Vincent Wijeysingha quitting SDP

Dr Wijeysingha said the discussions that followed his disclosure of his sexual orientation "show there is misunderstanding of these issues, primarily because of lack of mainstream access to appropriate information".

SINGAPORE - Singapore's first openly gay politician is resigning from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and other civil liberties.

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, 43, the party's treasurer, announced his move on his Facebook page on Wesdnesday.

He said the discussions that followed his disclosure last month of his sexual orientation "show there is misunderstanding of these issues, primarily because of lack of mainstream access to appropriate information".

As an SDP member for three years, he was "engaged in social and economic bread-and-butter policy issues", he added.

"But after reflection and consultation with friends and colleagues, I have come to believe that I should participate in the more intangible but no less important work to promote our civil liberties," he wrote.

In an interview with online news site The Independent, he said that if he stayed in party politics, he would focus on mainstream issues, which "could result in the sidelining of marginal concerns such as those faced by the gay community".

When asked by The Straits Times which organisations or platforms he would work with, Dr Wijeysingha said he has "not taken any decisions on future activities".

The SDP said yesterday it was sad and disappointed to see him go, but understood and fully supported his position.

"Our loss is civil society's gain," it said, adding that it had benefited from his intellect.

Dr Wijeysingha joined the SDP in 2011 ahead of the general election, and was part of the team contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. He became party treasurer after the election.

Last month, he posted on Facebook he would attend the annual Pink Dot gay rights event, adding: "And yes, I am gay. PS. And no, I don't have a gay agenda."

The last comment was a reference to a controversy during the GE, when the People's Action Party had highlighted an online video showing him at a forum on gay issues and asked if he or the SDP intended to pursue a gay agenda.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan told The Straits Times it was always the party's intention to field Dr Wijeysingha, a social work lecturer, in the next GE.

When asked whether his departure will affect the party, Dr Chee said its plans for the next GE are to intensify groundwork, offer alternative policies and communicate these well to voters. "To this end, our plans remain unaffected."

Opposition watcher Wong Wee Nam said Dr Wijeysingha quitting politics would be "a great loss" if he no longer contributed to debates on policies and economic issues. But given "the hostility towards him" from conservatives because of his sexual orientation, his move is understandable, said Dr Wong.

"He probably feels he's not going to do SDP any good if he stays on."

janiceh@sph.com.sg


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