Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Illegal Assembly Laws in Singapore...

I guess you know by now that it is illegal to gather in groups of more than 4 people in Singapore without a permit. I'm sure those teenagers screaming their heads off outside the airport and holding big signs to greet their favourite stars have permits. Policemen turn up for crowd control not to arrest them. If the same people turn up somewhere in Singapore and holding signs to say "Free Burma" or "Save the trees" , they will be quickly arrested. Why is it okay to turn up and gather to greet your fav pop star and not okay to turn up to make a statement that is accepted in every democratic country. The answer is simple - one is a dangerous activity and the other is not. It is perfectly harmless for you to adore your fav stars and sports personality because it is done for fun.....expressing your opinion strongly and openly is no laughing matter in Singapore, it is highly dangerous. Why is it dangerous?
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To understand why it is considered dangerous, we have to understand our political system. Our system is based on a hierarchical rule when the opinion of people higher up the hierarchy carries more weight than the person below. So the opinions of ordinary carries almost no weight and that of the opposition carries negative weight. Our role as citizens is to obey and agree. ...a good citizen is an obedient citizen. In Singapore Inc. our leaders are like bosses in a corporation, PM Lee is the CEO, the ministers are the directors and the ordinary ctizens are the workers. The opposition are disgruntled workers who instigate others so they have to be stopped at all cost. Gathering to express your opinion openly is a form of insubordination - your opinion doesn't matter anyway so why bother to turn up. This explains why nobody turns up when various protests are organised even when they are sympathetic to the cause.

Almost everyone is feeling the pinch from inflation and if you visit a coffeeshop, you can hear many people whining about the high cost of living. However, when they organised that "Tak Buleh Tahan" protest only 30 people out of 4 million turn up. Ordinary Singaporeans know their position in this society, they know there is no point speaking up because their voices meaning nothing - if inflation eroded their income, it is better to spend their time to hunt for better bargains that to speak up against it.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

PM Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia said his party's underestimation of the power of the Internet had resulted in its drubbing by the opposition in the recent elections.

I happen to think what he said holds true also for other countries, especially Singapore. This is provided Singapore opposition wants to fully harness and exploit the power of the Internet.

If it fails to do so, then of course, the Internet will remain not much of threat to PAP - unless of course the efforts of ordinary Internet dissidents are helping the opposition indirectly.

Currently the opposition in Singapore uses the Internet to post their Parliamentary speeches, party organ articles, press releases, season greetings and information on party activities.

This is an under-utilization of a powerful historic two-way mass communication technology.

The last time a similar mass communication technology, the radio, came along was about a century back and subsequently the television 30 years after that.

But the radio and television were only one-way communication technologies and also subject to control by authoritarian governments like Singapore.

The Internet is not so limited.

Lee Kuan Yew has said that the govt is not monitoring/controlling what goes on over the Internet. I feel he is saying it to appear liberal and perhaps even to fool the opposition into believing so.

And the latter seems to be working.

Does anyone seriously think PAP, the control-freak-par-excellence would not want to control any information flow influencing the people if it is possible or practical in the first place?

If the opposition in Singapore is not fully exploiting it, it is hard to believe the it is desperate enough to win over the people.

It might as well stop complaining that PAP is making it impossible for them to communicate effectively with the people.

But of course it takes hard work to win hearts over the Internet but the Malaysian opposition shows that this is possible. Even a blogger in Penang got funded and then elected through such efforts.

Why not for the Singapore opposition?

And what is more trying: protest in the street and be arrested and jailed or fighting for a mindshare over the Internet?

Beats me!

yamizi said...

Wah Lucky,

Like that I don't dare to attend wedding dinner liao. More than a hundred gather at the restaurant and getting rowdy while yelling Yam Seng!

Anonymous said...

The following passage in my previous comment :

"I feel he (LKY) is saying it to appear liberal and perhaps even to fool the opposition into believing so. "

should read

"I feel he (LKY) is saying it to appear liberal and perhaps even to fool the opposition into believing that the Internet is not a powerful medium."

Anonymous said...

very well written.... I can really identify with the "Ministers as Directors, and the citizens as workers" bit. It's so true here isn't it?

but funny thing is, if a company loses a big account (eg. to the scale of, say, a "Mas Selamat"), the director responsible would be fired or would resign.

How come that bit doesn't apply here hah? Lucky, can you share some insightful, non-satirical, and enlightening thoughts on this?

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Anonymous said...

Singaporeans have the habit of not questioning their government. This applies especially to older folks, who may regard LKY and the PAP as the 'knights in shining armour' who brought Singapore from 3rd to 1st world after we were'abandoned' in '65. (It is no wonder that Singapore has been dubbed the 'Miracle of Asia'.) No one questions such an effective government which has earned itself trust over the years. But this mentality is changing among the younger generation, which has perhaps forgotten what our government had done in the past. (This is evident from the previous GE.) Today, people have a say and want to be heard because times are changing - the government no longer plays as big a role as it used to. We can afford to oppose, debate and negotiate. Although the change is slow, it is surely happening, and I personally believe that it is for the better.

Aw Jian Wei said...

Hi Sir,

I'm afraid you have got the law wrong. Our penal code clearly states that an assembly of 5 or more persons is an "unlawful assembly" ONLY IF the common objective of that group is to commit an offence.

You can find the law here: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=c0bc7c3e-f69d-4de6-9887-71f9a2d4e91c;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22025e7646-947b-462c-b557-60aa55dc7b42%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0#pr141-he-.

Hence, the law isn't as ridiculous as you made it out to be. In fact, it's rather reasonable.

Regards,
Aw Jian Wei

Aw Jian Wei said...

Though of course, whether protesting without a permit ought to be an offence or not is debatable.

- Aw Jian Wei

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