Power ultimately resides with the people. People power brought down Marcos, the Shah of Iran, and it was the people united behind Gandhi that released them from the shackles of the British Empire. When people are united, no government can stand in their way.
But governments, being power structures, will want to do everything in their power to put a lid on the people. The more power they have, the easier it is to govern. So, it is in the government’s interest that the people are scattered, that they cannot unite.
Trade unions, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, are a threat and must be rendered toothless. Freedom of peaceful assembly, which can bring together, perhaps tens of thousands of people, to press forth a common interest, is a threat and must be curtailed.
When Mr Shanmugam says our strict approach to public assembly is “to protect the country’s hard earned peace and stability”, I feel rather, it is to protect the power of the government. After all, when a group of people publicly protest, they are trying to gain public support. Why would they sabotage their cause by enraging the public? The minute a demonstration turns violent there is a very good chance external provocateurs have infiltrated it, be it government agents or agents from other entities, for their agenda.
He says that if government policy is not fundamentally right and is not benefiting the masses, no amount of policing will keep them off the streets. If he is confident that the PAP’s policies are fundamentally right, what is there to fear? Let people have the right to freely assemble, and see if they do gather and protest. That would be the litmus test for the government.
Foong Swee Fong