Monday, May 18, 2009

LHZB interview special with Dr. Thio Su Mien – Part II

She originally did not want this interview to be published

This interview with Dr. Thio almost did not get published.

Although she readily agreed to be interviewed one week ago, Dr. Thio later wanted to prevent this interview from being published.

As one of the central figures in the AWARE saga, Dr. Thio felt that Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng’s statement about the government stance on the AWARE saga and call for individual religious groups and secular organisations to be tolerant and exercise restraint already provided a very good conclusion to the AWARE saga. Thus, she did not want this interview to be published lest it stirs up emotions or polarise society.

Eventually, Dr. Thio was convinced to allow this interview to be published. This was because she knew that the focus of this interview will be the family values she espouses. As she said, one week ago, when she agreed to be interviewed: “If you all want to find out my views on family and values, then we may talk. But if you all want to talk about the AWARE saga, then forget about it”.

The interview was conducted at a restaurant in the Botanical Gardens. The day before the interview (6/5/2009), Dr. Thio attended the 150th anniversary dinner and dialogue session with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew organised by the Botanical Gardens; amazed by the beauty of the Botanical Gardens, Dr. Thio wanted us journalists to also experience it.

Dressed in a purple floral top and a long skirt, Dr. Thio looked markedly different and softer from how she looked like during the AWARE saga – serious and dressed in proper business attire. Without wasting any time, Dr. Thio proceeded to, through sharing one story after another, express her staunch belief in the core family values which she seeks to protect.

The first story was the “Chicken Egg” story, a story her daughter, Ms Thio Li-Ann, in conjunction with Mothers’ Day, wrote in The New Paper to express her gratitude towards Dr. Thio.

With regards to this story, Dr. Thio said: “I was in disrepute after the AWARE saga, thus I was very moved by Li-Ann’s use of this story to express her respect and support for me; it also shows that she still remembers the meaning behind the story”.

After the end of World War Two, Dr. Thio, who was then only 7 years of age, was visiting her grandmother’s hometown in Fujian along with her parents and siblings. Her relatives there, although they were very poor, will always present Dr. Thio and her family with a big bowl of noodles with an omelette placed on top. Seeing this, Dr. Thio’s father will remind her and her siblings to finish the noodles as although her relatives were poor, they offered them the best. This childhood lesson about respecting others that Dr. Thio’s father imparted to her was a memorable one to Dr. Thio which she later imparted to her own children.

Dr. Thio said: “My parents each had their own personalities and strengths and it was them who provided me with an environment that shaped my character and value system. Hence, I firmly believe that every child should be able to live and grow up in a family with full parental support. A family headed by a same-sex couple will find it difficult to provide children with a conducive environment to best grow up in”.

For the past 10 years and more, Dr. Thio has been involved in church counselling work and once, a father lamented to her that it is most unfortunate that a small golfing ball can alienate a father from his family. This lamentation by this father also illustrated to Dr. Thio the importance that parents have in their children’s lives and education.

“When my children were about 2 to 3 years old, my husband gave me a set of golfing equipment. I went to play a few rounds of golf but I realised that I was neglecting my children. Thus, I decided to throw the golfing equipment into the storeroom and brought my children out for swimming. In the years which I have been doing family counselling, I have also been encouraging parents to bring their children for swimming or cycling to strengthen the bonds between them and their children; don’t play golf. When it comes to discerning what is truly important, we often make mistakes”.

Witnessing the trends and changes in Europe and North America with regards to the family and gender relations, Dr. Thio was more convinced of the paramount importance of family education and that many societies, including Singapore, are facing challenges to their value systems.

Dr. Thio is especially worried about the erosion of values by a movement, originating in the West, that is challenging people’s belief in the family. And this movement, according to Dr. Thio, aims to “basically redefine the meaning of marriage, to redefine marriage as not only belonging to couples of different sexes but also to same-sex couples. This movement aims to legalise same-sex marriage and to redefine the traditional concept of the family”.

“This is a movement which constantly appeals to people to support it. You can recognise its existence but you cannot allow it to become part of the mainstream. Schools should have sex education but this should be done appropriately to preserve our core values about the family”.

And encouraging eligible women to serve and contribute to society is one way that Dr. Thio has been using to preserve the core values of Singaporean society. As the mentor of Ms Josie Lau and others, she often “nags” at them to be more concerned about society at large and “not to be only interested in fashion and handbags”.

This is basically why she encouraged them to join AWARE.

“We cannot depend on the schools and the government for everything. We all understand the need to seriously learn how to be good reporters and lawyers but this is not the case when it comes to learning how to be a good parent. If parents are only concerned about their children’ academic grades and leave the rest to maids and society to handle, the family and society will collapse”.

In an interview that spanned 2 hours, two-thirds of the time was spent on discussing the importance of maintaining core values. As the interview came to an end, Dr. Thio said to us journalists: “If I had known you all earlier, I would perhaps also encouraged you all to join AWARE”.

[note: the journalists interviewing Dr. Thio are both women]

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