Yawning Bread. September 2006

Frontline: Hong Lim


    

 

 

Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan was prevented by the police, Saturday, 16 September 2006, from leading a protest march to Parliament House and the Suntec Convention Centre where the World Bank and IMF meetings are currently in session.

He had publicised this Empower Singaporeans Rally and march well in advance. It was to commence from Hong Lim Green, Singapore's token free speech corner. Chee had earlier applied for a police permit to hold the march, but to nobody's surprise, the application was denied.

Here are pictures from http://www.youngpap.org.sg/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=11172 and http://singaporeelection.blogspot.com/


Chee Soon Juan arrives at Hong Lim Green


Press, police and public crowd in against Charles Tan


T-shirts said "Freedom Now"


Chee Siok Chin encircled by police


The press at the little Police Station

 
As you can see, Chee Soon Juan was with a few supporters, wearing "Democracy Now" T-shirts (the back of which said "Freedom Now"), but they were quickly surrounded by policemen and prevented from moving any further.

Chee's sister, Chee Siok Chin, seemed to be separated from the main group, but was also encircled.

Other posts on the internet reported that the police interrogated people present on the field, demanding their identification and asking what they were doing in Hong Lim Green, which is really a public park.

My friend Kelvin was in the vicinity at about 4 pm on Saturday. He reports:

"There was a huddle of people at the corner of North Canal Road and South Bridge Road, near the little police station. I'd say there were about 30 40 people, about half of whom were police, judging from their blue uniforms. Chee Soon Juan and his supporters were in the centre. It was difficult to see what was going on in the centre of the group.

"Across North Canal Road, there were another 20 30 onlookers, but there were also policemen standing here and there, watching."

 

At a coffeeshop

My friends Kelvin and "D" were at Hong Lim Green between 4 and 5 pm on Sunday. They spoke briefly with Charles Tan. After that, they adjourned to a coffeeshop nearby. No sooner had they ordered their food and drink when 2 young men ("good looking ones, especially the younger of the two, very cute" reported Kelvin) sat down at the same table uninvited. At first, Kelvin and D thought they were strangers needing to share a table.

But soon, they asked, "Can we talk to you for a moment?"

My friends were excited. They were very cute!

"Can we have your particulars, please?" they asked.

Oh damn. End of being gay. Time to be political.

D asked back, "On what basis must we give you our particulars?"

"We're just asking," the older of the two said. They claimed they were not demanding to see their identity cards.

"What if we don't give it to you?" D enquired.

To that, they didn't have much of an answer. They were very "gong gong", said Kelvin, the local term for being unsure and confused.

D then asked them to show their identification first, which they did. Kelvin then recorded their names, IC numbers and other details in his PDA before returning their identification to them. One was born in 1980, the other in 1973.

"Now that you've seen our warrant cards," said the plainclothes guys, "can we see yours?"

D said, "But we didn't say we'd show it to you."

"Can you show us, please?" they begged.

"No." said D and Kelvin. "And what can you do if we don't show it to you?"

They were flabbergasted, according to Kelvin. The older guy's lips were quivering.

The police then wanted to know whether my friends were Singaporean. To that, D said, "I'll tell you if you can tell us where to get vegetarian food around here." (They were meaning to buy food for Charles, who's vegetarian).

"After that, we started to get philosophical," Kelvin told me. "We said, 'we feel sorry for you. It's a disgrace to be in your position'. We told them, we understood it was only their job, but it was shameful to be defending the system."

Halfway through, the younger, cute one got up in a huff and a puff and said, "No need to show us your IC, we have all we need!"

The older one stayed a while more but continued to get no more from Kelvin and D but "philosophy".

The above is transcribed from a phone call from Kelvin immediately after the incident. Kelvin has his record of the conversation in his own blog Salt*Wet*Fish

 

I myself passed by around 9 pm. I estimated the crowd to be about 60 people, maybe 80, if one included the onlookers who stood aside. People were just standing around; there wasn't any scuffle. However, like Kelvin, I couldn't make out what was happening in the centre of the scrum.

I hadn't expected it to be still going on by that time, and thus, I didn't have my camera with me.

As these pictures from Singapore Election Watch shows, Chee (right-most picture) and his supporters spent the night at Hong Lim.

On Sunday, at around 2.30 pm, another friend of mine, Vernon, went to Hong Lim to take a look. He reported thus:

"On an overcast day, Chee Soon Juan was sitting on a director's chair. With him were Chee Siok Chin and 5 to 6 other supporters in similar T-shirts. The 20-or-so policemen were no longer forming a ring around them, but were still standing about close by. Altogether, there were about 30 other people milling around, including one with a video camera on a tripod.

"Members of the public were in conversation with Chee Soon Juan. Things were quite tranquil."

4 pm, and I spoke by phone to Charles Tan, one of the people wearing a protest T-shirt, and also camping out at Hong Lim Green. I asked him to count how many policemen were in the area.

"We're not actually in the park, but on the pavement. There are 40 policemen here, most in blue but some are in plainclothes. Then there are 10 more of them across the road. But, they're not surrounding us or anything."

What about the public? How many within a 10-metre radius?

"There are about 20, maybe 30 people around."

Is anyone speaking with Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin at the moment?

"No, people are just watching."

Vernon said he saw someone videotaping things at about 2.30 pm. Was it the Singapore Democratic Party's guy, or the police?

"Our video photographer had gone back by then, so it might have been the police doing the videotaping then."

I know you guys plan to be there until Tuesday, but what about basic necessities like food and water?

"We're alright. They've been taken care of."

What about toilet?

"We can use the toilet at Hong Lim Park. It was open 24 hours all night last night. We're not prevented from moving around."

If you guys are not prevented from walking around, why aren't you then walking to Parliament House as planned?

"Let me clarify. I am not prevented from walking around but Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin are. They are not allowed to proceed to Parliament House. If they give up the march and tell the police they're going home, I'm sure the police will let them, but also make sure they really do go home."

Like escort them home?

"Perhaps."

I promised to take supper to them tonight.

So there you are guys the latest report from the frontline.

Yawning Bread 


 

Footnotes

None

Addenda

  1. More photos on http://weecheng.com/singapore/csj/index.htm