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Hong Lim Park protest – revisited

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 16, 2007

The international media was not there, neither were there scores of policemen and policewomen or helicopters circling above. There was no big crowd and the only photographers clicking away were a handful – from the local press and some members of the public.

There was to be no 3-day stand-off either.

Hong Lim Park one year on and members of the Singapore Democratic Party were there to revisit their previously failed attempt to walk from the park to the Istana in their struggle for democracy.

The walk was scheduled to kick off at 3pm – as announced on their website. Led by its chairman Mr Gandhi Ambalam, the group of about 7 arrived at 3.10pm, wearing white t-shirts specially printed with the words “Democracy Now” in front and “Freedom Now” on the back.

They then sang the song which is synonymous with the American Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome” and started their walk – first to Parliament House and then on to the Istana – where they intended to hand over a letter to the Prime Minister.

In a stark contrast to the proceedings last year (picture left), there was almost an absence of local security personnel. One would have missed them if not for their ubiquitous video cameras which trailed and recorded every step of the activists’ journey.

All the way from Hong Lim Park to the Queenstown Remand Prison, the police officers (in plain clothes) never once took a break in their recording – even when the group took a breather and went into a shopping mall to visit the public restrooms. The police officers could be seen waiting outside the restrooms – with their video cameras.

Peaceful walk

The walk to their final destination was peaceful and without any incidents – except for Mr Ambalam being approached by one of the officers at one point and given a verbal warning that he was engaging in an illegal activity.

The activists handed out flyers to members of the public whom they met along the way. Mr Ambalam was especially heartened to see students, who were studying at the SMU compound, readily accepting the flyers. “In the past they would not even smile at us. Now they do”, he quipped.

At the Istana

At the Istana, Mr Ambalam and the members were met by police guards at the main gate. “We are here to deliver a letter to the prime minister,” Mr Ambalam informed the guards. The officer looked around and for a moment didn’t seem to know what to do. A few moments later, another official (in civilian clothes) approached the group.

Mr Ambalam shook his hands and told him that he has a letter for the PM. The official took the letter, in a brown envelope, opened it and asked, “Just one sheet of paper, right?”

“Yes”, came the reply. He shook hands again with Mr Ambalam who thanked the official and the activists took their leave.

It was a brief and rather cordial encounter.

(Watch the short video of the encounter below.)

Destination Queenstown Remand Prison

After almost 3 hours of walking, the activists reached their destination – Queenstown Remand Prison, where their secretary general Dr Chee Soon Juan, is being held for trying to leave the country while being a bankrupt.

(Dr Chee was originally fined $4,000 but was sentenced to 3 weeks jail when he opted not to pay the fine. “He did not pay because it was partly a matter of principle,” said his sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin. “It’s ridiculous that they even flagged a fine on a bankrupt”, she added.) (link)

Mrs Chee and her three children (2 daughters and a son) joined them shortly outside the prison gates, where the members were to hold a night vigil for Dr Chee. As in past vigils, candles were lit on the ground as the sky darkened and a slight drizzle began to fall.

As Mr Ambalam told me, they intended to stay a while to show support for Dr Chee.

Read also: Activists marked 16 Sept with WALK + Vigil by Uncle Yap (link)


Video of Mr Ambalam handing over the letter to the Istana official


Video of the walk, September 16, 2007


Video of last year’s walk, September 16, 2006



15 Responses to “Hong Lim Park protest – revisited”

  1. Gerald said

    Great coverage, Andrew!

  2. Taken from my blog.

    Join the Circus to oppose the PAP? No thanks!

    *Comments edited by moderator. Apologies, Singapore Boy, but we do not allow an entire blog post to be posted on the comments section. However, we do welcome url links to your blog – as we’ve done for your reference above. Thanks.. 🙂

  3. Ng E-Jay said

    Hi Andrew,

    It was a great event, and it was also a great pleasure meeting and chatting with you, not to mention also a great honour walking with the SDP and supporting them in their march for democracy and freedom of assembly.

    At the end of the event outside the forbidding gates of Queenstown Remand Prison, I witnessed Dr Chee’s children light the candles in support of Dr Chee. I felt very touched. These kids displayed even more bravery than many adult citizens, some of whom do not even dare approach the SDP members in public.

    I think the flame of democracy must never be extinguished, but must be carefully nurtured. We are at the tipping point where the citizens are searching for good leaders to show them the way. It is up to capable and committed people to step forward and take the lead. When others see that good people are doing the right thing, they will follow.

    All in all, it was a great event and I look forward to supporting more of SDP activities.

    Ng E-Jay

  4. Observer said

    Today’s New Paper reported that the Caucasian “tourist” right there with the group at the Istana in the Youtube video is actually Timothy Cooper from a US NGO, Worldrights. He is probably there at SDP’s behest to film police manhandling and shenanigans. The police craftily did not want to play the game, hence, the unmolested march. Wheels within wheels.

  5. Dead poet said

    A few weeks, back a friend of mine asked me why I even botherd about Chee’s antics. Firstly I reminded him it was Dr Chee (the MSM has stopped refering to him as such) and that he was a respected lecturer in our World Ranked University and that they would not have hired him in the first place if he was a crackpot or a gay. Lets not forget MOE’s edict on the role of teachers. So I shot him back a question, go figure what the 102 including Lim Chin Siong, JBJ, those arrested in the so called Marxist plot, Francis Seow, Tang, Devan Nair had in common. Were they common criminals, uneducated fools, habitual liers or cheaters?. Go figure what their one common fault was…and then come talk to me I told him and if he could not see what they have in common, he is the ultimate fool of all….

  6. Dead poet said

    I missed out a fact..he had never read Animal Fram . so I loaned him a copy…he came back and declared all the ones I mentioned were in league with Snowball and Mr Jones.

  7. Mithril Arrow said

    why sdp got so many ang moh frens? why so many ang moh want to fren sdp? how come?

  8. Not as many friends in the international arena as the PAP, actually.

  9. Andrew Loh said

    Hey EJay,

    Yea, if nothing else it was a good workout, huh? Walking for 3 hours! I was beat by the time I got home. 🙂

    When Dr Chee’s eldest daughter got out of the car, pointed at her t-shirt and schouted “Democracy!” with a smile on her face… that moment was the highlight for me, to be honest. One can hope that the younger generation still believe in the values of democracy.. 🙂

    Had a good long chat with Gandhi during the walk. A man of conviction, for sure!


  10. Kai Xiong said

    Hello again Andrew,

    Thanks for the coverage and staying with us throughout almost the entire event. By far the most memorable event for me was chatting about politics over our chicken rice dinner outside the prison :).

    It’s a pity it didn’t see more publicity because of short notice but I’m happy either way.

    After you left, John had some very interesting history to share about non-violent action, like how nuns confronted armed soldiers by putting roses into their gun barrels during the Rose Revolution (I think) and so on. Although I’ve never seen what he saw on TV, it really moved me.

    Oh yes. I don’t know if you know about John’s haggling with our T-shirt printer who charged exhorbitant prices to drive him away. Apparently, the printer has now formally requested by mail , to the point of begging us not to patronize their service again lest they land in trouble.

    Sad isn’t it.

    Kai Xiong

    P.S. Shout-out to E-Jay! Great to see you again

  11. Andrew Loh said

    Hi Kai Xiong,

    Hey, was cool to finally talk to you at the walk. I wish there were more young people like you – who’re willing to stand up for what they believe in. Perhaps we’re seeing this taking place – one person at a time?

    By the way, can u email me your email address? Wanna catch up on what we spoke about.. 🙂 Thanks!



  12. […] 18th, 2007 at 8:54 pm (Uncategorized) I read this over at The Online Citizen. The moral behind this entertaining side-story from Monday’s New Paper about the […]

  13. Kai Xiong said

    I’ve just sent you a mail 🙂

    I don’t know the answer to your question for sure to be honest. I can only say that cynical and fatalistic as I sometimes am, I choose to believe in humanity and life in general. Somehow they have never disappointed me in the end. Even the helpless dogs in Seligman experiment* found their way out of their unpleasant situations.


  14. […] Sept 2006 stand-off . TNP followed-up that rubbish with a sinister-sounding report this year on the Ist anniversary of that stand-off […]

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