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TOC Report: annuity protest draws small crowd

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 9, 2007

A protest against the government’s move to introduce an annuities scheme was held at Centrepoint on Saturday afternoon.

Around 30 people were spotted wearing black throughout the five storey shopping mall, but it was unclear how many of them were there for the specific purpose of protesting the annuities scheme.  

The most visible group of protesters was members of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) who were canvassing for the release of their Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan earlier in the afternoon. The group of eight SDP supporters was led by Dr Chee’s sister Ms Chee Siok Chin.

The low turnout at the event was attributed by some to the amorphous nature of the protest’s organization. 

Word of the protest was originally spread through the internet and participants were asked to wear an item of black clothing and appear at the mall at 4.00 pm. It was unclear who organized the protest. 

The protest was held in reaction to the government’s proposed move to introduce a compulsory annuities scheme component into the Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings scheme.  The CPF scheme is a compulsory savings scheme that is funded on contributions from employees and employers. Current rules allow Singaporeans to withdraw portions of their savings at ages 55 and 62.  

The introduction of the annuities scheme could see a portion of Singaporean’s CPF Savings set aside to be paid back to them in installments.

Expressions of discontent have spilled over into the mainstream media and are particularly apparent online. Many are concerned that the scheme will be made compulsory across the board. 

The annuities scheme comes on top of another widely criticized proposal to raise the age at which the second draw down can be made to 65.  

Despite the failed protest, the discontent on the ground is not going unnoticed by Members of Parliament.  

It is TOC’s understanding that Mdm Ho Geok Choo of West Coast GRC intends to raise concerns about the proposed compulsory annuities scheme in Parliament when it next sits.

 When interviewed, she said: “It is important for the government to allay concerns from the ground before finalizing the details of the scheme. People want to know that their concerns are understood before any decisions are made.” 

The Minister of Manpower Dr Ng En Hen will address Parliament on 17th September providing more details on the annuities scheme.  

Read also: “Courage At Centrepoint” by The Singapore Democratic Party.

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19 Responses to “TOC Report: annuity protest draws small crowd”

  1. It would appear from today’s (Sunday 9.9.2007) fresh announcement about the proposal to defer CPF withdrawal age by minister Lim Boon Heng that the government has a change of heart about the scheme probably due to the open expression of unhappiness by their wear- black protest by more than 600 people at centre point on 8.9.2007.

    This case once again demonstrates that leaders have a tendency to make decisions hastily on some pragmatic or necessary rationale without much thought for the people affected and without considering the larger perspectives of all the issues.

    They may call themselves talents but the fact is they are like the primary school kids who think of problems as two dimensional when problems are multi-dimensional in real life affecting more than simplistic economics or demographics. In order to govern the country for the greatest benefit of the greatest number once again my advice is for ministers to study the fuller impact of policies like the social, cultural, moral aspects which they have often as in this case taken for granted.

    If they want to make good decisions which are going to benefit the people they have to consider the people who are dying and those who do not need the annuities but who just want to enjoy a better retirements with a bit more cash available in their twilight years as well as those who do not have long to live.

    What a learning experience for Lim Boon Heng who now showed up his inadequacy for the empteen time as clearly if he is a talent he should not have failed to consider all these before recommending the scheme and making PM Lee lose face.

  2. Only 30 people wearing black in a 5-storey shopping mall seems to me like the turn out for the protest was non-existent! Chance alone would more than account for that number.

  3. Andrew Loh said

    Hi I Must Be Stupid,

    The report mentioned a “small crowd” because of the group which had gathered at the MacDonald’s. In fact, I would say most of the “protestors” were at the Mac’s at one point or another.

    Regards,
    Andrew

  4. Gerald said

    Any photos? (With faces blurred out of course)

  5. Andrew Loh said

    Hi Gerald,

    Nope, we didn’t take any photos because there was none to take, except when Ms Chee was being interviewed. There was no gathering of the protestors and neither were their numbers big enough to be shown up in any photos.

    I brought my cam there and only snapped two pictures – of Ms Chee being interviewed.

    You can see her photos on the SDP website.

    Andrew

  6. scb said

    Let’s not sadden and dispirit those that made the efforts to turn up at Centrepoint, when I was there at about 5pm, there were many in black there.

    Some were fully black including the caps they wore. What’s apparent to me was that those in black ranged from young adults to some seem to be in their late fifties. That was a very encouraging sign showing that our younger citizens are getting more concerned with policy matters.

    It should rightly be so for policies will affect them sooner or later while their friends and relatives maybe affected sooner.

    The ‘Event’ did not seem to be reported in the medias and naturally became a ‘no issue’ except for Minister Lim Boon Hengs’ latest statement about the Annuity. I concur with Robert Teh that the Annuity Plan was hastily mentioned without comprehensive thought through.

    Policy makers must constantly remind themselves to be mindful of the wellbeings of their people.

    *Moderator to Scb: Please paragraph your comments if they are long ones. It’ll make it easier to read. I have done that for you in this latest comment of yours and previous ones. Please do so in future. Thanks.

  7. […] Protest… Not!!! Posted September 9, 2007 Haha, I was going to log off already, but TOC’s report on the ‘black T-shirt’ protest against CPF annuities just caught my eye, and it’s too good to miss out on. I’ve been […]

  8. RaymondChua said

    The gov let you be happy and let you believe the public has the power of citizen and voice for next few months, and to make you feel good initially. Then make you and the rest of those bloggers who write about power of citizens and popularity of internet social media forced change of gov, look nothing more than mockery and cuckoo when gov start to implement their decision at right opportunity.

    The next moment you used, where are those bloggers and people who trumpetted previously ???

    Next, you will see the cycle continue again and again. You have to know why PAP is able to survive for more than 4 decades of regime compared to other countries !

    Don’t overrate yourself, and underestimated the smartness of PAP !
    Because if you do: you will endup as ‘If you love Singapore too much, first it will break your heart, then it will break your soul.” – Alfian Sa’at, Singaporean poet. ‘

    The PAP is not stupid, it is just merely adapting to situation and its mindset is still very much the same as it is before.

  9. Observer said

    RaymondChua has raised several good points. Yes, it isn’t fair to pour cold water on those who took precious time to show up in black but to see such a “protest” as successful is merely self-delusional and may give way to individual disappointments subsequently. Already, some are planning to organise another one hoping that the numbers will increase but in reality, will dwindle.

    During Think Centre’s heydays in the early 2000s, its members organised protests jointly with personalities like JBJ and CSJ at Speakers’ Corner that really involved carrying placards and having t-shirts with painted words. Based on those standards, I say the standards of political courage and civil action have dropped with this “protest” rather than improved. The 1999 – 2001 era was more politically vibrant and concerted, whereas today it happens largely with bloggers of occasional live appearances and squabbling forummers.

    These Think Centre guys were called up by the police, something these black “protestors” did not go through. They were not deterred and even went on to organise the “Save JBJ Rally” months later. This didn’t change anything. For that matter, even many people themselves have forgotten if Sammyboy Forum is a sampling to go by. Given their singling out WP’s and other opposition’s absence in the black “protest”, they do not realise that the Think Centre guys who organised these “braver” protests are mostly in the WP now and some in other parties, as these forummers who were nowhere to be seen in the political scene back then and now congratulate themselves for something smaller, are ridiculing them.

  10. Hi Scb,

    It’s not my intention to sadden and dispirit those involved in the protest. It’s just that the report gave an impression that only 30 people were found scattered throughout the whole of centrepoint. That gave an impression that the protest was a non-event.

  11. scb said

    Hi I must be stupid, a good rainning morning!

    It was a non issue or was at least treated as such by all except the few of us here and those there at Centrepoint. Personally, I felt and is under the impression that if the livelihoods of the people get affected adversely by any policy, the younger Singaporeans will become active in social and political developments.

    I did see as I said in a post above, that I saw young adults in black and just liked what You said, I agree some ‘blacks’ are uniform staff working in Centrepoint. Others may had co-incidentally donned black because of fashion sense, however, I have no doubt many(of the few) were there to gave supports to the ‘calls’ from the Internet. I would’nt celebrate but I am certainly encouraged, do do what we can for the betterment of ‘our society’!

  12. Lai CF said

    “Order by Coercion” is a more apt motto for “Staying Together, Moving Ahead Together”.

    Anyway, it is just a small pressure relief valve releasing a little bit of steam.

    Since I started listening to National Day Rally Speech in the 70s, Lee HSeing Loong must take the cake for putting his foot into hsi mouth in consecutive years:
    – 2006 – Mee Siam Mai Hum and “Mean Testing”?
    – 2007 – Mandatory Annuity.
    – 2008 – HDB completely privatised to compete with Private Sector as SIngaporeans are rich enough and all SIngaporeans can afford to do away with PUBLIC HOUSING. If you can’t buy, of course, you can always rent from HDB Limited.

  13. Scb,

    If Singapore will progress to a more competitive, progressive and vibrant society as hoped for by many people, we will need more active citizens as exemplified by your posts whho feel passionate enough to speak up without any fear or favor, self-interest or private agendas for the benefit of all.

    You are not doing so for yourself or your own benefit neither do I do so for myself or my own benefits.

    I look forward for more such citizens coming forward to give their voice of conscience e.g.

    (1) Lending an voice of reason to represent ordinary citizens in staging wearing black peaceful protest against specific wrongful policies like further postponing of CPF withdrawal age or conversion of CPF to annuities for politicians’ own narrow-minded interest.

    (2) Finding a way like encouraging citizens to wear red to signal general reproach to wrongful policies on eve of National Day, Labor Day, etc to remind leaders to govern the country for the greatest benefits of the greatest number.

    Without active citizens our nation will be done for in the hands of those who govern for their own self-interests and self-glorifications.

  14. george said

    I say don’t count the numbers. Instead, let the frequency of such protest increase. Let this be Singaporeans’ way of expressing and registering their unhappiness with govt policies and proposals that are ill-conceived and with little regard for people’s real interest, given the many unfair obstructions and obstacles laid down to prevent them from coming together for legitimate reasons. The numbers don’t matter as much as ramping up the frequency of such signals.

  15. Random Person said

    Wah seh. One person in jail not enough, want more people to go jail.

  16. Random Person said

    Protests cause disharmony, are mainly useless and can evolve into more dangerous forms. There are many other ways to be an active citizen without protesting, like writing a letter to ministers, forums, or volunteering in grassroots.

    Why not use the more civilised form of meeting with MPs or ministers instead of protests? You seriously want another Hock Lee bus riot or something similar?

  17. RaymondChua said

    Random Person says:
    “There are many other ways to be an active citizen without protesting, like writing a letter to ministers, forums, or volunteering in grassroots.”

    Okay, so far, lot of people have done that and what impact or rather what did gov respond to citizen ?

    The answer that those mm,pm, mp, sm, or whatever m, from gov gives : brutal truth, quitter, ungrateful (LKY mention this !), Whiner, complainer, crude mentality, NO REPLY, citizen need a dose of incompetent gov, citizen has no sense of proportion when objecting to minister’s pay hike, your daugther may become maid, no choice, etc

  18. Lai CF said

    Contrast to that 3,000 strong protests by workers during May Day in Macau.

    Or the sit-in by protestors over the demolishment of Queen Pier in Hong Kong….

    Civil Society in Singapore?
    I rest my case.

  19. scb said

    Thank You for your Post 13 Comment Mr Teh(Robert). In the past three decades or so, many of us were doing our nation buildings, if I may say so, by writing and speaking to the the MSM and the variuous ministries. Somehow after 1999AD, much of the Forumers did not appear in the medias and after the 9/11, more of the remainder also disappeared.

    Despite, non- reply, no response and treated as non- existent, I nevertheless continued to write to them and got occassional replies and responses which were of formatted versions usually. Somewhere in 2003, I began to find the msm less and less believeable with too much praises and adulations for the Leadership.

    It was however, Channel News Asias’ featuring of Blogger Gayle Goh that inspired me, more accurately it was Gayle Goh that inspired me into the Net. As an aside, I never liked the computer simply because I am primitive in my nature; give me a piece of land, don’t give me a plane. My thinking is basic, primitive and simple, I believe, one only needs to make his/her family, the neighbours, relatives, friends happy; in short let us all be happy and our livings will be happy. Very simple minded indeed for he knows no better ideas.

    Some of our youngsters, the likes of Gayle Goh, tsft(two steps from twilight), Kitana, Aaron Ng, Charissa and many others were(are) seeking justice and reasoning with the Power of the Day for a more equitable society. They are endowed with high intellects and inborn instincts; the latter in my feeling, is more true and accurate than research, hypothesis and man made plans(policies). Their efforts should and must be respected, complemented, and supported by others, especially the older ones like their parents, who have knowledges of our earlier(Singapore) history. Here I am saying that the youths are feeling that things are not right through their natural enlightened state(instinct) and therefore the present situation is indeed political and socially not good. Hence the rise of the vocal young citizens, I take this as a premonition of events to come. Pardon me for the Atheist Superstition, actually a natural reading, and pardon me for the long post.

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