Don't exclude 'peaceful protests' from public order Act

I read with concern that six civil society groups urged the Government not to include "peaceful protests" in the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act (Peaceful protests not the target of new law: Minister, March 22; and Call to narrow definition of 'serious incident'; March 14).

Recently, my Hong Kong friends came to Singapore and we talked about the "Umbrella Movement" which took place in 2014.

What was meant to be a peaceful sit-in street protest ended up in chaos.

My friends said that most Hong Kongers gave silent approval initially to the movement, but as time went by, they were upset by the so-called peaceful protest.

I am against the idea of excluding peaceful protests or sit-down demonstrations from the legislation. There is no such thing as a peaceful protest; a protest is a protest. A protest - be it silent or peaceful - will attract troublemakers and could easily escalate into something uncontrollable.

We already have Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park for people to express themselves.

Let us not forget the "Return our CPF" protest rally that took place at Hong Lim Park in 2014, which affected and shocked the special needs children who were there at an event held for YMCA beneficiaries (Chaos at Hong Lim Park charity carnival; Sept 28, 2014).

Look around the world - demonstrations almost always end up ugly.

Bear in mind that not too long ago, our pioneers experienced scary moments caused by demonstrations that turned quickly into riots. Singapore cannot afford to have such things happen again.

Elliot Taylor Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'Don't exclude 'peaceful protests' from public order Act'. Print Edition | Subscribe