Silent protest against reserved election

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who was a presidential candidate in 2011, greeting supporters at the silent protest at Hong Lim Park against the reserved election yesterday.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who was a presidential candidate in 2011, greeting supporters at the silent protest at Hong Lim Park against the reserved election yesterday.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Hundreds of people, many of them dressed in black, mounted a silent protest at Hong Lim Park against the reserved presidential election yesterday.

The protest was organised by career counsellor Gilbert Goh. Both youth and seniors took part to express their unhappiness over this year's election, carrying placards with the words #notmypresident - a hashtag some have used to protest against not being able to vote.

President Halimah Yacob was elected unopposed last Wednesday, and inaugurated the day after.

Sales assistant Anthony Lim, 25, told The Sunday Times he was at the protest because he felt the reserved election undermined meritocracy. He said: "I have met Madam Halimah before and like her but I am against the process by which she became President. I feel sorry she has to face so much anger."

Retired deliveryman S. Kumar, 68, was there with four of his friends. "Now the entire election is over - without us getting a chance to make our choice. I want to be here to show that I'm against how the whole thing played out," he said.

There to "share the frustrations of other Singaporeans at being deprived of voting" was 2011 presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock. He arrived to applause and cheers, and was thronged by well-wishers throughout the hour he was there.

"It is not President Halimah as a person that Singaporeans are unhappy about. It is about the way our Government has conducted this whole walkover presidential election," Dr Tan had written in a Facebook post last Friday.

This was echoed by Mr Goh, a Reform Party candidate in the 2015 General Election. Noting that many have spoken well of Madam Halimah, he said: "We are not against her. We are against the system."

Former National Solidarity Party secretary-general Lim Tean said the silent protest was a "powerful message" to the Government.

Also in the crowd were opposition leaders such as Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, as well as former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say.

As Mr Tan shook the hand of Dr Tan, his one-time opponent, he said: "We can do more for the people in the years to come. Hopefully we can do together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline 'Silent protest against reserved election'. Print Edition | Subscribe