First things first.
I am appalled at the behaviour of Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui and their supporters who marched right into a charity event where special needs children, disabled children and the elderly were present.
And also, for those who might be wondering, I also find it questionable to heckle a minister during a charity event where he is guest of honour.
But let’s get one thing right – Roy and company did not heckle the children.
This is quite clear from the videos that have emerged online.
Let me repeat: there is no evidence so far that the protesting group had heckled the children who were on stage, getting ready to perform, as the protesters marched past the stage.
So, ministers such as Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin, who described the alleged heckling as “vile”, should be criticised for not ascertaining the facts before speaking or making such allegations.
And all the other ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) who have jumped blindly onto the bandwagon and raised hell over the alleged “heckling” incident ought to be ashamed too.
We would expect that public officials would ascertain the facts before casting labels or accusations on others.
It really should concern us Singaporeans if our public officials behave in such a manner when it is they whom we would look to in exactly such situations for clarity, impartiality and mediation.
But alas, they seem to be the last people we should turn to.
Next, there are also those who have described the protesters as “anarchists”.
It is an astounding allegation devoid of any sense of rationality, or even understanding of what anarchism means.
If the protesters at Hong Lim Park were “anarchists”, then what would that make the student protesters in Hong Kong who just held a widespread protest against the Chinese government? Terrorists?
This article makes the writer look like a very ill-informed writer.
Pray tell, how does one become an “anarchist” by following rules and regulations of a state-sanctioned venue for protest, protesting in accordance with the law, and even having registered with the authorities, and obtaining the authorities’ approval for the protest?
What? Anarchy sanctioned by the state?
Let’s not confuse bad behaviour with anarchism.
The two are worlds apart.
Matters are not helped if we go to extremes and give in to emotions and make extraordinary claims or accusations at others without thinking through the very words one is using.
There was no heckling directed at the children.
There were no anarchists present on Saturday.
What was present was a whole bunch of immaturity in handling a situation – from NParks to the police, to the protest organisers themselves.
Let me be frank here – the police should stop shoving video cameras into the faces of people who are using the park legally.
I have seen for myself how intimidating this behaviour by the police can be – as happened in May 2013. (See here: “Dear police, keep the cameras to yourself”)
It is appalling and unnecessary.
In the article linked above, all that poet-playwright Alfian Sa’at did was to be a speaker at a Hong Lim Park event – but a police crew, evidently and specially assigned to tail him the entire evening – had a video camera trained on him throughout the whole evening.
Why was this necessary?
How often have the police done this at a Government or a Government-affiliated or a PAP event?
Stop this sort of nonsense.
The same thing happened at Hong Lim Park on Saturday, with a police video crew pointing its camera and recording everything that the protesters, especially Roy and Hui Hui, did.
This just adds to the heightened emotions.
And in the same way, the protesters need to learn to compromise and discuss things maturely.
Demanding rights and what not is the least beneficial thing to do in such a situation.
There was in fact a very simple solution to the whole thing if one were truly concerned about the kids who were present at the charity event.
One could have simply deferred to them and postponed the event.
The only reason that you needed to do this was the fact that there was a charity event going on involving less fortunate children and the elderly.
What other reason do you need?
What is wrong is that you claim to care about the children and then turn around and feel it is perfectly alright to disrupt a CHARITY event for special needs children, the elderly, and under-privileged, while the event is going on.
I mean, really?
It only tells me you are just being a spoilt brat who is totally oblivious about compassion and who only want to insist on your rights to march in protest, carry flags and scream into microphones and amplifiers even as you march right pass the same children you said you cared about, possibly frightening them in the process.
Surely, you knew causing such a ruckus would be intimidating to small children, especially those who are autistic, for example?
This is the point which many seem to have missed.
It is not about the heckling but about the fact that you claim to speak up for less-abled Singaporeans and then at the same time disrupt a charity event for those very same less-abled Singaporeans, for children.
In short, you are just immature.
And it is time you grew up, and stop making excuses for yourself.
You could have used the other part of the park as suggested initially by the NParks officer, or you could have postponed it to Sunday, or to the next week.
Your followers would have understood – for how could anyone who claims to care for the less fortunate insist on disrupting a charity event for those very same less fortunate?
Ceding the ground is not a sign of weakness.
In fact, it is a sign of strength, of compassion and of a higher moral wisdom.
But that takes maturity to do – and that was what was lacking on Saturday.
There was childishness all round, egged on by similarly childish supporters.
I hope that all will learn from this episode – the ministers, MPs, police, the protesters, Roy, Hui Hui, and the rest of us.
We have a long way to go to learn the art of dialogue and of compromise – and to be confident enough to realise that giving way to children is nothing to be ashamed of.