Organisers and speakers of the protest event on this Saturday, have been sent a letter from the National Parks Board (NParks) just five days before the actual event, indicating that they require police permits for their speeches.
The planned protest event was meant to debate on various contentious issues in regards to the upcoming Reserved Presidential Election and had eight speakers lined up, with the outline of speeches already submitted to NParks.
In the email, NParks wrote to the participants that a Police Permit is generally not needed, provided the organisers, speakers, and/or participants, comply with the Speaker’s Corner exemption conditions. Without specifically noting that their event cannot be held, NParks implied that they would need to apply for a Police Permit as their speeches “may cause feelings of enmity, hatred,ill-will or hostility between different racial or religious groups in Singapore.”
Police permits typically require two weeks or more for a reply to be given. This means that the organisers have to cancel the event on Saturday and postpone it to a later date.
Although the application was sent two weeks prior to the intended date of the event, Nparks only got back to the organiser on Monday late evening to inform them of its view that a Police Permit is required.
While some may say that the speakers ought to have known that they would require a Police Permit to speak on the issues surrounding the Elected Presidency, one can argue that the EP is a racialised issue brought about by the government.
If one subscribe to the belief that one cannot make comments on racial or religious issues which had been brought about by legislative changes, then hypothetically speaking, if the government passed a new amendment to the Constitution, stating that the Prime Minister must be a Chinese, then citizens will also have to apply for a police permit to speak about the matter? Also, when has a Police Permit being granted to talk about “sensitive racial issues” before in Singapore?
Does this mean that the government can simply change the constitution and law on racial and religious grounds with citizens being barred from speaking out on them unless permit is given. Just like how Prime Minister Lee proudly said that there are no one protesting in front of Parliament
What we are seeing here, may just be an ideal case study which our Chinese teachers can use teach their students on an old Chinese saying, “The magistrates are free to burn down houses, while the common people are forbidden even to light lamps.”