This was what predominantly ruled Hong Lim Park yesterday, with bloggers Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng encroaching on an area of a YMCA event at Hong Lim Park.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck was the guest-of-honour of YMCA Proms!, an event organised by the YMCA to promote corporate social responsibility by matching organisations with charities and voluntary welfare organisations.
Before Han and Ngerng’s noisy march around the park and into YMCA’s event space, an altercation between Han and NParks’ Director of Parks, Chia Seng Jiang occurred:
The altercation between Chia and Han was over the use of Hong Lim Park space. Police officers from the Central Police Division, including one, who identified himself as Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Eric Cheong at Han’s behest, were also captured on camera. Two of them filmed the altercation.
Chia told the organisers that they were allocated a smaller space at Hong Lim Park, but the organisers refused to move to the other section. They repeatedly demanded proof from Chia to indicate that it was illegal for them to speak in the main area, where YMCA was holding their event.
In the video, Ngerng said: “When we hold a protest, we do want to be in a prominent position… If we go there, no one can see; what’s the point?”
The altercation ended after Chia stated that he would cancel the organisers’ permits if they march at the main area. Chia also asked that the particulars of speakers to be taken down.
NParks’ regulations on Speakers’ Corner events allow the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation “to cancel any approval or disallow any event or activity at any time” if the Commissioner believes that the event would “cause discomfort or inconvenience to other park users and/or the general public.”
The protestors proceeded to march around the park, and intruded the YMCA event at least four times, according to Channel NewsAsia.
At one point, the protesters had disrupted a group of special needs children, the Y Stars, just as they were about to start a dance item.
A video released by The Online Citizen showed the protestors leaving the stage after the Y Stars began their dance item.
“They marched in with the intention of drawing the attention of (Teo Ser Luck),” photographer Lawrence Chong, who was at the scene, said.
CNA also reported that the protesters got close to Minister of State Teo and hurled vulgarities at him.
In The Straits Times, Teo told reporters that the protesters “have their views, which they want to share, and which they voiced out in a different way”.
“Of course, we hope that things could be done in a more friendly manner,” he added.
The scenes at the Hong Lim Park drew flak from both politicians and Singaporeans alike.
Many questioned the protesters’ rowdy and insensitive actions. Should the protesters insist on their right to do whatever they want at the park?
Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Yee Jenn Jong
Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-yin
Will future Hong Lim Park events be affected?
Former Straits Times editor Bertha Henson hoped that “nothing drastic” would happen to the park.
“We have won the space by respecting the law and respecting the views of others. It took time, it was hard earned,” she wrote in her blog post.
“It’s just a matter of respecting others, the way we want to be respected too.”
In a joint statement with NParks, the police said that they “will be conducting investigations into this incident.”
“NParks and SPF approached Ms Han to request her cooperation to speak at the allocated space.”
Despite this, Ngerng seems unfazed.
“Singaporeans, we made history today,” he wrote on Facebook “This is only the beginning… we will succeed.”
Top photo from Lawrence Chong.