A new change in the wording of the Public Order Act has gotten events held at Speaker’s Corner in a fix, with one annual event held in the area asking foreigners not to attend the event for fear of prosecution by the police.
Pink Dot, an annual gathering in Singapore to support the freedom to love regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, released a statement Sunday saying that they were allegedly “reminded by the Singapore Police Force” that anyone who turns up to the event – even as a foreigner who does not participate in the formation of the pink dot at the end of the event – is deemed to be part of an assembly.
Due to a change of wording under the Public Order Act, the scope of events not allowed for foreigner participation in Speaker’s Corner – previously only limited to demonstrations – has been widened to include assemblies and processions.
Under the Act, an assembly is defined as a gathering or meeting of persons, of which at least one of the purposes is to publicise a cause or campaign, among others.
The Act also says that organisers “must ensure that only citizens of Singapore or permanent residents of Singapore participate in the assembly or procession”.
This means that in order to continue using the Speaker’s Corner as a location for the event, Pink Dot organisers “have no choice” but to follow the regulation, or risk both organisers and/or foreigner participants being liable to a fine up to $10,000, jail up to 6 months or both, said the statement.
“This is something we do not wish on you, or any of the organisers of Pink Dot,” the statement added.
This new practice differs from previous Pink Dot events, where rules on foreign participation were adhered to by allowing foreigners to attend the gathering but ushering them to stand at an observation deck while the rest participated in forming a pink dot.
The pink dot formation – with last year’s formation participants raising placards – classifies as a demonstration, Popspoken understands.
Pink Dot’s decision on the new ruling “was taken out of our hands”, the organisers’ statement said.
Popspoken has approached the Singapore Police Force for clarifications on the matter. As of press time, the police has not replied to Popspoken’s queries.
Yesterday, the Singapore Police Force said in an advisory that if an event at the Speaker’s Corner does not have a permit, only Singapore citizens and permanent residents are allowed to participate in such assemblies, subject to park rules.
An event at the Speaker’s Corner does not need a police permit to run, but organisers must apply for one of if it is regulated under the Public Order Act, according to the Singapore government’s Factually website.
The Commissioner of Police has the right to revoke an event if it involves non-Singapore citizens, reported Channel NewsAsia.
“Organisers of such events have a responsibility to take appropriate measures to ensure that our laws are complied with,” the authorities’ statement added.
The advisory was released in response to events that were planned to support outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, reported Channel NewsAsia.
Popspoken understands that organisers of the Pink Dot event are in discussion with the police and relevant authorities to discuss the way forward for the event, including permit matters.
For now, organisers said that the event will be livestreamed on their Facebook page, and that everyone is invited to support the event “even if you cannot be physically at the event”.
Featured image: Pink Dot SG