It is always interesting to step back and see what happens when similar events take place in Singapore and in other countries. How the authority reacts and what Singaporeans think of it. Malaysians around the world have reacted negatively to the election results and the rising use of racism among those in power to maintain their hold on the country. There is always hope for a country where the citizens are willing to overcome difficulties to bring about positive change
People in many other countries can identify with the basic human yearning for freedom, justice and democracy.
In Melbourne, the most livable city in the world, Australians express their solidarity with a group of young Malaysians in black protesting in Federation Square.
The same thing happened in Singapore and the reaction is somewhat different. I'm not talking about the police who first warned the protesters then later arrested 21 Malaysians for gathering at the Merlion Park yesterday - the police had little choice, they had to enforce Singapore's law otherwise they will be accused of double standards. The police had to do what they did.
Before we jump in and discuss this further, lets be clear about what the Malaysians did at Merlion Park. They gathered there at 5pm yesterday wearing black t-shirts, holding up a few signs and later sang the Malaysian anthem. There was no rowdy behavior, shouting or anything like that. Here is a picture of some of those involved in the protest.
The police had to arrest them because they have broken Singapore laws and Singaporeans have been arrested for lesser offenses of similar nature. I think the Malaysians who had been warned earlier expected to be arrested given the Singapore Police is known for its efficiency. These young people probably felt that it was worth doing even if they were arrested, sent to jail and expelled from Singapore.
Here's a sample of reaction from a number of netizens[Taken from Straits Times website] typical of the reaction from Singaporean netizens.
"The Malaysians protesting and breaking our laws should be thrown into jail and barred from entering Singapore immediately.
Singaporeans is not involved in your domestic problems Malaysians must learn to respect the law of each countries in which they do business, live, works or travel."
- Arami Chong, Straits Times Reader.
A small number Singaporeans did say that the authorities shouldn't be so harsh a group of people who gathered peacefully and caused no damage to public property.
Does allowing people to protest peacefully undermine the security here? How many of you would hesitate to go to Melbourne because the allow both citizens and foreigners to protest there? Thousands of Singaporeans send their children to Melbourne for their studies every year....and they are not worried protests are allowed there.
Few Singaporeans bother to ask what is the intention of those involved in the protest at Merlion Park. This is the first thing you have to do before you jump in to condemn and accuse them of anything. Their intention is not to challenge our laws or our authorities or to disrupt the peace in this country. They feel strongly that there is a need for change in their home country and like all young people around the world they want a better future for themselves and their fellow countrymen. The response of many Singaporeans is we should treat these people as criminals and apply the harshest punishment. We must not forget that positive change comes from people standing up for what they believe is right and those who want to preserve the old order will use laws to suppress change for the better. The laws used against this group of Malaysians can also be used readily against Singaporeans when the time for change comes ....we have to look beyond the our harsh laws designed to limit our freedom to think about what is morally right and what is morally wrong. What is right is always worth supporting no matter how repessive the environment.