Lobbyists' efforts for change chronicled

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The Art Of Advocacy In Singapore was launched at literary festival yesterday

In the past, the bodies of Aids sufferers had to be cremated within 24 hours of dying and their families were denied a proper send-off.

For four years, the Action for Aids group lobbied against this rule, succeeding finally in 2000.

The policy was among several changed following the work of activists who spent years championing the rights of marginalised groups and causes.

Highlights from the journeys of 37 activists have been chronicled in a new 344-page book, The Art Of Advocacy In Singapore, launched at the Singapore Writers Festival yesterday.

It is aimed at the layman and traces the development of civil society across issues and topics such as ageing, animal welfare, culture and faith, health, heritage and the environment, human rights, literature and theatre, the media, migrant workers, sex workers and women.

One chapter by conservationists Ho Hua Chew and Shawn Lum chronicles how Chek Jawa, an inter-tidal habitat on Pulau Ubin initially slated for reclamation for military use, was saved when the development plan was shelved days before its implementation.


A vociferous campaign emphasising the area's unique biodiversity and ecological importance, supported by reports, experts and the public, secured its future, they wrote.

The book also includes personal pieces by activists such as Kirsten Han and Damien Chng, who are working for the abolition of the death penalty, among other things.

During a discussion at the launch, attended by about 150 people, an attendee asked if activists merely build awareness and wait on the Government to achieve change.

In response, activists and panellists said they are always trying to move the needle.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Nominated MP and Drama Box artistic director Kok Heng Leun, who contributed to the book, said: "Activists represent people and causes that are not necessarily mainstream but still important as they affect certain segments of society."