Tough action against Malaysian protestors: Too harsh or well-deserved?

The whip has been unleashed, and it’s not a pretty outcome. It was recently reported that out of the 21 Malaysians who were arrested for participating in the May 8 and 11 protests at Merlion Park against the Malaysian election results, three of them will be sent packing back up north.

One of them was working in Singapore and had his work pass revoked by the Government, while the other two have had their visit passes cancelled. The remaining 18 Malaysians are set to face the music as their work passes will be reviewed following the conclusion of the police investigation.

Well, it all sounds very bleak and I’m not going to lie that this doesn’t help Singapore shed its unflattering international image of being intolerant towards civil disobedience – not even an iota of it.

Surprisingly enough, Singaporeans by and large – judging from online sentiment – support such tough action against the protesters.

STOMP and Kiasu Parents were rife with comments in favour of the arrests. Here are some of them:

Cynthiama:

Now the 3 got what they want…they can protest all they want back in Malaysia now. In fact, I think the authorities should also revoke all the work and visit pass of the rest of the 18 arrested. We do not need idiots like them who have no respect for our laws!

WonderGirl:

Finally, authorities doing something right. To all the Malaysians and foreigners working in sg, behave yourself, and don’t think just because you are a foreigner, you can behave like you are in your own country. 

choachukang123:

Respect the law of the country you are in. The authorities should be commended for this.

Winchester:

…from the pattern, police response would get harsher and harsher. first warning, then arrest, next case, sentencing sure more serious.I have no sympathy for the malaysians arrested. if they wanted to protest, why not head back to jb to protest, more effective there.

But of course, there were the few amongst them who disagreed with the majority. Here’s one example:

StrangeStomper:

What’s wrong with protesting anyway? Is it wrong to share their thoughts? Is Singapore a democratic country or a communist country? If Singapore is a democratic country, where is their freedom of speech? Question the law. I may not know everything but they should be allowed to say whatever they want to say. One can choose to ignore it if it does not make any sense.

While Singapore netizens clearly enjoy and want to preserve the law and order they’ve enjoyed for decades, what many people forget is that protesting is not illegal in Singapore per se.

There’s a time and place for everything, and you can protest all you want so long as you don’t break the law. Not to mention this would be more effective in getting the message across, wouldn’t it?

The most recent example was local social activist Jolovan Wham’s Malaysia election protest at Speakers’ Corner just one day after the second illegal protest at the Merlion. Some 200 people turned up and no arrests were made. (It also shows that if you have a system, someone is bound to monkey their way around it, little wonder why sometimes Government departments don’t tell you why your applications are rejected.)

On May Day, several thousand Singaporeans thronged Hong Lim Park to speak out against the population whitepaper, and that was also done within the boundaries of the law with everything going smoothly without police interference.

The point is that a peaceful rally or protest can be had. Yes, we want to speak out against unfairness, injustice, and yes, sometimes the government does things that tick people off. We are free to speak our minds, but it’s important not to go rogue in doing so.

Singaporeans in general don’t buy into such tactics.

The next question, however, is whether the government should allow foreigners to protest legally (at Hong Lim Park). After all, about 2 million people who reside here are foreigners (including PRs) and it would be ludicrous to deny them a voice. They are human beings too!

Perhaps now isn’t the right time with anti-foreigner sentiment at an all-time high, but at some point in the near future, the government needs to rethink their position on the basic human rights of a foreigner who wants to express their opinion without fear of persecution.

I wonder if I should organise a rally to get my point across?

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Najib A.

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