Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Singapore government's ban against Workers Party Cyclists.

Straits Times
Aug 28, 2007

Outdoor events by political parties banned

A PERMIT application by the Workers' arty (WP) to hold a cycling event for its 50th anniversary was rejected because political parties are banned from organising outdoor activities.

This is a longstanding position, as outdoor gatherings by parties have the potential to cause a public disturbance, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee yesterday.

He was responding to Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim, who wanted to know why the WP could not get a police permit for a mass cycling event at East Coast Park.

Said Associate Professor Ho: 'The East Coast Park is a recreational park for Singaporeans and their families. It is not meant to be used by a political party to promote its cause. 'Apart from displacing the usual recreational is an open area where there is greater potential for breach of the peace, public disorder and unruly behaviour.'

He said that police required political events to be held indoors or in stadiums where problems could be contained, adding that the WP could consider these venues. The policy applied to all political parties, he said.

To another question from Ms Lim, he said that even if the organisers were well behaved, others there might still cause problems. To laughter, he added: 'Maybe cycle around the stadium.'

Then, WP MP Low Thia Khiang (Hougang) rose to ask why political events in public places were deemed to cause disturbances. He also asked if Prof Ho considered cycling in a stadium a reasonable suggestion, and if the minister could designate a part of East Coast Park for sports by parties, just as Hong Lim Park became designated Speakers' Corner. Just before he sat down, Mr Low remarked: 'Cycling at Hong Lim Park? Don't tell me that, ah.'

To the first question, Prof Ho retorted: 'If you listened very carefully Mr Low, I don't know whether his hearing aid is with him because he wears one, I said there is a greater potential for law and order (problems).

'You may be well-behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid.'


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please refer to the above Straits Times Report of Aug 28, 2007. The Workers Party of Singapore for it's 50th Anniversary requested the Singapore government for a permit to hold a cycling event around East Coast Park, a public park in Singapore.

For those who may be wondering why in Heavens, is a permit required to engage in cycling, a very normal activity; let me remind you again that it is Singapore that we are talking about! That by itself may explain these very strange laws. The laws in Singapore, as you may know by now, may appear very puzzling!

In Singapore, although the Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, in reality it does not exist. And neither does any other freedoms such as free speech or a free press. You may be surprised by my rather peremptory and abrupt statement which may seem shocking to people from other normal democratic countries; but Singapore is neither a normal country nor is it a democracy!

Listen to this. For any outdoor activity of more than 5 people, a permit from the police is required; otherwise it becomes illegal rendering the persons to arrest and imprisonment just as in North Korea and the military junta of Burma.

The following is my observation of the totally unacceptable denial of the people's fundamental right to assembly in Singapore in this case; the case of the aspiring Workers Party cyclists. The Workers' Party's totally legitimate request for a totally harmless activity of merely riding bicycles in a public park, where they should be entitled as of right has been denied. It is quite obvious; the denial was because it is organized by the opposition political party.

The refusal by the government is seen to be for totally improbable ridiculous reasons showing very clearly that this government feels seriously threatened by even the slightest show of opposition to its rule.

In the authoritarian state of Singapore, the law requires a permit for anyone to engage in any public activity such as a peaceful assembly so long as the number in the assembly exceeds five. The reason behind this rule is to prevent the people from taking to the streets in protest against government policies, which the people do regularly in other democratic countries. In Singapore, this government which has ruled Singapore for the last 40 years is perpetually fearful of it's people threatening their rule, and therefore even the slightest attempt by the people to show dissatisfaction results in the government doing everything possible to stop them. As was the case above when the requested permit to hold the cycling event was denied.

What causes ire and indignation is the outrageous nonsensical reasons which Professor Ho gives for the denial of the permits. In making these excuses, he does not appear to care that he not only insults his own intelligence but also that of every Singaporean.

In a democracy, the government has no right, as he very well knows, in stymieing legitimate political activities; they can only do so only if there is in fact an arguable or colorable imminent danger to the public, which by the way has to be based on some reasonable set of facts, before such fundamental democratic rights, such as free speech and assembly are curtailed.

Professor Ho makes the preposterous remark that political parties are banned from conducting outdoor activities, without more, even though the Constitution; as he very well knows, specifically guarantees it. There is no limitation in the constitution restricting political activity indoors. It is not enough for Professor Ho to merely say so. There is absolutely no legal basis for his assertion.

And by the way, just because laws are passed does not mean they all have to be obeyed. A law to be legal and therefore requiring obedience and respect must have some legitimate national interest which one should be able to articulate rationally. There is no rational basis whatsoever for this blanket rule that all political activities should be conducted indoors. Therefore the rule cannot stand and the law is illegal and therefore the rule requiring parties of five or more outdoors should be disobeyed. They deserve no respect whatsoever.

Professor Ho then goes on to say, outdoor political activities have the potential to cause disturbance, a completely hypothetical and imaginary proposition not based on reality at all. There is no evidence here that a few cyclists cycling in the park will invariably or even remotely result in violent unrest.

If this is all Professor Ho can say, then perhaps he should disallow people even talking to each other in public, requiring them all to go out and get permits first! Using Professor Ho’s vivid imagination, which appears to have run riot; is there not a possibility that 2 people talking might be overheard by a passer by, who took offense, retaliated violently, causing a bloody riot to ensue! Using Professor Ho’s reasons, is not talking in public an incendiary activity, which should only be allowed by permit holders. Should it not be banned as well?

For Professor Ho to really ensure that Singapore is at all times safe, and using his vivid imagination, should not haggling in the fish market in Chinatown be allowed only by permit holders? Sometimes the haggling may become heated, tempers may be raised, insults may be hurled, passers by may take offense, and the entire Chinatown may see violent riots as was the case in the French Revolution, and set ablaze! For the real safety of the Professor and his people, should not be haggling in markets therefore be also banned unless the hagglers are successful permit holders?

The Professor says the park is meant to be used only for recreation and not for political parties. Well, we should ask him why that is so or who said so? We always thought that the park is meant for the use of all the people of Singapore including visitors, tourists and political parties alike. And being a public place, it is the preferred location for political activity; since the purpose of political activity is to publicize their message to as wide an audience as possible; therefore what better location can there be other than a public park.

Parks all over the world, such as Hyde Park, London, and every other park in every country in the world is the preferred place for political activity; parks in democratic countries that is. I concede that one cannot hold anti government activity in a park in North Korea or it appears in Singapore as well. And then he says it will displace recreational users of the park as if the park is reserved for recreational use only. The park is there for all, not just for recreation.

And then he says, because there are more people in the park, there is greater danger of a riot if the WP cycled there; but he does not explain why cycling, of all activity, should cause rioting! Simply saying it is not enough. There has to be hard facts. And if there are none, the permit should be granted. And then he said the activity should be held indoors where the problem could be contained. But what problem? Why does he think there is a problem or if there any evidence of it, this Professor of law does not say?

It should be quite clear to anyone why he prefers opposition political activity to be held indoors, since if it is indoors, only a small handful of people will hear the anti PAP message, since the PAP will not allow any public criticism of their unacceptable policies.

As he knows, if it is held outside, the message may spread across the island and the already bad image of the PAP that people presently have will plummet even further.

Among his other intolerable silly excuses is that even if the organizers of the event are peaceful, others may not, and it will, in his opinion invariably lead to civil unrest! He has gone even further and suggested that the WP cycle around the stadium, far away from the Singapore public; in which case none else will hear the message the WP wanted to put out. Very convenient for him and his PAP, but not very convenient for the opposition!

I would simply say this to the WP and every Singaporean. The very rule limiting the numbers in a protest to four or requiring a permit is itself nonsensical and without legal basis. Such a law is plain and simply illegal. The WP should just break it.

Second, as can be seen, the Professor is just wasting everyone's time with this nonsense; based entirely on his imagination alone, to deny permits for legitimate political activity; which by the way, the constitution guarantees.

Like me, if you are outraged with anger and indignation at the temerity of this man, who calls himself a Professor in law to even suggest such nonsense as excuses to refuse a clearly legitimate permit request; then you are entitled to just disregard and break such a law and do what you know to be plainly right.

Again, just because this government which is so fearful of it's people comes up with such downright illegality, which it calls laws, does not make them lawful and should be broken at every opportunity.

Keep in mind that neither Professor Ho nor his police can jail everyone in Singapore. The jails will be full in no time.

We should tell professor Ho that if he wants to be clown, it is up to him. Please do not expect the participation of Singaporeans in the clown show.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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