GE2015: A look back at election rallies in the heart of the city including the Fullerton Rally

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party will hold its first lunchtime election rally in the city on Tuesday (Sept 8), following the Singapore Democratic Party's on Monday.

The city rally is held at the UOB Plaza promenade and attracts thousands of office workers.

It has symbolic significance as it is the successor venue to the original "Fullerton Rally" site a stone's throw away.

Fullerton Square near the old General Post Office was where founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke from the 1950s through to the 1980s, delivering some of his most stirring speeches.


Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a People's Action Party rally in 1963. PHOTO: ST FILE

In the 1991 General Election, however, Fullerton Square was not designated a rally site because the area had been landscaped with a small park and circular road replacing the old carpark.

In the 1996 General Election, another site - a five-minute walk away from the old Fullerton Square and in front of UOB Plaza in Boat Quay - was approved for lunchtime rallies.

The Fullerton area has been a venue for political rallies since 1959, when the earliest Singapore political parties took to the podium there to expound their ideas for merger, for self-rule and for independence.


A Singapore People's Alliance 
rally at Fullerton Square in 1959. PHOTO: ST FILE

The venue is a natural magnet for crowds. Located in the heart of the city centre, it is where the white-collar working crowd convenes.

In her biography of the late Cabinet minister S. Rajaratnam, author Irene Ng noted that in the 1959 elections in which the PAP was out to form the next government, the party was engaged in a message war with the English language press.

"To out-shout the English press, they took their own megaphone and message to town, literally, directly to the English-educated at regular rallies at Fullerton Square, which was in the centre of the city," she wrote.

Other parties, too, attracted huge crowds to their rallies at the venue.


The Barisan Socialis chairman, Dr Lee Siew Choh, speaking at a United Front election rally at Fullerton Square in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Straits Times' archives show crowds of people in their thousands listening to candidates from all parties there.

In the days before social media, the rallies were the only opportunities for voters to see, and hear, the candidates speak.

In the early 1980s, office workers would convene in the thousands to hear then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at his characteristic fiery best.


Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew campaigning in the rain during a lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square on Dec 19, 1980. The crowd braved the downpour to hear him speak, hanging on to his words. PHOTO: ST FILE

In 1984, an election year, there was a minor stir when it was thought that landscaping works and a construction site office made the area too small to accommodate the rally crowds. But it was decided that the site was a "the most natural catchment area for lunchtime crowds" and the rallies went ahead.

It was also at a Fullerton Square rally in 1988 where the late Mr Lee told crowds that a "ringing endorsement" would strengthen the younger ministers' hand and ensure support for Mr Goh Chok Tong's leadership and his more consultative style of government.


Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew with his fellow PAP members (from left) S. Jayakumar, Lee Hsien Loong, Yeo Ning Hong, Goh Chok Tong and George Yeo at a rally at Fullerton Square during the 1988 General Election. PHOTO: ST FILE

Here is a look back in pictures at the rousing rallies that have happened in the heart of the city.


The crowd rushing for autographs after then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock concluded the last lunchtime rally of the Singapore People's Alliance at Fullerton Square in 1959. PHOTO: ST FILE


Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew warning a lunchtime crowd of the devastating effects to Singapore if large numbers of blank votes were cast at the merger referendum in 1962. PHOTO: ST FILE


Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a lunchtime election rally at Fullerton Square in 1972. PHOTO: ST FILE


Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaking to a packed lunchtime rally crowd at Fullerton Square in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE


Then Workers' Party secretary-general J.B. Jeyaretnam speaking at a lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE


People watching a PAP election rally from the balustrade of Fullerton Square Building in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE


Mr David Marshall - one-time Chief Minister of Singapore - opening his lunchtime tirade against the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill, in which jury trials will be abolished, in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE


(From left) BG Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Yeo Ning Hong and then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at a PAP rally in 1988. PHOTO: ST FILE 


The Workers' Party launched its 1988 election campaign with a lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square. PHOTO: ST FILE


Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS) holding a rally at Fullerton Square in 1988. PHOTO: ST FILE


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking under the blazing sun at a PAP lunchtime rally at Boat Quay in 2006. PHOTO: ST FILE