Event to spread awareness about homeless cancelled after Police demanded permit to be applied

An event that was planned to spread awareness of homelessness in Singapore was cancelled after Police informed the organiser that a permit is required for the event.

The organiser of the event, Gilbert Goh, who is an activist and former politician, shared on his Facebook today that the event is cancelled due to the need for a police permit.

This event was earlier publicised on Goh’s Facebook page on 26 November, where he asked for people to participate in a social experiment to sleep with the homeless at Lavender/Bugis area.

Goh wrote that Chief Executive Officers from across the Australia will gather on a cold winter night every year and camp out together with the homeless to raise funds for the non-profit organisations working with them.

He asked for people to sacrifice one night for the homeless so that they can experience what it is like being homeless and feel more for the unfortunate ones.

According to a study by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) at the National University of Singapore released earlier on 7 Nov, between 921 and 1,050 people are currently classified as homeless and sleeping on the streets in Singapore.

Half of those interviewed revealed that being unemployed or not having secure employment had led to them sleeping rough. The respondents were unable to pay their rent or mortgage, or had sold their house.

Conflicts within family units and relationship breakdown were also among the primary reasons for homelessness.

According to Goh, the police contacted him on 10 Dec to inform him that a permit is required for his event.

When asked why is there a need to apply for permit for such charity event, especially when it is just a homeless sleepover experience, the police officer allegedly said because it is a gathering for a cause.

Under the Public Order Act, an “assembly” is defined as a gathering or meeting (whether or not comprising any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion) of persons the purpose (or one of the purposes) of which is —

(a) to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government;
(b) to publicise a cause or campaign; or
(c) to mark or commemorate any event,
and includes a demonstration by a person alone for any such purpose referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c);

Goh commented to TOC, “Why only let me know four days before hand when we noticed it so early? How to apply police permit with four days?”

He added, “given ample notice we may consider applying for a police permit but just few days before the event it’s almost like asking us to cancel it by default.”

According to Goh, there were seven interested parties who signed up for the event and they have expressed their disappointment over the cancellation.

Other than the social-experiment which Goh organised, the Police also told him that the Christmas carolling that he had planning for the homeless on 21 Dec, will also need a Public Entertainment Permit. Due to this, Goh said that he will have to just do his usual door to door distribution along with Christmas gifts handouts instead.

Another event was cancelled after the Police told organiser on Thursday that the event required a Public Assembly Permit. The event organised by non-profit organisation, Helping People Help People which invited politicians to experience the hardship of cardboard collectors in Singapore, was scheduled to be held today as well.

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