Hong Lim Park got a little crowded Saturday evening at the Return Our CPF (Central Provident Fund) protest , which was held to protest the increase in the CPF Minimum Sum.
According to organiser Han Hui Hui, approximately 6,000 Singaporeans attended the protest, which called for greater transparency in the CPF system, an increase in CPF returns, as well as greater flexibility with the CPF system.
The crowd who attended the protest.
A petition was also organised both online and offline; the offline petition reached approximately 1,000 signatures, while the online version had 3,156 signatures (as of 8 June, 9am).
The protest comes on the heels of the defamation saga between Roy Ngerng and PM Lee. Roy Ngerng, who blogs at The Heart Truths, was sued for a blog post which compared PM Lee and the CPF scheme to the City Harvest Church misappropriations trial.
Ngerng was originally an organiser of the ‘Return Our CPF’ protest, but the lawsuit threw a spanner in the works. Ngerng was advised to not continue being an organiser for the protest. Many companies providing support for the event also backed out on the last minute.
“There were stage contractors who backed out at the very last minute… Yesterday (we) got another contractor (who) set (the stage) up around 1am,” Han told Mothership.sg
Organiser Han Hui Hui
Speakers who were at the event included former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian, Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam, social activist and former SDP member Vincent Wijeysingha and bloggers Leong Sze Hian and Roy Ngerng.
Speaker and former Presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian
Each touched upon broad themes with regards to the CPF scheme, as well as other political issues.
The Reform Party (RP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) voiced their support of the protest and their concern on the rising CPF Minimum Sum.
In a statement read out by its 17-year old youth wing member Tyeisha Syaquilla, RP emphasised their stand on transparency from the government. “(The key issue) is that this government refuses to provide its people with transparency… Government transparency enables YOU, the Singaporean taxpayer, to hold your elected government accountable.”
SDP Secretary General Chee Soon Juan's speech was read out on his behalf by blogger Ariffin Sha. Chee wrote that the original intent of the CPF scheme had been betrayed as it is now used for housing payments, medical expenses and investment schemes instead of retirement.
In his own speech, Sha touched upon other political issues, like the Internal Security Act, and stressed upon the need for a ‘political awakening.’
17-year old speaker Ariffin Sha
“This is a new beginning. If we hold on to our unity, there will be no force in the world that can take it from us,” Sha, who is not affiliated with any political party, said. Sha added, “We need to educate and empower Singaporeans… Through education, we can eradicate fear.”
It was Ngerng’s speech that stood out. Reading off a script, Ngerng spoke about the issues surrounding the CPF scheme to cheers of ‘thank you Roy!’ and ‘our hero!’ from the crowd.
Ngerng started by thanking his legal counsel, M Ravi, for his support. Both were well-received, with chants of ‘Ravi’ and applause from the crowd.
Ngerng spoke passionately for 40 minutes.
Ngerng began by speaking on income inequality. “This shouldn’t happen,” he said. “Why do our elderly Singaporeans continue to have to work because our CPF is not good enough for us to retire on?”
He touched on the lack of transparency from the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Temasek Holdings and the government, saying, “(Why) did the GIC first tell us that they do not know how they are using our CPF, then suddenly tell us that they do?”
Ngerng added: “Not only that, the fund managers at the GIC are also “paid a fee” to manage the funds. How much is this “fee”? There is no transparency as to how much this is.”
Ngerng also demanded full records from the GIC and Temasek Holdings. “Show us the records! Tell us the truth. Be honest to Singaporeans,” he said.
“I want to speak up because I care for our country,” Ngerng added. “Today is a new beginning where we, Singaporeans, come together, to chart a new direction for our country and our future. No more shall we keep quiet.”
Ngerng concluded with a call to ‘be brave’ and ‘stand tall’. “My friends, it’s time to awaken. It’s time to rise. It’s time to take control… The time for change is now. The time for change is today in our hands.”
Speakers Han Hui Hui, Leong Sze Hian, and Ariffin Sha.
The event ended with many supporters surrounding Ngerng and the speakers as well as organisers to take pictures with them.
The organisers, as well as Ngerng, were handed donations ranging from $2 to $50. Donations to aid Ngerng in the costs of his defamation suit have reached $91,284 as of June 6, 2014. Han is also seeking donations to help defray the cost of setting up the stage for the event.
Ngerng with his supporters.
Photos by Ng Yi Shu.