditions “in keeping with the spirit of Pink Dot as an event organised by Singaporeans”.
Those conditions are that the companies will not be listed or recognised as event sponsors, their names or logos will not feature in any event materials and that no foreign representatives from any of the brands will speak at the event.
“We believe that with [sic] the foregoing conditions would help dispel the perception, if any, that the event is a product of foreign intervention,” the letter concludes. “We remain hopeful that you would grant us the privilege of supporting the efforts of your citizens and permanent residents in celebrating inclusion, diversity and the freedom to love.”
Moreover, while local companies have typically shied away from associating with Pink Dot, in the face of the rule changes, a collection of Singaporean brands have created ‘Red Dot for Pink Dot’, a movement to have local companies sign on to support the festival in place of the foreign brands that cannot.
Led by Darius Cheung, founder of property website 99.co, the group was specifically formed after the law changes last October, with the intention of signing up 100 Singaporean companies as supporters. To date, the number stands at 119.
“Pink Dot’s aim to promote acceptance of the LGBT community resonates with us from the very foundation of our beliefs," Cheung said. "No one should be denied by society because of who they are.”
The letter obtained by Campaign: