Police permit for Speakers' Corner: Get help if needed

As stated in the Straits Times article on Dec 21 (Speakers' Corner: Some face issues holding events), approval from the National Parks Board (NParks) is required to use the Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park even if a police permit is not needed.

Applications can be made to NParks through the website.

If the organisers comply with the exemption conditions under the Public Order Act (POA), a separate police permit is not needed.

There have been many events held at the Speakers' Corner which did not require a separate police permit.

One recent event was the memorial for Korean singer Kim Jong Hyun. The application was submitted to NParks on Dec 19 and the event was held the next day.

For events which require a separate police permit, event organisers who require clarification can approach the police for assistance. If the event organisers would like to obtain the permit well in advance, they should submit their application earlier.

The Straits Times article also said concerns regarding the Speakers' Corner came in the wake of charges brought against Jolovan Wham. These are two separate matters entirely.

Wham was charged for various offences, including the organisation of public assemblies outside the Speakers' Corner without a police permit. It is a criminal offence to organise or participate in a public assembly outside the Speakers' Corner without a police permit.

Wham deliberately flouted the law. On July 13, he created a Facebook event asking the public to participate in a vigil outside Changi Prison Complex.

He stated in the Facebook post that a permit had not been sought, but proceeded to hold the vigil. He knew he was breaking the law.

He could have applied to hold the vigil at the Speakers' Corner, but chose not to.

On Nov 26, 2016, Wham organised an indoor public assembly featuring a foreign speaker. Before this, the police had advised him that a police permit was required for this.

Yet, he proceeded to hold the event without a police permit. During investigations, he refused to sign police statements when required to. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated.

The question is whether we want a situation where everyone can hold vigils wherever they like, and gather as large a crowd as they wish, which could potentially run into thousands.

That happens in some countries, and the consequences are plain for everyone to see. In Singapore, such gatherings are allowed at the Speakers' Corner.

Simon Ng (Superintendent)
Assistant Director (Public Communications Division)
Public Affairs Department
Singapore Police Force

Soh Ze Bin
Deputy Director (Parks)
National Parks Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2017, with the headline 'Police permit for Speakers' Corner: Get help if needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe