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Thousands Turn up for May Day protest at Hong Lim Park // 1 May 2013

Almost everyone was talking about the May Day protest at Hong Lim Park weeks before the actual date. And today, at 4pm, thousands of Singaporeans turned up for it – including several of my Facebook friends.

As taken from Yahoo Newsroom today:

Thousands Turn up for May Day protest at Hong Lim Park

People gather during a May Day protest against high living costs and immigration policies at Hong Lim Park in Singapore May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

About 3,000 people turned up at the Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park Wednesday afternoon to again protest the government’s plans to let in more immigrants to counter Singapore’s ageing population.The turnout on the grey-cast, drizzly day was smaller than the first protest in February, which was one of the largest protests held in the city-state in decades with 4,000 people in attendance despite the rain then. Initially, at least 2,000 people seemed to be around at the start of the event, but the crowd grew bigger as more people streamed in. AFP estimated the crowd reached 3,000 people though event organiser Gilbert Goh put the number between 5,000 and 6,000.

Gilbert Goh, president of transitioning.org, starts his opening speech for the inaugural Labour Day protest. “Today marks another historical occasion for Singapore,” says Goh.

In his opening speech at about 4pm, Goh of transitioning.org, a support site for the unemployed and the event organiser, said more protests would be held at the park. He also asked attendees to wave their pink identification cards to show they were not foreigners, as non-Singaporeans were discouraged from attending the event. (If you want to know why, scroll down to read)

Goh asks the audience to hold up their pink and red ICs to prove that they are not foreigners. In a previous press conference, Goh said that foreign nationals may be barred from attending the protest. (Scroll below for details)

Foreign labour issue

He explained that he felt he had to organise the protest after seeing well-educated Singaporeans reach their 40s and 50s without good job prospects. “I am not against foreigners but we are against the policy of allowing a company to hire 100 per cent foreigners,” he said.

“The employment pass allows companies to hire 100 per cent foreigners, and I don’t think this is right. There is a quota for S pass. Why don’t they put a quota for the employment pass? They are the greatest competition for educated Singaporeans,” Goh asserted. Anti-foreigner sentiment has been rising in Singapore with many citizens blaming immigrants for pushing up the cost of living, taking jobs away from locals and straining infrastructure. The first protest in February was a backlash to a government white paper projecting that Singapore’s population could increase to as much as 6.9 million in 2030 with almost half of the number made up of foreigners.

The event had 10 other speakers, including lawyer M Ravi, former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say, financial services expert Leong Sze Hian and migrant worker champion Jolovan Wham. Activist NIzam Ismail earlier this week backed out from speaking at the event, saying the move was “a personal protest against untruths on my purported political objectives”. Last week, Nizam quit as director of the Association of Muslim Professionals over alleged government pressure for him to curb his critical views.

Human rights, income inequality

When it came his turn to speak, lawyer M Ravi, who last year represented a client in challenging the prime minister’s discretion to call for a by-election, discussed the wide income gap and lack of protection for human rights in Singapore. He noted that Singapore was one of the founders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but while other member states have human rights commissions, the city-state does not.

Protesters react during a May Day protest against high living costs and immigration policies at Hong Lim Park in Singapore May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

He said that the government, employers and trade unions were supposed to protect workers’ rights, but the three-way arrangement has been “ineffective”. He also said population growth in Singapore “increases poverty and causes unequal distribution of wealth”, citing that the country has one of the widest income gaps in the world.

Wham, executive director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), said he had also come to realise that Singapore has one of the highest income inequality rates in the world, and that people needed to speak up. “The poor may not dare to speak up and make themselves heard because they find thatit is shameful,” he said. He also pointed out that what poor families in Singapore need are not handouts but “a decent wage with decent hours and decent working conditions”.

Leong, former president of the Society for Financial Services Professionals, said that Singaporeans have been told over and over again that to have higher wages there had to be good economic growth.He estimated, however, that during the past dozen years, over which Singapore’s economy has grown, the real growth in the median wage excluding employer’s CPF contribution was only 0.4 per cent per annum.

Coalition government?

In his speech, Tan Jee Say, who lost in the four-way presidential race in 2011 with the third-highest share of vote, had harsh words for the ruling People’s Action Party, and urged opposition parties to aim for a coalition government. The population white paper, he said, was a way for the PAP to tighten its grip on Singaporeans with the help of new citizens.

“If PAP has the interests of Singaporeans at heart, they will do what other cities do in tackling the issues of an ageing population and low fertility rate,” he said. He clarified that he was not against foreigners in Singapore but rather the government policy of continually importing foreign workers. “We can understand why new citizens are grateful to the government but gratitude is not servitude. Do not vote PAP just out of gratitude because gratitude is about the past, not the future,” he said.

Regarding the political landscape, Tan noted that the opposition was more ready than the PAP was back in 1959. Singapore’s most popular opposition party, the Workers’ Party, earlier this year cautioned against reading too much into its candidate’s decisive win in the Punggol East by-election and that it was not ready to form the next government.

“In 1959, the PAP only had one PhD, the late Dr Toh Chin Cye. We in the opposition today have seven PhDs, of whom three are associate professors. We have several doctors, lawyers, ex-bankers, corporate executives – together, there are at least 25 to 30 of us with a wide range of expertise to run an effective, competent and caring government,” Tan pointed out. “Can we work together from different parties to form a coalition government? Yes, we can. Today, life goes on in 75 countries that are governed by pro-coalition governments,” he said.

Credits: Yahoo Newsroom

Now remember I mentioned that foreigners were not allowed to participate in Labour Day protest? The reason for it as seen from this Yahoo Newsroom article:

Yahoo! Newsroom – Gilbert Goh says that foreign nationals may be barred from the Labour Day protests due to a technicality.

The organiser of the next week’s Labour Day protests says foreign nationals may be barred from the event due to a technicality.

Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org said on Tuesday at a press conference at Bras Basah Complex that he has not applied for a police permit to hold the follow-up protest to the “No to 6.9 million” mass protest held earlier this year. The move comes after a request by the National Parks Board (NParks) for Goh to apply for a police permit that would allow the participation of foreigners in the protest.

Under the terms and conditions for use of the Speakers’ Corner, a police permit “must be obtained if permanent residents of Singapore are speaking or organising a demonstration, performance or exhibition, and/or if foreigners are speaking or participating in or organising activities at Speakers’ Corner.

Out of fear his protest slot may be revoked altogether if he does apply for the police permit, he said he decided against applying for it. “I have done 6 protests, never did I have to apply for a police permit,” he told media.

Credits: Yahoo Newsroom

Anyway moving on, just sharing some photos of the event as taken from Occupy Singapore’s Facebook and Yahoo Newsroom:

Oh if you’re like me and you missed out on the protest and the speeches, you may want to check out the live streaming videos that were taken:

>> Click HERE to view <<
>> Click HERE to view <<

Till later,
♥ mitsueki

Author: mitsueki

Hello! I'm mitsueki aka Daphne and I blog at mitsueki.sg! Follow me on IG for more updates too!

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