Alternative political party Red Dot United (RDU) has expressed its grave concerns about the police case involving three people who were arrested for peacefully protesting against the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) perceived unfair discrimination against transgender students.
In a statement on the party’s website on Thursday (28 Jan), RDU reiterated that the right to freedom of assembly, speech, and expression are constitutional rights of every Singaporean.
“The ability of citizens to air their views allows us to stake our claim on a part of our nation that we hold dear and are willing to fight for. It gives us identity, national pride and a sense of belonging,” the party asserted.
RDU then cited what Education Minister Lawrence Wong had recently said on the Government’s effort in strengthening solidarity by creating more opportunities for Singaporeans to take part in the decision-making process.
“I think that gives us purpose. It gives us that sense of a common destiny for the future, and it will enable Singapore to continue thriving and doing well in the future,” said Mr Wong during his speech at the Institute of Policy Studies’ Singapore Perspectives conference earlier on Monday (25 Jan).
The Minister also cautioned against “individuals or groups lobbying only for their own interests and neglecting what is at stake”.
However, RDU cast aspersions on Mr Wong’s remarks, stating “if only they applied to those who tried to do the same outside his office”.
Besides that, the party’s secretary-general, Ravi Philemon, gave his two cents on the incident that took place outside the MOE building.
“We believe the individuals involved took this course of action because they feel frustrated and silenced, and want to be heard. What we saw was far from lobbying for their own interests. They were trying to protect the interests and guarantee the safety of fellow Singaporeans who are at risk.”
RDU went on to cite a case study that was conducted in the US, which revealed that LGBTQ youths are at a much higher risk of suicide than other youths.
Given that societal pressure is a key contribution to suicide, the party expressed that there is little reason to doubt that the individuals involved in the peace protest were simply “doing what they can to save lives and protect the vulnerable”.
“This camaraderie with and concern for their fellow Singaporeans should be recognised, rather than be deemed as something illegal that upsets public order,” it remarked.
Conversely, RDU believes that there is “little merit” in the decision by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to intervene in the incident and arrest the individuals involved.
“We note that the peaceful protest was held after 5pm (which is the end of the working hours), suggesting they had no desire to cause public disorder. We also note from news reports that at least a dozen police officers were at the scene, an excessive show of force and an unnecessary use of resources given that the three individuals were peaceful,” it continued.
Moving on, the party expressed the need to question the current ambit of the Public Order Act (POA) that “risks its excessive use”.
“In 2009, the Government amended the POA to redefine “assembly”, reducing the number of participants from five to just one person. If the POA had been kept intact without any revision, these protesters nay not have been arrested under this Act,” it noted.
Consequently, RDU calls for the Government to take the following three steps:
- To give more space to Singaporeans – especially young Singaporeans passionate about fighting for the wellbeing of their fellow citizens – the space they need to create the society they envision. This in in keeping with the Government’s promise for creating a more equal and united Singapore.
- To examine why these youths participated in this peaceful demonstration and do the needful to assuage their concerns.
- To immediately conduct a review of the Public Order Act and take necessary steps to prevent its overuse, particularly in how it can best serve the spirit of “maintaining public order”, rather than apply it liberally to every instance of protest.
In the footnote section of the statement, RDU said that one of its members, Elijah Tay, was among the individuals involved in the protest case.
“They were not representing RDU in their peaceful protest. We support their public spiritedness in trying to make a better Singapore,” the party stated.