Close to 2000 individuals turned up at Hong Lim Park on 16 September to show their concern and unhappiness over the recently concluded reserved elected presidency which saw Mdm Halimah Yacob being declared President-elect as sole qualifying candidate.
While there were no speeches for the event due to National Parks Board’s requirement for the organisers to apply for police permits in light of the racial content of the speeches due to the racialised elected presidency, participants of the protest event turned up to sit around or mingle around with friends, some were also spotted with placards.
The organisers had called for participants to wear black to the event to show unity as “ONE heart and people regardless of race and religion”. Gilbert Goh, organiser of the event had also printed a small number of black t-shirts with the hashtag, #notmypresident and was sold out even before the event started. When asked why he did not print more, Goh said that he had wanted to print more but the supplier whom he engaged got uncomfortable with being involved in political sensitive material and declined to print more.
The attendance of Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former Presidential candidate in Presidential Election 2011 was the key highlight of the event where participants swarmed around him, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Dr Tan declined to be interviewed or give any comments to the media, however, he had earlier said in his Facebook post that he would be there at the Hong Lim Park to show solidarity with Singaporeans who are unhappy with the way the government denied the citizens’ right to vote and elect their President and to make a point to the government that citizens must not be taken for granted. Dr Tan also met up with Former Presidential candidate, Tan Jee Say who was also there at the protest event and shook hands together.
Goh said in the press conference that the intention of the protest is to voice the unhappiness against the process of how the Elected Presidency was carried out and not to protest against the Elected President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. Majority of the participants whom TOC spoke with, agreed that Mdm Halimah is a qualified individual to take up the role of the President but expressed their unhappiness with how the election was carried out.
While there is not much Malays present at the protest, and some have criticised that the protest is a sign of racism, as someone who covered Hong Lim Park protests for years, I can say that typically Malays have always been of the lesser number at the events apart from some rare events such as the protest against Population White Paper and the protest against the Occupation of Palestine.
Although mainstream media have reported that the turnout was only in the hundreds, but anyone at the event would see that the turnout is far more than the usual crowd. And if one were to count the participants based on photo and video footage, the numbers can be verified. Just in the shot shown below, one can count the crowd to be of about more than 1,100 individuals and that was taken at 6.30pm where the event just ended.