Migrant worker NGOs’ appeal against rejection for vehicle procession

Mr K Shanmugam

Minister for Home Affairs and Law

New Phoenix Park

28 Irrawaddy Road

Singapore 329560

Dear Mr Shanmugam,

Permit Application Nos PP/20101125/003 and PP/20101128/001 Pursuant to Section 6 of the Public Order Act 2009 - An Appeal under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 2009

We write to express our regret that the above applications for permits to conduct a vehicle procession and to distribute flyers on Saturday 18th December have been rejected. These activities are to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families which falls on 18th December.

Migrant workers who are transported in the open decks of lorries are vulnerable to traffic accidents which may lead to injury and even death. Such tragedies have been widely reported in the media and discussed in Parliament. To raise awareness of the danger of workers being transported in this way, we had proposed to drive a lorry around selected areas in Singapore with the banners ‘Migrant Workers are Humans, not Cargo’ and ‘Ratify the Migrant Workers Convention.’

To raise awareness of the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, we had also planned a separate activity to distribute flyers to members of the public. Samples of the flyers can be found in the email attachment. (see below - Ed) 20 volunteers who will be dressed in construction work outfits such as helmets and boots, or wearing domestic work outfits such as kitchen aprons with the slogan ‘Respect the Rights of Migrant Workers’ emblazoned on them, will be grouped in pairs to distribute the materials and will not be holding any banners or placards.

We would like to appeal against the decision for the following reasons:

  1. Our activities are public education initiatives, which are in line with the stated objectives of our Registry of Societies-approved constitutions, which is to raise awareness of the need to protect migrant workers under Singapore’s existing laws. We have included in the appendix the content which will be printed on our flyers. These messages are focused on promoting a humanitarian cause and contain no political, racial, or religious content.
  2. There is no risk of disorder in our flyer distribution activity since there are only 20 volunteers involved and they will be grouped in pairs and spread out over different areas in Singapore. The volunteers will not be initiating or taking part in a march. Details of our locations where our volunteers will be based when distributing flyers and the approximate time they will be there were indicated in our application and in a subsequent email correspondence with a police officer.
  3. Our procession consisting of one lorry which is on the move will not lead to a gathering crowd or cause public disorder. We had also indicated the route which our lorry will be travelling in our initial application and in a subsequent email correspondence with a police officer.
  4. The cause we are supporting and raising awareness of is in line with government policy to increase the number of migrant workers in Singapore and also to improve their conditions and safety.
  5. The Prime Minister, in his National Day Rally Speech this year, supported the view that Singapore must be made more attractive to migrant workers and that public policy should address barriers to their security and integration.

In 2009, a similar worker’s rights gathering (May Day Solidarity Walk) by the tripartite partners, on a much larger scale involving thousands of people, was allowed by the police. We therefore fail to understand why our modest activity has been prohibited. Similarly, in March 2008, the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) held a nationwide event entitled ‘Walk with CASE’ to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day. The Minister of Health, Mr Khaw Boon Wan was the guest-of-honour at that event. It was also not prohibited.

It is also important to note that there are many not-for-profit organisations and religious groups who gather to canvass support for their cause or their beliefs. These may be large scale events or small scale activities involving only a few people distributing flyers, such as ours. Furthermore, flyers are distributed daily up and down the island by property agents and other commercial entities. We believe that the police have not disallowed those events from taking place and know of no incident where these have been proscribed.

Our activities are in line with national interests and do not pose a threat to public disorder. Migrant workers play a significant role in Singapore’s economic development and our proposed activities are meant to acknowledge, recognise and raise awareness of their contributions, and the problems they face when they are in Singapore.

We hope that the Police will reconsider its decision.

Yours sincerely,

Bridget Tan

President

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics

John Gee

President

Transient Workers Count Too

cc. CP Ng Joo Hee

Commissioner of Police

New Phoenix Park

28 Irrawaddy Road

Singapore 329560

Page one of the flyer that was meant to be distributed

Page two of the flyer that was meant to be distributed

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