When we brought it out, all hell broke loose and it seemed everyone wanted to lay their hands on the effigy. I saw one even had a match box on his hands all ready! I froze as if he lit those matches, I may not be able to share this post with you today.
It seems some people came prepared to burn.
Someone quickly rushed forward to spit at it whereas another poured mineral water over it. Many took turns taking pictures of Singapore’s first unburnt effigy of our transport minister!
When the idea to burn an effigy was botched, there was the expected resistance from the group as no one has done it before and the usual question was – is it legal?
I couldn’t find anything on effigy burning on the internet here and to me if there is no law against it there is this grey area that we could breach.
However, I found an article stating that a Singapore minister’s effigy was burnt in Thailand as they were against the government’s purchase of their Thai telecommunications company many years ago.
No one in our five decades of PAP’s rule has ever burn an effigy in Singapore before!
Of course, burning an effigy in Singapore is a serious business especially when you can still be fined for drinking water in our modern sparkling clean trains. So we approached this with alot of caution and apprehension.
Moreover, Singaporeans are peace-loving people and though we dislike our inept ministers alot, we prefer to mock them online than burning their effigy in public. Many associated effigy-burning with violence and cruelty.
A night before the real event, we were debating whether to put the minister’s face on the effigy or just SMRT and SBS Transit logo. I told Zarina – our effigy designer to do both so we can switch easily when we have decided the next day. I could sense she was very nervous.
The effigy burning took up alot of our time and resources and I posted the news up on the event page a day before the protest. Strangely, there wasn’t much reaction from the people there though one or two reporters did called me to check on this.
One of our speakers Mr Soong See Choo later messaged me saying that he got a call from a police inspector not to organise a group walk from Hougang to Hong Lim park as its illegal to conduct a procession protest march. I told him to compliant and put off the walk but he insisted to continue on his own.
My sixth sense told me that the next person to be contacted would be me – for the effigy burning. Strangely I didn’t receive any call though there were a series of miscalls from a private number so I couldn’t return call.
At 4pm when I stepped on to speakers’ corner, a police inspector in plainscothes and another plainsclothes police officer approached me and cautioned us nicely but firmly not to burn the effigy as it may incite violence during the protest. They said they would arrest me on the spot if the effigy is burned.
There were three other plainsclothes officers nearby when he spoke to me. The five officers stayed on at a distance during the whole protest event till everyone dispersed from the ground at around 8pm. A planned walk from Hong lim park to Orchard station was also called off as its illegal to walk amass for a cause in Singapore.
This is the first time we have active police intervention in our events and as we tried to push the envelope more in future in the area of freedom of speech and rights we hope Singaporeans are with us on this.
Alot of our current miseries and sufferings resulted from the lack of human rights and freedom of speech. We lacked an active voice within us and our government routinely curb words of dissent from activists. They also ramped down laws and regulations easily as there is very minimal civil resistance against them.
A tyrannical government will use all its power to prevent the people from rising up as power’s power can be really devastating and influential.
Though we fail to burn an effigy yesterday, we are glad to be the first civil group to test the unchartered territories of our civil rights in the area of effigy-burning.