Thursday, November 26, 2009
ANNOUNCEMENT: Thousands to Gather at Speakers' Corner... To Eat
Hong Lim food centre to relocate to Speakers’ Corner
Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner will be more boisterous in the next few months not because there will be more Singaporeans speaking there, but due to the relocation of the nearby Hong Lim Food Centre in Upper Cross Street which will be closed for a facelift in March next year.
NEA said that “activities” at Speakers’ Corner will not be affected by the market’s move. Its boundaries will be “redrawn” next month.
Modeled after London’s Hyde Park, the Speakers’ Corner is the only place in Singapore where citizens can lawfully gather, speak and protest.
The ruling party decided to “relax” the rules last year to counter the civil disobedience movement launched by opposition groups such as the Singapore Democratic Party.
However, police installed CCTVs a few months ago at its premises purportedly for reasons of “public safety and security”.
Since then, the number of events at Hong Lim Park had dwindled as well as the participants.
A minibond rally called by former NTUC INCOME Mr Tan Kin Lian drew a paltry crowd of less than 200 while the usual attendance is twice the number.
Mr Tan still holds the record for the most number of rallies held at Hong Lim Park by a single person and number of participants with one rally attracting more than a thousand people.
Despite much fanfare, the authorities had ignored the hustlings at the rallies which have since fizzled out with some minibond holders remain uncompensated by the financial institutions.
The usefulness of Hong Lim Park to advance the political awareness and maturity of ordinary Singaporeans is very much limited by the general apathy pervailing the nation.
While there is much resentment and disgruntlement on the ground over some of the government’s policies such as its liberal immigration policy, the grousings are confined strictly to cyberspace.
Nobody has dared to step forward to organize rallies at Hong Lim Park to protest against the government openly in public.
The park is almost always deserted during the weekdays while it is used by the nearby Kreta Ayer Community Club for its activities on the weekends.
The three opposition MPs in parliament have been most reluctant to use the park to further their political agenda, preferring to make token speeches with little or no impact in parliament.
Speeches made there by some leaders like the Reform Party’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam during National Day attracted a small crowd of less than hundred people and usually the same familiar faces.
Ironically, Speakers’ Corner will see an increase in the crowd now with the relocation of a Food Centre there.
For most Singaporeans, food is still their primary obsession and interest rather than their civil and political rights if they are even aware of their existence in the first place.