Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PM Lee’s National Day Rally: Protests ok in Speaker’s Corner

Written by Ng E-Jay
18 Aug 2008

(A more complete summary of PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech will be provided later. These short notes are my critique of various key points raised in his speech.)

PM Lee said in his National Day Rally speech that those who want to hold outdoor demonstrations will soon be allowed to do so, but only at Speakers’ Corner. Currently, Hong Lim Park is only designated as a place for people to make public speeches.

In announcing the move, he joked, “I think we’ll still call it Speakers’ Corner. No need to call it Demonstrators’ Corner.” He added, “Our concern is law and order, and security. It comes back to race and religion, because one incident could undermine our racial harmony, and confidence in Singapore.”

Also, the management of Speaker’s Corner will be taken off the police and handed over to the National Parks Board.

My view is that the “concession” for protests at Hong Lim Park is pathetic.

The government should realize that Singaporeans are granted freedom of assembly and expression under Article 14 of Part 4 of the constitution.

The government shows disrespect for our constitution by willfully enacting subsidiary legislation that takes away our constitutional rights, and by using the state machinery of the police and judiciary to punish peaceful protesters.

The “concession” for Speakers’ Corner protests are no concession at all if you realize that our fundamental freedoms are still being taken away.

It is not the job of the government to decide where and when Singaporeans should be granted civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. Those are enshrined in our constitution, applying to all citizens at all times and at all places.

It is the job of government to promote lawfulness by active cooperation with peaceful protesters, not to use the machinery of the state to silence dissent under the guise of promoting lawfulness.

Visit to read E-Jay's other responses to the PM's speech.