“Sir, I think the police has a lot of better things to do than just to carry a tape recorder and tape speeches,” so said Mr Wong Kan Seng when asked whether the authorities will tape speeches at Speakers Corner when it was first introduced in 2000.
Really, Singaporeans! Shame on you! Dont you know the police are so busy fighting crime that they dont have time to do silly things like taping what people say at Speakers Corner? In fact, they spent so much time in crime prevention exercises last year that shoplifting cases rose by only 34 percent, snatch theft by only 35 percent, robbery by only 63 percent and rape by only 64 percent!
So dont get paranoid, citizens of this country. After all, our dear Minister (for Home Affairs) reassures us that we should not be suspicious whenever someone turns up with a tape recorder at Hong Lim Park:
“Because this is something new, there could be people who are interested to go there to speak and perhaps to make a name for themselves.”
“There could also be people who are really interested to find out what is going on and what the speakers will say. Maybe they will say something interesting.”
“So curious onlookers may carry a tape recorder. Or a research student, for example, writing about political developments in Singapore and he thinks that it is such a grand thing that we have taken such a step, he may carry a tape recorder. “
“Who knows? Journalists will also carry a tape recorder. They will even carry a video recorder, and not just a tape recorder.”
Police surveillance? Perish the thought!
This is the Speakers Corner based on the one at Londons Hyde Park, remember? Where free speech reigns and ideas compete? Didnt Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even challenge Singaporeans to join in the debate? No subject is taboo, remember?
Oh, by the way, there is this small, insignificant point that when Dr Chee Soon Juan was recently prosecuted for speaking at the Speakers Corner on the tudung matter, the police produced a videotape of his entire speech. The recording was done by a boyish-looking police sergeant whose civilian outfit afforded him brilliant camouflage in the green of Hong Lim Park.
But dont let that spoil your fun at the Corner, Singaporeans. You can be assured that those milling around holding cameras and tape recorders are just onlookers, research students and journalists. Well, most of them anyway