From Channel NewsAsia.
SINGAPORE : There is no change to the government’s position on political parties organising outdoor activities. Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee made this clear in Parliament on Tuesday.
He was responding to a query from Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim on the basis for which a permit was given for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to participate in a recent cycling activity at West Coast Park.
Associate Professor Ho explained that the event was a family carnival organised by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), a charity with a social mission.
He said: “While it is affiliated to the PAP, the PCF has remained completely non-political since its set-up in 1986.
“The authorities considered the Family Day setting and community service focus of the event, as well as the status of PCF as a registered charity, and did not object to the event, as the policy of disallowing outdoor political events did not apply in this situation.”
Continuing the debate, Nominated MP Eunice Olsen pointed out that in August last year, Associate Professor Ho had said that law and order issues could arise when members of the public engage politicians at such events. She asked if the same risks applied at the event organised by the PCF.
Associate Professor Ho disagreed, saying this was different from a political party organising an event under its own banner.
He added that the PCF has a track record of not engaging in politics and is simply on the ground doing good for kindergartens and the less fortunate. – CNA/ms
The full transcript of Minister Ho’s answer in Parliament can be found here on the MHA website. We reproduce it below:
Oral Answer to Parliamentary Questions on PCF event at West Coast Park on 31 Aug 08, 16 September 2008
Ms Sylvia Lim:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs what is the basis upon which a permit was given to enable the Prime Minister to participate in a cycling activity in West Coast Park on 31 August 2008.
Mr Siew Kum Hong:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs whether there has been any change in the rules and considerations governing the organisation of outdoor events by political parties and organisations affiliated with political parties.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, Associate Prof Ho Peng Kee :
The issue of political parties organising outdoor activities has been raised several times before in this House. The position remains unchanged. Police will not grant permits for outdoor political events.
Police’s position on outdoor political events is due to the assessed potential for public disorder which politically driven events can lead to, even when this is not intended by the organiser. We have seen ample evidence of this in countries where peaceful gatherings and marches have led to street fights and even riots.
Apart from this restriction, political events can be freely held indoors. Since 2004, there is no need to apply for a Police permit for indoor political speeches if it involves only Singaporeans. In addition, with effect from 1 Sep this year, political parties may now organise outdoor political events and demonstrations at the Speakers’ Corner without a permit. Citizens too may organise demonstrations including political ones at Speakers’ Corner without having to obtain a police permit.
Ms Sylvia Lim asks for the basis for Police to grant a permit that enabled the Prime Minister to participate in a cycling activity in West Coast Park on 31 Aug 2008.
Let me first clarify that it was not a cycling event but a Family Day Carnival. The only cycling was when the Prime Minister and the other special guests made their entrance by cycling a short distance from where the Prime Minister had alighted from his car to the stage. Secondly, it was not organized by a political party but by a registered charity.
The Carnival was organised by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) for the children and families of PCF kindergartens and childcare centres. The PCF is a registered charity with a social mission. While it is affiliated to the PAP, the PCF has remained completely non-political since its setup in 1986, running kindergartens, child care, student care and aged care centres, charging very reasonable fees. It also offers community health screening with other providers and raises funds for charitable causes. I understand that at the PCF Carnival, a sum of S$664,000 was distributed to 17 welfare organisations by PM.
The authorities considered the family day setting and community service focus of the event as well as the status of PCF as a registered charity and did not object to the event as the policy of disallowing outdoor political events did not apply in this situation.