Parliament: 'No untoward incident' from past concurrent events at Hong Lim Park

A banner on display during a peaceful protest held at Hong Lim Park on 8 June 2013. Asked for an account of the Sept 27, 2014 incident in Hong Lim Park where protestors had allegedly disrupted a nearby charity carnival, National Development Mini
A banner on display during a peaceful protest held at Hong Lim Park on 8 June 2013. Asked for an account of the Sept 27, 2014 incident in Hong Lim Park where protestors had allegedly disrupted a nearby charity carnival, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan told the House he could not comment as police investigations and court cases are ongoing,  but noted that there had been "no untoward incident" arising from prior occasions. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Asked for an account of the Sept 27 incident in Hong Lim Park where protestors had allegedly disrupted a nearby charity carnival, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan told the House he could not comment as police investigations and court cases are ongoing.

But Mr Khaw added that different groups had conducted multiple events at the same time on many past occasions at Hong Lim Park, and until Sept 27 there had been "no untoward incident" arising from concurrent events being held.

On Monday in Parliament, Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) had requested a full account of the incident, where a protest being held at Speakers' Corner had spilled over to another part of the park hosting a YMCA charity carnival.

He had also asked about whether there had been any non-compliance by the organisers of both events in ensuring public peace, and about any follow-up action to ensure such incidents would not happen again.

Mr Khaw replied: "The police investigation into the incident has yet to be completed. The legal proceedings against certain persons related to the incident are also ongoing. It is not appropriate to reply to this question."

His reply came a day after lawyer M Ravi submitted a petition to Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, urging Members of Parliament (MPs) not to say anything in the House that would influence proceedings before the courts.

Mr Ravi is acting for the six protestors facing public nuisance charges in court. These include protest organisers Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui, both of whom have been additionally charged with organising a demonstration without approval.

On Monday, Madam Halimah reminded the MPs in the House about the related cases before the court, and said she would disallow any statement or supplementary question that would impinge on the principle of mutual respect and forbearance between the House and courts.

Mr Khaw also said it was inappropriate to "give a view on what could or could not have prevented such an incident", in response to a related question from Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC).

But he added that like any other park in Singapore, Hong Lim Park is a shared space for all Singaporeans to use, and to conduct community events or other activities for residents.

"Hong Lim Park is a public park. It houses two lawns which have been designated as the Speakers' Corner. However, these lawns are not for the sole use of Speakers' Corner participants," he said.

Ms Phua had asked about the use of Hong Lim Park, as well as the activities for which the facilities at the adjacent Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre could be used.

The minister replied that Hong Lim Park users can apply to the community centre for the use of its facilities and the stage. Usage is subject to the usual terms imposed by the People's Association, he added. For example, the stage should not be used for political or religious activities.

Mr Khaw said that the park and community centre's facilities have been used for different types of events such as concerts, family days, sporting activities and other community events.

He added that generally, the stage can be booked for use from 2pm to 10pm - the opening hours of the community centre - though special arrangements can be made to use the stage earlier.

"For the Speakers' Corner, Singaporeans can speak, hold demonstrations and performances after seeking NParks' approval," added Mr Khaw, who is the minister in charge of NParks.