The National Parks Board (NParks) is considering measures to prevent a repeat of the clashes of events at Hong Lim Park last Saturday.
In a statement to the press, the NParks, which governs the use of public parks in Singapore, said, “To mitigate potential public order incidents, the Singapore Police Force and NParks may put in place appropriate measures or engage organisers prior to the event to explain the rules and regulations, remind them to act responsibly, observe NParks’ regulations and abide by the laws.”
Nparks, however, did not specify what the measures could be.
SMU’s professor Eugene Tan says he hopes the authorities will not over-react to last weekend’s incident.
“I hope the Government does not over-react and over-police the Speakers’ Corner,” he said. “That would go against the spirit of letting civil society grow as part of our political development.”
Nparks explained that separate lawns at Hong Lim Park were assigned to the two different groups – YMCA, and the protest organised by Han Hui Hui.
“YMCA was allocated one lawn to hold their charity event,” Npark’s statement said. “The adjacent lawn was allocated for Ms Han Hui Hui who had applied to speak. The two separate spaces were clearly demarcated. Unfortunately, Ms Han’s group did not heed our advice and continued to hold her event at the same lawn as YMCA’s.”
NParks said that previously instances where more than one event took place at Hong Lim Park on the same day had proceeded without problems.
“We have not needed to allocate the space previously and there had been no adverse or disorderly incidents,” it said. “This is because the groups showed consideration and respect for each other, despite their different views and agendas.”
The clash of events, however, has raised questions about NParks’ decision to allow both events to take place.
Member of Parliament for Choa Chu Kang GRC, Zaqy Mohamad, said NParks should have known better.
“Given that this particular group (referring to Ms Han and Mr Ngerng) has a certain track record, I’m surprised they didn’t find it a risk,” Mr Zaqy told the Straits Times.
Former Nominated MP, Zulkifli Baharudin agrees, and says that it is “unwise” for NParks to allow the two events taking place at the same time.
“When people gather, emotions run high, the worst can happen. Singapore is no exception,” he said.
Still, there are others who feel that common sense should have prevailed.
“If there are concurrent bookings, the right thing to do is you stay on your turf, I stay on mine, and we don’t disturb each other,” said the secretary general of the National Solidarity Party, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss.
Referring to the protesters, she added, “I don’t understand why they had to march through that group and pass by the stage as well. You were allocated that space, so work within that space. The other party is innocent. Why must you go and gatecrash their party?”