Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Hats, Same Story

Why WP didn't get permit for event

I REFER to last Thursday’s letter by Mr Tan Ghee Gay, ‘Why ‘no’ and ‘yes’?', regarding police decisions with respect to the Workers’ Party’s (WP) proposed mass cycling event last year, and the carnival on Aug 31.

Police do not issue permits for outdoor political events in public places due to the potential for disorder and unruly behaviour. This applies to events organised by all political parties. For this reason, police rejected WP’s application to hold a mass cycling activity in East Coast Park, to commemorate its 50th anniversary in September last year.

The event on Aug 31 was very different. The permit was issued after taking into account the organiser and the nature of the event. It was organised by the PAP Community Foundation, which is a registered charity and not a political party. The event was not assessed to have the potential for disorder and unruly behaviour. It was a carnival that involved children and families from various kindergartens and educational institutions. The Prime Minister, as guest of honour, and a few other guests, made their entrance by cycling a short distance. During the event, a sum of $664,000 (which had been raised earlier) was distributed to 17 charities, including Beyond Social Services, Children’s Aid Society and Chung Hwa Medical Institution.

DSP Paul Tay
Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Singapore Police Force

This latest public relations announcement is frustrating to read.

In essence, the response is that events organized by political parties will promote disorder and attract unruly behaviour, therefore all such events will be denied permits. This is an excuse we are now all familiar with.

Our instinctual response then would be to wonder why PAP events get special concession. Reason is, since the PAP is the incumbent government, all their outdoor activities, no matter how obviously party-related, are rewarded permits on the basis that they are wearing their ‘government hat’ and not their ‘party hat’. Or better yet, they are merely invited guests to ‘non-political’ outdoor events.

I understand the rationale for taking into account the organisers’ antecedence when considering permits. Groups (political parties, NGOs, charities… etc) known to be rowdy or aggressive in their campaigning should rightly have their subsequent requests for permits rejected. But to issue a blanket ban on political groups from organizing outdoor events (other than rallies during election time), is absolutely ridiculous.

Does that mean opposition parties (who apparently have only one hat – the ‘trouble-maker hat’) have no chance of organising outdoor events beyond the confines of the ‘yellow-boxed’ Speakers’ Corner?

One Country, Two Hats, Two systems indeed.

Let us not forget:

Banned National Day Pink Picnic
Banned Indignation Pink Run
Disrupted Tak Boleh Tahan protest
Approved 5000 strong Case Consumer Rights Day protest march on 16 March 2008.
Approved Expatriate Women gathering for Myanmar

1 comment:

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