[UPDATED 10 Oct 2014 at 10.30PM: Police have questioned eight people over the protest, including Han Hui Hui. Investigations are ongoing, and no one has been arrested. Read more here.]
Singapore police are investigating a protest march led by bloggers Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui at Hong Lim Park on Saturday (27 Sept) after they led participants in a path that encroached the space allocated to another event occurring at the same time.
A joint statement issued on Saturday evening by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the police said each event — the other of which was organised by the YMCA — was allocated one of two lawns at Hong Lim Park in anticipation of the crowd that would attend both.
“NParks and SPF (the Singapore Police Force) approached Ms Han to request her cooperation to speak at the allocated space,” the statement said. “We regret to note that Ms Han did not heed our advice and continued to hold her event at the same lawn as YMCA. Ms Han’s group encroached into the YMCA event area, holding placards and shouting slogans, and disrupted the performance and frightened participants including special needs children who were performing at the charity event.”
When Yahoo Singapore visited Hong Lim Park just before 5pm on Saturday, Ngerng and Han were leading about 100 protesters in circles around a large tented area where people attending the YMCA event were seated, waving large and small Singapore flags and chanting “Return our CPF!” and “PAP, vote them out!” through microphones connected to speakers placed on the outskirts of the YMCA event area.
At at least one point, Ngerng and Han led the group of protesters near the front of the permanent stage at Hong Lim Park, where performances by various youth groups, including one by special needs children, were taking place.
The performance of the special needs group appeared to be disrupted by the sound of the protesters’ chants, and the song the children were dancing to was stopped and restarted after the protesting group moved to a mound at the back of the lawn.
In the statement, NParks and the police said YMCA had first applied to them to use the park, and approval was given on 9 September. Han’s application was received on 22 September, and it was approved on the same day.
Reacting to initial reports alleging that the protesters had “heckled” the special needs performers, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said he was dismayed.
“One may hold different viewpoints and try to seek attention to one’s cause. But to do so with no regard or respect to the elderly and special needs children present is most unbecoming,” he wrote. “To cause alarm and distress to special needs children, and disrupting their routine cannot be right no matter how righteous you think your own cause may be. This cannot be the type of behaviour that represents Singaporeans.”
Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin chimed in as well with stronger comments, calling it “vile”.
“Total and absolute disgrace,” he wrote. “We can disagree. We can be critical. We can debate. How we do so defines us and our society. The space is wide. But there are some lines we should not cross. This is one line I never expected to see violated in this manner.”
Members of Parliament Janil Puthucheary, Zaqy Mohamad and Ang Wei Neng also expressed their disappointment at the events that occurred on Saturday.
In the days leading up to Saturday afternoon, Han alleged on her Facebook page that the YMCA had repeatedly delayed the starting time of its event from 10am to 4pm so that the arrival of guest-of-honour Minister of State Teo Ser Luck would coincide with the start of her protest march.
Han also claimed that grassroots organisations were involved, saying that some on Friday tried to convince her not to hold her planned protest or to postpone it.
Responding to her allegations, the YMCA said in a post on their Facebook page that their event, YMCA Proms @ the Park, is an annual one that started in 2007, and that they do not represent any grassroots organisation. They added that they did not make changes to their plans.
Han wrote on Facebook at 2am on Sunday, “This event has been registered and approved by NParks. NParks and the police has not contacted me until now. As always, we will be more than willing not to hold events at HLP but at other public places instead."
Yahoo Singapore has contacted Han for comments.