The ban on demonstrations have been lifted and now you are free to speak your will, but only at the Speakers’ Corner. You can speak about almost everything except issues on races and religion and you no longer have to report to the nearer police post to register with your NRIC. In fact, if you wish to speak, all you have to do is to register online, although the URL isn’t explicitly given. It should, however, be under the Online Services on the main page of the NParks website.

Loud hailers are also permitted at the Speakers’ Corner, although there’s a time restriction on the actual usage. It was also mentioned that the Speakers’ Corner, located at Hong Lim Park, will be patrolled by any other police officer just like any other parks. There will not be special attention given to the speakers at the park although, after some prior knowledge, I am not sure if plain clothes police officers will be recording everything down on video so that they can determine if there was any violence, or if there were any racists or anti-religious statements made.

Ever since the Speakers’ Corner was opened up for people to speak in 2001, it had been under utilized because the process to register for it was deemed too "big-brother-ish". Not only did potential speakers need to apply at the nearby police post, but they were banned from using microphones and loud hailers. 8 years down the road, the government probably decided to be more relaxed because they probably felt that there was an increasing pressure for the people to speak up.

Well, I am not sure how things will turn out, but I am quite sure that the response to this will still be a little lukewarm. Let me also end off this post by presenting one of the short videos (actually more of audio) that I found from You Tube. This is definitely something that will not be allowed at the Speakers’ Corner, so don’t even think about trying it.

Article:

Ban on outdoor demos eased from Monday

Groups can gather at Speakers’ Corner, but race and religion are out

By Sue-Ann Chia , POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT

SINGAPORE’S political liberalisation takes a small step forward with outdoor demonstrations being permitted at Speakers’ Corner from Monday.

Its evolution into a protest park comes eight years after the site at Hong Lim was first designated a national soapbox.

Releasing details yesterday, officers from the Police and the National Parks Board (NParks) held out the promise of less regulation and monitoring.

For a start, NParks will take over the administration of the venue from the Police. Demonstrators need not pre-apply at the Kreta Ayer Police Post as is the case now for speakers. They need only to register online at the NParks website, similar to applying for barbecue pits in public parks. This can be done from Saturday.

While they need to state the topic of their demonstration, NParks chief operating officer Leong Chee Chiew gave the assurance that there would be no prior screening. ‘We are not going to go through and screen…what you say and want to speak on,’ he said.

The liberalisation however comes with caveats: Race and religion issues are out of bounds, as are lewd or violent visuals.

Foreigners will be barred from organising or participating in protests, unless they have obtained a permit from the police in advance. They can however be passive spectators.

The current rule limiting activities at the park from 7am to 7pm will be lifted; demonstrations can be held round the clock. Loudhailers, however, will be allowed only from 9am to 10.30pm.

There will be no limit on the number of demonstrations on any one day, as long as they are contained within the park which can hold between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

This means two opposing groups could face off at the park. ‘People will need to learn to co-exist,’ said Dr Leong. ‘If the authorities need to decide, it defeats the purpose of having a more open system.’

Can demonstrators burn effigies of political leaders? His reply: ‘We are not pre-judging anything. Just please, in burning the effigies, don’t burn down our trees and shrubs.’

The Police will patrol the park in the same way they do any other area, but will take a hands-off approach.

‘There will be no conscious monitoring,’ said Mr Wong Hong Kuan, the Police Force’s director of operations. It will investigate only if it receives public complaints.

He said that since Speakers’ Corner was set up in 2000, there have been no major law and order issues there.

So far, there have been 2,144 registrations and 508 occasions of people speaking.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first broke the news of the impending relaxation in his National Day Rally address two Sundays ago.

Yesterday, reactions to the news ranged from a lackadaisical ‘It’s no big deal’ to doubt that Singaporeans were ready for demonstrations, even in a controlled environment.

‘Maybe we need to go through a course, Public Demonstration 101,’ said Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of the maid welfare advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

Think Centre president Sinapan Samydorai said: ‘It’s good to see Singapore opening up, even if people will remain sceptical about what they see as small changes.’

sueann@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_271842.html

Article extracted on 26th August 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. joehancl | August 26th, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    “Ban lifted; now you can talk all you want… almost”

    That will be the day, my friend. He is just blowing in the wind with DADDY watching over him. I bet you when the wind Blows strong his breath will be taken away.

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