Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Outdoor demonstrations at Hong Lim Park no enough?

© The Straits Times

Yesterday, the authorities released details regarding the holding of outdoor protests/demonstrations at Hong Lim Park.

And expectedly, while there are those who reacted with less than pure enthusiasm towards the announcement, there are also those who reacted more positively.

To summarise, those who reacted with less than pure enthusiasm generally perceive the allowing of outdoor demonstrations at Hong Lim Park as mere "tokenism" and nothing significant when considering it is the constitutional rights of Singaporeans to assemble and express their views.

As for me, I suppose my stance is, as espoused in an earlier post, one of cautious optimism.

While I can understand the point of view of those who perceive having outdoors demonstrations at Hong Lim Park as mere "tokenism", I am afraid that I cannot concur with the point of view that Singaporeans should boycott Hong Lim Park and not lend credence/credibility to mere "tokenism" by holding demonstrations there.

This is considering that although it may be true that the allowing of outdoor demonstrations at Hong Lim Park is nothing but "wayang", it is nonetheless a move which Singapore can (and perhaps should) fully exploit. It would be self-defeating if perceiving all this as mere "wayang", Singaporeans, through boycotting Hong Lim Park, allow the authorities to make the case that Singaporeans are not interested in demonstrating. Instead, perhaps Singaporeans should exploit Hong Lim Park to the fullest to let people see that, despite the arguments made by local authorities, having outdoor demonstrations in Singapore would not cause us to retrograde to the "bad old days".

It would be best that people, through holding outdoor demonstrations at Hong Lim Park, can create the momentum for further political liberalisation and to further push back boundaries to create greater political space. It may be true that all this is nothing but an insignificant small step, it is nonetheless a first step which can (and ought to) lead to more and bigger steps forward. After all, it was not an overnight or immediate process that we came from primitive apes to become the human beings we are today. And to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, perhaps a small step at Hong Lim Park would be a giant leap for Singapore?

Yet, that said, I have to say that it still remains to be seen how, remembering the authorities' promise of management with a "light touch", the authorities will manage outdoor demonstrations at Hong Lim Park...

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