It started quietly with Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin setting up a small table in front of the Burmese Embassy at St Martin’s Drive. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s poster was strategically propped up to ensure maximum visual impact.
It didn’t take long for the police show up. Dr Chee was warned that the gathering was an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
By about 3 pm, the crowd started to build up. As they visitors signed the petition, they also took the opportunity to write messages to the Burmese junta and posted them on the gates of the embassy. It didn’t take long for the entrance to be covered up with angry notes.
Sufficiently startled, the police swung into action. ASP Deep Singh went around the crowd asking for all to leave the place as it “was an offence for five or more people to be assembled without a permit.” He received a polite but defiant applause for his efforts.
His subordinates were, meanwhile, diligently confronting visitors at the entrance to St Martin’s Drive. They were asking for particulars and telling people that they could not go to sign the petition.
Despite their best efforts, however, many people ignored the police’s half-hearted and confused demands. What if the people there were residents in the area or were visiting friends?
More important, under what provision of the law can the police stop people from walking down a street?
And so people continued to make their way to the Burmese embassy and at one point they numbered more than 200. Each and every one of them sat quietly on the pavement after they signed the petition, in solidarity with the brothers and sisters at home.
Many were deep in prayer. Others sat stoically and munched absent-mindedly on their dinner. Even when an embassy car drove up to enter the compound, the crowd quietly parted to allow it through. No shouts, no cussing. Just dignified anger.
It was a moving sight spoilt only by the pig-headedness of a government to not allow any peaceful gathering as long as it didn’t adorn the PAP badge.
Come and support the Burmese democratic revolution. Don’t look the other way and pretend that nothing’s happening. See you tonight outside the Burmese embassy.