Chia Ti Lik
SG Human Rights
My thoughts at this moment at 2341hrs on the events of the day (15 Mar 08).
I had started out feeling enthusiastic about the protest which i was about to take part today. Early awakening in the morning and thereafter straight for a breakfast with a couple of friends.
We found ourselves under cloudy weather when we arrived near the venue. After a while of speaking around, we proceeded towards Parliament House. There were probably about 25 to 30 of us. Excluding the children that were brought by their parents.
Straightaway, the seasoned eye of an activist spots a total of about 8 plain clothes policemen lurking around to do surveillance. The police and the administration were clearly rattled by the intention to protest in front of parliament house.
To me this was a symbolic gesture. As Parliament has failed Singapore in failing to keep the Cabinet in check, a protest by people from all walks of life in Singapore would bring them down a peg or two and for them to start listening to the people. I prided myself for being able to pluck up the courage to join in this protest.
After photos and interviews were taken by the local and foreign press on the paraphernalia and purpose of the protest, placards included. ASP William Goh, fearful of being identified as a police officer, failed to appear in his uniform. ASP William Goh made a hasty introduction of himself and asked for us to disperse from the the Parliament House. Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam disagreed and started walking across the road towards Funan Centre.
There in front of Funan Centre, we were accosted again by a sweaty and panicky ASP William Goh who now demanded that the placards to be surrendered and if the placards were not surrendered, arrests would be made.
Uncle Yap challenged the police to state which law the protestors broke and why was it that they had to hand over the placards. Uncle Yap was covering the event with a camera of his. Kaixiong and Dr. Chee tried to reason with the ASP and was getting nowhere. The ASP began uttering gibberish – about something about the Parliament being gazetted as a protected area and about the placards which must be surrendered. The police officers blocked our way for a good 10 minutes or so ironically preventing us from dispersing from the vicinity of the Parliament.
I asked the ASP to see reason as the protest was an entirely peaceful one and that there were many Singaporeans affected by price hikes which the ruling party has indirectly and directly caused and that it was totally unremorseful about. I told the ASP that given the number of reporters around, it would be a public relations debacle for the Government Administration if Mas Selamat Kastari remained on the loose and Police resources were freely used to stifle dissenting voices for the benefit of the ruling PAP. This argument won no ground.
After a couple of minutes more, when the police reinforcements arrived, they acted. ASP William Goh ignored our pleas that the protest was a peaceful one and that it was concerned with the welfare of all Singaporeans. ASP William Goh ordered the arrest of Uncle Yap. Uncle Yap passed his camera to me. The Police tried to grab it and i passed it to someone else. We locked arms. One by one using police officers, they tried to pry as apart. The regime has in fact resorted to softening its hardline approach by using non uniformed police officers and non uniformed women to do the dirty job of arresting protestors. None of them were in uniform.
From the corner of my eye, i saw that the police vans were ready to take us away. Our grip became tighter. So were the number of hands and arms on us pulling our grip apart.
I had probably 4 or 5 female officers pulling my arms apart from I think was SDP’s Ghandi. I ended up facing away from Dr. Chee but yet locked arms with him. I was on Dr. Chee’s left. John Tan was on his right. Soon we were overpowered. I was led to one van only to find Siok Chin being manhandled into the van. For some reason or the other then they then decided to put me in another van. I ended up being trussed by two policewomen into a police van with Dr. Chee, Kaixiong, Sylvester, Seelan. It was only inside the van that the officers were uniformed. There were 3 officers, all Staff Sergeants – seasoned men. Seelan was dragged all the way in, face down onto the van floor. The debacle was seen by hundreds of onlookers. This was happening in Singapore.
Inside the van, i sat opposite an officer. He forbade me from using my phone be it to call or to receive calls. The reporters were still outside the van, there were many people watching. There was also a traffic police on a motorbike who had stopped the traffic. It was a real spectacle. Amidst all these, i found tears welling in my eyes.
I was surprised, was it the humiliation? Was there any shame? For a lawyer to be trussed up into a police van watched by hundreds and with cameras rolling? I searched myself. Yes it was shame. But it was not mine.
The shame I felt was Singapore’s shame. Of a situation and plight where people can no longer speak and assemble freely in their own country. How has our island whom we are taught to live love and die for become a place where the citizens who are expected to carry the burden are treated lesser than the foreigners who come in and who are deemed to have no reason to be speaking up against their own government?
We have a place which can no longer be called a country. Singapore has been twisted into a macabre contortion by the People’s Action Party. To live life and pay up AND shut up. I held back the tears, there was no reason for the tears to fall in a regime’s police van for the word Police, its emblem and its uniforms no longer held any meaning. This was a police force which allows the PAP’s subsidiaries e.g. CASE conduct similar protests with impunity. This was a police force that showed restraint against protesting foreigners. This was the same police force that let Mas Selamat Kastari loose. This was the same police force that accosted and bundled up Singaporean activists into police vans.
My tears were too sacred for them to have contact with the defiling instruments of the regime . I held back my emotions. Dr. Chee joked abit as we backed out into coleman street before heading towards Police Cantonment Complex. Kaixiong broke into a song along the way.
I thought about the state of which this country was in and the position a citizen was in vis-a-vis a foreigner and the State. The verdict was depressing. We were mere digits. To be enslaved. To be taxed. To be bled. AND to be silenced.
The time is 0040hrs 16th March 2008. It has been a long day. I will recite the events at the Police Station in Part II.
This is Part I of Mr Chia Ti Lik’s account. For subsequent instalments, please visit: http://www.sgpolitics.net