The Peacefulness of Protests

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I read with utter amazement the comments made by Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in the article “Protestors here from a small minority” (ST, Feb 17). I am a proud participant of the huge anti-war rally that took place in Sydney on Sunday. It was estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 people attended – the numbers involved in such rallies in Sydney and elsewhere around the world were overwhelming and exceeded the organizers’ expectations by a great deal.

Let’s face it. The worldwide sentiment towards a war in Iraq is very clear. Most of us are against the war and the loss of innocent lives. If the actions of the 6 people in Singapore were not a significant representation of Singaporean’s sentiments, it probably only means that we Singaporeans are too indifferent to things that really matter in life. No, life is not all about money and the economy. For many around the world, mere survival has become a daily goal. And that is why there were millions of people around the world coming together in solidarity against the potential American-led war in Iraq. We are concerned for the innocent Iraqi lives potentially at stake in event of a war.

Our Minister is contented with accusing the 6 of somehow being a potential threat to the stability and peace of Singapore. If he were only in Sydney or present in many other rallies around the world, he would realize that these were peaceful marches (despite their huge numbers) and the old accusations the Singapore government throws up as an excuse to disallow demonstrations is totally groundless and ridiculous to anyone who is truly acquainted with such demonstrations. It is time for the government to be honest and stop trying to equate protest rallies and times of creative dissent with violent riots and events that promote instability and disorder. Such a justification makes sense only when speaking of the previous era when allowing demonstrations could potentially lead to instability. The Singapore society today has changed much. It is about time the government recognizes this and allow such freedom of expression in Singapore.

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