Charity event cancelled after police say it needs permit for 'politicising a social cause'

The event, titled "A Mile In Their Shoes - 'Leaders of Singapore' Fundraiser Special", was to have involved at least four opposition parties, said non-profit group Happy People Helping People in a Facebook post. PHOTO: HAPPY PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A fundraiser for cardboard collectors to be held on Saturday (Dec 14) has been cancelled, said its organisers on Friday evening.

The five-hour event was to have involved at least four opposition parties, said non-profit group Happy People Helping People in a Facebook post.

The reason for the cancellation is that "the police did not want us to do this without a permit", the group added.

Earlier on Friday, the police had said the event would require a permit as its organisers had politicised a social cause.

It pointed out in its statement that the event - titled A Mile In Their Shoes - 'Leaders of Singapore' Fundraiser Special - had been assessed to be a public assembly and, hence, would need a permit under the Public Order Act.

This is because "the event goes beyond simply helping cardboard collectors, and appears to be politicising a social cause", it added.

The group had said in a Facebook post on Thursday that representatives from four political parties would take part in the fundraiser: the Singapore Democratic Party, Progress Singapore Party, Reform Party and the People's Power Party.

They are to accompany cardboard collectors in Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Chinatown, Jalan Besar and Bedok, and gather cardboard together with them, according to the group's publicity materials.

The accompanying politicians, they added, would be taking part in the next general election.

Earlier in November, the group had said it invited all Singapore political parties, including the People's Action Party, to take part in the event.

They also said it would open accounts on fundraising website Give.Asia for each political party. Donors would give to the party of their choice, after which the money would be distributed to the cardboard collectors.

Mr Goh Meng Seng, People's Power Party Secretary-General, told The Straits Times that he and another party member had planned to participate in the event.

"We thought it was a very meaningful event for politicians to get a chance to experience what it's like for cardboard collectors. We can talk a lot but you have to experience things for yourself to learn empathy," he said.

He added that the event was important in helping politicians be more compassionate when formulating social policies.

Happy People Helping People is not a registered charity and had not applied for any licence under the House to House and Street Collections Act, the police said on Friday in its statement.

It added that it had advised Mr Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin, who founded the group in 2013, to apply for a police permit on Thursday but did not receive any application.

The police also said it is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to organise or participate in a public assembly without a police permit.

"Members of the public should check with the event organiser if a police permit is issued, before participating," its statement added.

When contacted about the police statement earlier on Friday, Mr Nafiz said the police should "stop trying to control every single thing that we do".

He also questioned why he was told to apply for a permit just two days before the event when he had posted about it almost four weeks ago.

"Why do they not want us to continue with this event? Because we are highlighting a social issue that will put the Government in a bad light for not taking care of these senior citizens," he had told ST.

Asked for his thoughts on licensing such activities, Mr Goh said: "We shouldn't need a licence to show that we care."

- Additional reporting by Clement Yong

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