The organiser of the next week's Labour Day protests says foreign nationals may be barred from the event due to a technicality.
Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org said on Tuesday at a press conference at Bras Basah Complex that he has not applied for a police permit to hold the follow-up protest to the "No to 6.9 million" mass protest held earlier this year.
The move comes after a request by the National Parks Board (NParks) for Goh to apply for a police permit that would allow the participation of foreigners in the protest.
Under the terms and conditions for use of the Speakers’ Corner, a police permit "must be obtained if permanent residents of Singapore are speaking or organising a demonstration, performance or exhibition, and/or if foreigners are speaking or participating in or organising activities at Speakers’ Corner.”
Out of fear his protest slot may be revoked altogether if he does apply for the police permit, he said he decided against applying for it.
“I have done 6 protests, never did I have to apply for a police permit,” he told media.
Participating versus watching
Goh also questioned the “vague” terms of the permit requirement. Revealing he has been in regular contact with an Nparks representative, he says that he has yet to fully come to a clear understanding of what exactly the permit is needed for.
“No foreigners are involved in organizing or speaking.” says Goh. “If they come for the event,I cannot help it.”
A record number of about 4,000 turned up for the initial 6.9 million protest on February 16.
This time round, Yahoo! Singapore understands there will be signage all around Hong Lim Park, discouraging foreigners from taking part in the upcoming Labour Day protest.
“We will be quite firm about it,” says a transitioning.org member.
Foreigners however can still watch from afar, outside the restricted zones surrounding Speakers' Corner, to listen to the protest that's expected to focus on labour issues according to Gilbert.
“We want people in Singapore to know that we have a platform. Many Singaporeans hide behind their keyboard. We want Singaporeans to step out of their comfort zone,” says Goh who hopes the attendance will surpass the earlier protest.
So far 13 speakers have been confirmed including human rights lawyer M Ravi and lawyer Nizam Ismail. Transitioning.org has tried, though unsuccessful to get Education Minister Heng Swee Keat to speak.
When contacted by Yahoo! Singapore, a member of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said that foreigners can attend and watch the protests at Hong Lim Park without a need for permit. There will only be a need for permit should there be foreigners organising or speaking at the protest.
Gilbert hopes that he can “have a peaceful dignified protest.”
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