Yet another event aiming to raise awareness on needy Singaporeans was abruptly cancelled hours before it had been scheduled to take place, due to a police permit issue.
Socio-political activist Gilbert Goh had organised an event that was scheduled to take place today (14 Dec) and invited Singaporeans to sleep out in the open like the homeless for one night, to create awareness and show support for homeless Singaporeans.
The event, which was set to take place in the Bugis/Lavender area from 11pm on 14 December to 6am on 15 December, was primarily organised to show solidarity with the homeless and was inspired by Mr Goh’s experiences in Sydney, Australia, where he saw company heads camp out with the homeless each year to raise funds for NGOs helping the homeless.
The organisers had plans to provide a blanket, sleeping bag, cardboard and a bottled water for participants. Earlier, Mr Goh had appealed: “Many of us have wonderful homes and a comfortable bed to sleep in but 1000 Singaporeans have to sleep out in the rough daily for weeks, months and sometimes years.
“Do sacrifice one night for the homeless so you can experience what it is like…and feel more for these unfortunate ones.”
At 8.29am this morning, Mr Goh revealed on Facebook that the event has been cancelled due to the need of a police permit: “Due to the need for a police permit for our homeless sleepover experience tonight, the event will be cancelled…we are sorry.”
There is a minimum period of 14 days for the application of a public assembly permit to be approved or rejected. Mr Goh was apparently only informed that he needed to apply for the permit on 10 Dec – four days before his event was scheduled to take place.
Mr Goh told a local publication that the police officer he was liaising with had said that he needed to apply for the permit because it is a public gathering for a cause, when Mr Goh pointed out that the scheduled activity was just a charity event.
According to the Public Order Act, an “assembly” is defined as a gathering or meeting (whether or not comprising any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion) with the purpose of demonstrating support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government; publicising a cause or campaign; or commemorating any event.
It is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to take part in a public assembly or procession without a police permit.
Asserting that he would have considered applying for the permit if he had been notified earlier and that the abruptness of the notice is “almost like asking us to cancel it by default,” Mr Goh told the publication: “Why only let me know four days before hand when we noticed it so early? How to apply police permit with four days?”
Another charity event that had been scheduled to take place today was also cancelled hours before it was set to take place due to the same police permit issue.
About 12 hours before Mr Goh announced the cancellation of his event, non-profit community organisation, Happy People Helping People (HPHP), revealed that they had to abruptly cancel a scheduled event after the police informed them that they should not carry out the event without a permit.
HPHP had been planning the fundraising event for several weeks now and had invited all the political parties in Singapore to join elderly cardboard collectors in a guided activity to raise money for these needy senior citizens.
While the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was among the parties that had been invited to participate, only the Singapore Democratic Party, the Progress Singapore Party, the Reform Party and the People’s Power Party had pledged to take part in the fundraiser.
At 8.48pm on Friday (13 Dec), however, HPHP revealed that it has been forced to cancel the event due to the police permit issue. It said:
“It is unfortunate that we have to cancel this event tomorrow because the police did not want us to do this without a permit. And they told us yesterday night. We wonder why at the very last minute.”
The police confirmed that it had asked the organisers to submit the necessary applications for the permit on Thursday (12 Dec). In a statement to the local press, the police said that HPHP is not a registered charity and does not have a licence under the House to House and Street Collections Act.
Asserting that the scheduled event “goes beyond simply helping cardboard collectors, and appears to be politicising a social cause,” the police noted that the organisers planned to “open online donation accounts for each political party, so that donors can donate to the party of their choice, before the donations are distributed to cardboard collectors.”
As such, the event would be considered a public assembly and required a permit. The police said that they “have yet to receive any application for a permit to hold this event.”