Straits Times: Outdoor events by political parties banned

PARLIAMENT

A PERMIT application by the Workers’ Party (WP) to hold a cycling event for its 50th anniversary was rejected because political parties are banned from organising outdoor activities.

This is a longstanding position, as outdoor gatherings by parties have the potential to cause a public disturbance, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee yesterday.

He was responding to Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim, who wanted to know why the WP could not get a police permit for a mass cycling event at East Coast Park.

Said Associate Professor Ho: “The East Coast Park is a recreational park for Singaporeans and their families. It is not meant to be used by a political party to promote its cause.

“Apart from displacing the usual recreational users…it is an open area where there is greater potential for breach of the peace, public disorder and unruly behaviour.”

He said that police required political events to be held indoors or in stadiums where problems could be contained, adding that the WP could consider these venues. The policy applied to all political parties, he said.

To another question from Ms Lim, he said that even if the organisers were well behaved, others there might still cause problems.

To laughter, he added: “Maybe cycle around the stadium.”

Then, WP MP Low Thia Khiang (Hougang) rose to ask why political events in public places were deemed to cause disturbances.

He also asked if Prof Ho considered cycling in a stadium a reasonable suggestion, and if the minister could designate a part of East Coast Park for sports by parties, just as Hong Lim Park became designated Speakers’ Corner. Just before he sat down, Mr Low remarked: “Cycling at Hong Lim Park? Don’t tell me that, ah.”

To the first question, Prof Ho retorted: “If you listened very carefully Mr Low, I don’t know whether his hearing aid is with him because he wears one, I said there is a greater potential for law and order (problems).

“You may be well-behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid.”

JEREMY AU YONG