Saturday, September 28, 2013

Singapore's very funny laws against demonstrations and protests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For a long time, Singapore did not allow any demonstrations or protests even if peaceful.

The way this was accomplished is by requiring government permits to hold any protest while at the same time denying each and every application that was ever made.

It is therefore impossible to obtain a permit. And if you went ahead and held the protest without it, you will be arrested and it is no good arguing that even if you applied for the permit, they would not have granted it!

A very warped sense of reasoning here, but true. It is like saying you can't go to the movie unless you have a ticket. But then they never sell you the ticket!

As a result of this very convenient game that they play, opposition politician Chee Soon Juan was jailed multiple times for holding peaceful protests. Each time he complained that he did apply for this elusive permit but they never gave it to him!

His argument which was obvious, that it was useless applying for any permit since they were never granted were all peremptorily dismissed by Lee Kuan Yew's Kangaroo judges with eyes conveniently in blinkers. All that they were capable of doing was to parrot the ridiculous excuse ad nausem that since Chee did not have a permit, he was guilty.

I think the Lee Kuan Yew government finally realized that they were looking very silly by demanding permits when they were never granted, and thought of another equally silly plan.

This time they assigned a designated location in the island called Hong Lim Park in Singapore's Chinatown which was to be called Speakers Corner and henceforth limited types of protests or demonstrations would be allowed here without permits.

However the rule requiring permits anywhere else in the island still stood. 

But once again the Singapore government were making themselves look very silly by allowing protests at Speakers Corner, a most ridiculous rule that anyone could imagine as you will see. Speakers Corner is in downtown Singapore, a short distance from the main business center, a mere square of grass and shaded with trees, a location which many never take much notice, except for some office workers who pass by at lunch time. 

Just imagine a case where the workers of Sembawang Shipyard, a location in the north of Singapore island were contemplating protesting against their employer for unfair work practices. Of course the only sensible location at which they should protest is outside their work place, at Sembawang shipyard so that their employers can hear it. But according to Singapore's upside down reasoning, these workers who have a grievance against Sembawang Shipyard are not allowed to hold it there. The only place where they could do it legally is at Hong Lim Park about 15 or 20 miles away in the south of Singapore.

Can anyone tell what in Heaven's is the point of protesting against Sembawang Shipyard at Hong Lim Park 15 mikes away? And even if you did, would any onlooker have the remotest idea as to what you were doing at Hong Lim Park holding banners and placards with the name Sembawang Shipyard?

You don't have to be very smart to realize how stupid this rule is. But very strangely, Singaporeans who have been so thoroughly and successfully put through Lee Kuan Yew's world famous behavior training that their minds are entirely happy with such a rule and there appears to be no complaint whatsoever!

The other very clever trick they have conjured up is the idea of designating areas as "Gazetted Areas". According to their laws, whenever parliament designates locations as "Gazetted Areas" no one should demonstrate or protest there and any violator is promptly arrested.

Very conveniently, the very places where a citizen would want to protest are all conveniently "Gazetted". The vicinity of Lee Kuan Yew's palace at Clemenceau Avenue is gazetted. The outside of Parliament House is gazetted. The ground outside all embassies and consulates are gazetted. The outsides of all police stations are gazetted. In fact all areas where a citizen would most want to protest are all gazetted!

Consider Lee Kuan Yew's palace. If you were a citizen unhappy with the fact that Lee Kuan Yew and his son pay themselves 5 times the salary of the president of the United States and wanted to protest about this, you would probably want to stand outside his palace with a banner and shout "Down Down Thieves and Corrupt Dictators". It of course would make no sense for you to go to Hong Lim Park, miles away from where Lee Kuan Yew lives and shout "Down With The Dictator"! But that is exactly what the Singapore police want you to do!

Similarly if you wanted to protest against the high cost of government housing, your most sensible location would be outside Parliament House. But since Lee Kuan Yew has conveniently gazetted it too, you would be immediately arrested if you stood there. It would be all right if you went some miles away and stood at Hong Lim Park which obviously defeats the purpose.

You can see why Lee Kuan Yew has all these laws against protesting or demonstrating. If he can help it, he doesn't want anyone to protest, period. He is afraid that protests is the first step to toppling him from power. But since in the 21 century if he were to continue denying any form of protest he would be equated with the North Korean ruler Kim. So he does the next best thing. He allows you to do it where no one would ever know you protested.

It is indeed mind boggling that Singaporeans don't seem to mind any of this. In fact Singaporeans are not too keen to demonstrate at all, whether or not it is a gazetted area or whether or not it is Hong Lim Park.

In fact Singaporeans are a unique people. They appear to have no strong opinion about anything worth protesting about, ever.

Have you seen the citizens of London, New York, Jakarta, Athens or Madrid or for that matter anywhere else. The people of Spain are protesting against the austerity measures. So are the Greeks. Some Englishmen have protested to break with the EU. The Indians are protesting about the Kashmir issue. In Jakarta the Islamics are protesting for Sharia. But there is one place in the world where the people have absolutely nothing to protest about. You guessed it right. It is Singapore.

It is a one boring unique place where a person would be prepared to protest at Hong Lim Park 15 miles away from where he should rightfully be protesting, at Sembawang shipyard. It is a place where instead of protesting at Parliament House, you will stand at a location which has nothing to do with your cause at Hong Lim Park.

Singapore is one place in the world where brainwashing is so successfully accomplished that human beings will robot fashion, do anything that is demanded of them by their rulers.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525


Anonymous said...

What can we expect law and rules set by dictator..

Anonymous said...

Continue the good work. Great article.