Why a referendum wasn’t held for repeal of S377A, as explained by DPM Wong


Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong spoke to CNA on Aug 22 on various matters pertaining to the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code.

When asked why not hold a referendum on the repeal of 377A, DPM Wong explained that the Constitution states that a referendum is required only when sovereignty is at stake and that a referendum may no necessarily provide resolution.

Read on for his full answer:

“The Constitution states that a referendum is required only when sovereignty is at stake. And as all of us know, in Singapore’s history, we’ve only had a referendum once – in the merger with Malaya. So the bar for referendum is set very high. And repealing 377A is very far from reaching this bar because we are repealing a law which the courts have already said we cannot enforce. Even as we go about repealing the law, we are taking steps to ensure that the current family and social norms do not change. We are taking further steps to make sure that this repeal does not trigger further societal changes. So we believe this certainly does not meet the bar for a referendum.

In any case, for those who think that having a referendum will provide resolution and make things better, that may not necessarily happen. In fact, it may well have the opposite effect because you can just look at what other countries have done in holding referendums on sensitive issues. Take the example of Brexit or the Scottish independence in the UK. Far from resolving the issue, finding closure and moving forward, these referendums have deepened divisions in their societies.”

Cover photo credit: CNA Youtube