Repeal 377A advocate's encounter with MP Lee Bee Wah sparks debate on role of Meet-the-People sessions

Should an MP hear out everyone?

Sulaiman Daud | December 04, 2018, 09:51 PM

A first-person account written by a repeal 377A advocate who went to confront PAP MP Lee Bee Wah at her Meet-the-People session has sparked a debate about the role of such meetings in the first place.

What happened

On Dec. 3, Edward Foo wrote about his experience at a Meet-the-People Session (MPS) at Nee Soon South Branch.

Foo is a volunteer with the Ready4Repeal campaign that seeks to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex between men.

As Foo's Member of Parliament for his constituency was Lee Bee Wah, he went to meet her at her Meet-the-People Session (MPS).

He intended to pass along a copy of the petition to repeal 377A, along with 859 names of people in her constituency that signed the petition.


Along with two friends and another resident of the GRC who also volunteers for the campaign, Foo queued up to meet with Lee.

They first met with a letter-writer, who helps MPs to write letters to relevant Ministries to deal with residents' problems. But the group explain that they wanted to meet with Lee in person.

When Lee came over, she said she only wanted to speak to residents of her GRC, and asked Foo's two friends to leave.

The other volunteer who did reside in the GRC was asked to leave and take a separate queue number.

Said Foo:

"The MP then stated that “she thinks she knows what this is about”, as her other MPs have “mentioned this before”.

She waited for all three of my friends to leave, and I was left alone. She then asked me to “say what I wanted to say”.

I then said: “This is regarding section 377a, and I was wondering what your views on this matter are.”

The MP then said: “I have other residents with real problems”, and exited the room."

Foo said he waited with the letter-writer for a while longer, but Lee did not return to speak to him again.

He then tried to pass her the petition, but Lee asked him to pass it to her volunteers instead.

Foo passed it to the letter-writer, and then left the MPS.

You can read his post in full below:

Nee Soon South Branch responded on Facebook

Mothership contacted Lee for comment on this incident from her perspective.

We were directed to a clarification from the Nee Soon South Branch's Facebook page on Dec. 4, which stated the following:

"We were alerted to an online post about individuals who came to our Meet-the-People session last night.

We would like to clarify that both individuals who were residents of the GRC were seen by volunteer letter-writers, just like every other resident. The male resident indicated there was no need to write an appeal letter for him. Our volunteer wrote an appeal letter for the female resident.

MP Er Dr Lee Bee Wah spoke to them briefly and moved on to speak to other residents about their issues."

You can see it below:

Reactions from the ground

Some netizens supported Foo's efforts, on his original Facebook post, and others expressed disappointment with Lee's response:

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook post.

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook post.

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook post.

However, still others chided Foo for wasting Lee's time:

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook post.

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook post.

Screen shot from Edward Foo's Facebook page.

Besides the usual back-and-forth over the 377A repeal, there appears to be a disagreement between netizens on the role of an MP.

Some saw the MP's role, and by extension her MPS, solely for solving "bread-and-butter issues" of her residents.

However, others opined that an MP's role is to listen to the concerns of her residents, despite the issue, and as such she should have spent more time speaking to Foo.

Top image from Edward Foo and Nee Soon Town Council's Facebook page.