The 2013 Order designating Hong Lim Park as an “unrestricted area” under the Public Order Act has been revoked this morning.
This means that any protests and demonstrations at Hong Lim Park, Speakers’ Corner will now require a police permit under Section 7 of the Act (which has to be accompanied by an advanced notice under Section 6). No reasons have been given for this in the revocation order.
There is also no mention in the order about when or whether Hong Lim Park’s “unrestricted” status will be reinstated.
The reason for the revocation is somewhat explained in National Park’s registration form for the Speakers Corner.
The website writes that the Speakers Corner has been designated as a community site to remember late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee’s passing was announced this morning.
However, some have said that this shows that the freedom of speech/assembly might be seen to be at the complete discretion of the executive and also that there is no need for the revocation as National Park has already closed registration for the Speakers’ Corner.
It is noted that there were similar revocations in the past and no reasons for the revocation were also mentioned in the orders.
In response to TOC’s enquries, Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, assistant professor of Law in the School of Law said, that the orders under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (‘PEMA’) and the Public Order Act (‘POA’) issued to create Speakers’ Corner have been revoked and then reissued four times since 2011, for the purposes of the 2011 general election, the presidential election in the same year, the Hougang SMC by-election in 2012, and the Punggol East SMC by-election in 2013.
He highlighted that the purpose of these suspensions of Speakers’ Corner was to ensure that election rallies could only be held in designated areas in Singapore.
On each of these occasions, the revocation was not specified to be for a particular period and therefore similiar to the one made today.
He noted that it is “in all probability the PEMA and POA orders will be reissued next week when the period of national mourning is over to redesignate Hong Lim Park as Speakers’ Corner.”