Singapore— The Singapore Police Force issued a statement on Friday night, December 13, saying that an event organized by a group called Happy People Helping People, would constitute a public assembly, and therefore under the Public Order Act, it would require a Police permit.
The event organizers cancelled the event, saying in a Facebook post that they wondered why they had been told of the need for the Police permit “at the very last minute,” but said they would still come to Toa Payoh to help the elderly who collect cardboard boxes, and invited “anyone who wishes to join us to experience what it’s like to be in their shoes.”
What the event was all about
On November 21, Happy People Helping People announced on their Facebook page that they had invited all of Singapore’s political parties to send a representative to join their next “A Mile In Their Shoes” event, wherein the representative would be partnered with an elderly cardboard collector to participate together in the event.
For the fundraising aspect, donors could give to the party of their choice through various Give.Asia accounts, which would then be distributed to the cardboard collectors from that area.
The organizer made it clear that “Only members who will be participating in the upcoming election can participate.”
Happy People Helping People listed their objectives for the event: “1) Participants will get to experience cardboard collecting first-hand and hopefully will share their experiences in parliament and help solve the growing impoverished elderly problem among our senior citizens. 2) To raise awareness about the cause 3) Raise funds for the cardboard collectors 4) Positive publicity for participating parties.”
On December 12, the organizers announced the confirmed participants from the different parties:
- S. Nallakurappan (PSP)
- Goh Meng Seng (People’s Power Party)
- Bryan Lim Boon Heng (SDP)
- Damanhuri Abas (SDP)
- Khung Wai Yeen (SDP)
- Darren Soh (Reform Party)
- Charles Yeo (Reform Party)
- Chua Soon Hock (Non-politician)
However, according to the police statement, the event “goes beyond simply helping cardboard collectors and appears to be politicising a social cause,” which is why they deemed it a public assembly.
The statement also said that the Police had told Mohammad Nafiz bin Kamarudin, Happy People Helping People’s founder, that a permit was needed for the event, and counseled him to file the application for the permit. But as of the posting of their statement on December 13, no application had been filed.
“It is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to organise or participate in a public assembly without a Police permit. Members of the public should check with the event organiser if a Police permit is issued, before participating,” the Police added.
Several of the would-be participants of the event commented on its cancellation.
SDP’s Bryan Lim Boon Heng wrote, “Khung Wai Yeen 江伟贤– SDP & I had just left the Elections Department Training Centre when we were alerted to the following statement from the Police Force.
It is deplorable that the authorities have only decided to inform the organizers at the eleventh hour that a permit is required- leaving them with little time to react. It makes us wonder if the event will still proceed if the PAP has accepted the invitation too.”
Goh Meng Seng of People’s Power Party wrote, “It is indeed “political” as it is very good opportunity to give ‘social-political education of empathy’ to politician-wannabe. We should actually have MORE of such activities.