Barricades, security checks for Pink Dot

Hong Lim Park awash in pink on June 4, 2016.
Hong Lim Park awash in pink on June 4, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

Aim is to ensure foreigners don't attend, and protect participants in wake of terror attacks

For the first time, a Speakers' Corner event will see barricades erected around Hong Lim Park, with entry points manned by security officers. These officers will also be checking the bags and identity cards of attendees.

The measures will be in place on July 1 at the ninth edition of Pink Dot, the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rally.

They are aimed at dealing with two issues - to ensure that foreigners do not attend the event, as well as security concerns in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

Pink Dot organisers said they were asked by police to suggest what measures they were taking to ensure that only Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) attend the event.

This follows an amendment to the Public Order Act last October. With effect from November last year, organisers of Speakers' Corner events "must ensure that only citizens of Singapore or permanent residents of Singapore participate in the assembly or procession". Those who fail to comply can be fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.

Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa told The Straits Times that after three rounds of discussions, "the only suggestion that the police have agreed to is barricading the park".

"This was a decision taken out of our hands and is something we do not readily agree with," he added, saying that the organisers had offered other ideas such as random bag checks.

In response to ST's queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said: "The organisers are responsible for ensuring that suitable and appropriate measures have been put in place to ensure these rules are complied with.

"The Speakers' Corner is a designated outdoor area for Singaporeans and PRs to participate in assemblies and processions, and for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that matter to them."

But the bag checks were in response to security concerns, given recent acts of terrorism around the globe, added the MHA.

Pink Dot was advised by police to check the bags of attendees for the safety of participants after a bomb went off on May 22 at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 and injuring more than 100.

Closer to home, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a bus terminal in Jakarta last Wednesday, killing three policemen.

Pink Dot organisers said they have not finalised details but are looking to have seven entry points manned by security personnel who will perform the checks.

Since 2014, when a movement opposing Pink Dot started, rally organisers have been hiring security staff to ensure there are no hiccups. They hired 25 last year and will double the figure this year.

These additional measures are expected to drive up costs, said Mr Choa. "We're thankful that we have 116 sponsors."

Pink Dot last night also announced that its ambassadors this year are singer Nathan Hartono, para-swimmer Theresa Goh and actor Ebi Shankara.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Barricades, security checks for Pink Dot'. Print Edition | Subscribe