The following is a letter to the Today newspaper and was published in its online version on 31 July. See here.
Leong Sze Hian
I refer to media reports that the police have installed closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) at Hong Lim Park.
I have spoken four times at Speakers’ Corner since it was further liberalised last September, on public transport, minibonds, the HDB and unemployment.
One of the main reasons why I spoke, was because I was encouraged by the Home Minister, Mr Wong Kan Seng’s remarks in Parliament that the police have better things to do then to do recordings at Speakers’ Corner.
I also felt that I was doing my part as an ordinary citizen, in answering the Government’s call for more Singaporeans to speak out on issues that affect Singaporeans.
If there had been CCTVs, would I have registered to speak?
I think some Singaporeans may be intimitated by the CCTVs from speaking, or even going to listen.This may be a step backwards in Singapore’s opening up to get more citizen involvement and debate on policies and issues.
I was in London’s Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner last week, which our Speakers’ Corner is modelled after. (Hyde Park – picture, right).
It was vibrant with many speakers and large audiences everyday.
In contrast, ours have few if not no speakers on most days, and often with hardly any audience. Hence, these CCTVs may result in even less usage of Speakers’ Corner.
As to the reason given that the CCTVs are for “safety and security” and “as part of an ongoing initiative to enhance security in the neighbourhoods, police have been expanding CCTV coverage to other parts of the island, including Hong Lim Park”, I would like to ask which other public parks have CCTVs?
Has there ever been any crime or disturbance at Hong Lim Park in the past, given that there was a police post on the site?
Perhaps the CCTVs installation could be reconsidered, as I think ultimately it may be the perception of Singaporeans that may prevail over the good intentions of the police.
It may also not bode well for Singapore’s reputation in the world as a democracy, given former NMP Siew Kum Hong’s remarks that “the move may feed the perception in some quarters that Singapore is a police state.
“Even in the cyberage, some things don’t change” – Andrew Loh