Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner has seen some momentous events being held – public transport fares protest, a gathering of a thousand minibonds investors who lost their investments in the toxic financial products, a record-breaking 5,000-strong crowd at last year’s May Day protest.
But none of these will have the significance which the next event at Hong Lim Park will have tomorrow, 7 June.
The event, named #ReturnOurCPF, is being organised by Ms Han Hui Hui and Mr Leong Sze Hian.
The speakers for the event include former presidential candidate, Tan Kin Lian; secretary general of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam; and blogger Roy Ngerng, who has been in the spotlight the past two weeks, since being served with a legal letter of demand from the Prime Minister for a blog post he had published.
Dr Chee Soon Juan, who is currently overseas, will also be contributing a speech at the event which will be read out on his behalf.
The event, as its name suggests, is to demand the return of Singaporeans’ CPF savings when they reach 55.
According to Mr Leong, the organisers were only planning for a crowd of 250 originally. But this all changed when Mr Ngerng, who was also to be part of the organising team, was sued by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
The spotlight on the case in the past two weeks elevated Saturday’s event and generated added interest, especially when Mr Ngerng asked the public to donate to his legal defence fund, which he had put at S$70,000.
The sum was raised in 4 days through small contributions from the man in the street. It was unprecedented occurrence and was a huge embarrassment to the prime minister.
More than 1,000 people have indicated that they will be there at Hong Lim Park tomorrow to lend their support to the call.
The event has thus taken on a significance which its organisers had not expected or anticipated.
It has become a rallying point for Singaporeans who are upset with what they say is the opaque way the Government is locking up their CPF savings.
But putting such a high profile event together has not been without obstacles.
“3 days before the protest,” Mr Leong wrote on his blog, “all hell really broke loose – the company that had agreed to put up the stage (someone called to sponsor the stage but wants to remain anonymous) called to cancel because they would have no business for the national day celebrations (2 months from now!).”
“Roy received a call that he cannot have donation boxes (as Roy was no longer one of the organisers – he conveyed the message to Han Hui Hui).”
Ms Han also revealed that the police have told the speakers for the event “not to paste posters in public” and also “not to put up donation boxes to ask for donations.”
“The authorities didn’t actually contact me regarding the event,” Ms Han told The Online Citizen (TOC), “but contractors cancelled the bookings of [the] stage at the very last minute so as to be able to take up RCs contracts.” She is referring to the grassroots Residents’ Committees which are run by the People’s Association (PA) which in turn is headed by PM Lee.
Members of the public, nonetheless, are not deterred and have taken it upon themselves to express support in their own way. Some, however, have also met with obstacles – such as Mr John Loh.
Mr Loh had apparently wanted to have a banner printed for Saturday’s event.
“We ask 2 printers to print the banner ‘RETURN OUR CPF’,” Mr Loh posted on his Facebook page. “They said these words are sensitive, [and they] cannot print. One of the staff asked, ‘You are organising this at Hong Lim Park – you are not afraid?”
“This is year 2014, if we are still afraid we should remain as obedient slaves,” Mr Loh said. “CPF is our money, we have the right to ask for [it to be returned].”
This spontaneous show of support for the event “is already a runaway success” to Mr Leong.
“Singapore has never seen so many Singaporeans doing so many things on their own, in relation to a Speakers Corner protest event,” he told TOC.
The details of the event are as follows:
Venue: Speakers’ Corner [Hong Lim Park]
Time: 4pm to 7pm
4.00pm – 4.15pm Mr. Tan Kin Lian, presidential candidate
4.15pm – 4.30pm RP’s stand by Kenneth Jeyaretnam
4.30pm – 4.45pm SDP’s message by Ariffin Sha
4.45pm – 5.00pm Mr. Leong Sze Hian
5.00pm – 5.15pm Ms. Han Hui Hui, activist
5.15pm – 5.30pm Mr. Roy Ngerng, blogger
5.30pm – 6.00pm Questions & Answers