Sheng Siong, wet markets and free speech

November 1, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

The Community Club (CC) at Bukit Panjang has rejected an application by the SDP to rent its hall for a public forum to discuss the controversy over the sale of the wet market at Fajar Road to Sheng Siong. Mr Colin Leow of the CC replied that he cannot rent out the venue to political parties.

The police had earlier rejected an application by the Singapore Democrats to have the talk outside the wet market itself. They indicated that the talk could be held indoors or at Speakers’ Corner.

The only indoor venue that is available for such a forum is the CC at the constituency. But the CC has decided that political parties are not welcome even though the wet market issue clearly involves the community.

What about the Speakers’ Corner? Why should a local issue regarding residents of Bukit Panjang be held at Hong Lim Park? Why should residents, many of whom are not young and would find it difficult to make  the trip, have to do downtown just to talk about a matter in their own backyard?

This is why the SDP rejects the notion of a free speech venue, a circumscribed area only where public talks are permitted in the country.

This is the clearest example yet of how the curtailment of our political rights affect bread-and-butter issues.

In any democratic country, the people and the opposition would be able to legitimately raise the issue of a neighbourhood market being taken over by big businessman that would put many out of work and raise prices.

Such a public discussion would necessitate the member of parliament to give an account of what he/she would do to help his constituents.

But given the unconstitutional ban on legitimate outdoor political talks, PAP MPs are well protected from the views and sentiment of the residents. The opposition would also be unable to help pressure the incumbent to act in the interest of the people.

The ruling party MPs can safely do as they please.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, MP for Bukit Panjang, can afford do little or even nothing, and not have to pay a political price.

The police is disingenuous in calling on the SDP to hold the activity indoors knowing that there is no available venue for such an activity. The Speakers’ Corner, for reasons stated above, is also a non-starter.

In other words, there is no avenue for the people to speak up and debate the issues that affect their everyday lives.

So the next anyone says that democracy and political rights have nothing to do with bread-and-butter issues, remember: Sheng Siong, wet markets, and PAP MPs.