HONG LIM PARK FRACAS: RALLY LEADERS DEFEND ACTIONS

BY NUR ASYIQIN MOHAMAD SALLEH, Straits Times

MEMBERS of the public and MPs yesterday hit out at protesters who disrupted a charity carnival at Hong Lim Park last Saturday, but the leaders of the rally remained adamant and defended their march through the YMCA-organised event.

In a Facebook post yesterday, rally organiser Han Hui Hui, a 22-year-old blogger, said the group did not heckle the special needs children on stage as many said they did.

Mr Roy Ngerng, 33, who spoke at the rally and is facing a defamation suit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for earlier remarks, posted a YouTube video defending the march and hitting out at MPs who criticised the protesters.

"We didn't know what was going on on the stage," he said, adding that the protesters walked off once they realised special needs children were on stage because "it's not appropriate".

The blogger also said he would write to YMCA to try to meet the children "and give my sincere apologies". But he added: "YMCA might have been retooled for a political purpose at the protest."

However, many netizens felt the duo had discredited themselves through the confrontational actions seen in videos posted online.

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Analyst Devadas Krishnadas said in a Facebook note: "Their actions to disrupt the YMCA event speak to self-indulgence, social carelessness, immaturity and this is ironical, a disregard for the rights and concerns of other Singaporeans, especially those in genuine need."

On Saturday, Ms Han and Mr Ngerng led several hundred people at a rally on Central Provident Fund issues on a march through the carnival, frightening the teens on stage.

The protesters also confronted Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, YMCA's guest of honour, who on Saturday told The Straits Times that he had to console one of the children "frightened by all the heckling".

People's Action Party and opposition Members of Parliament continued voicing their disquiet at the episode online.

Pathlight School supervisor Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said several of the school's students were at the event. Though not harmed, they were "alarmed, confused and disturbed".

"How do such unkind and unruly behaviours help in resolving issues of concern to the protesters?" she wrote. "Courage to speak up for one's rights ought to be balanced with consideration for the needs and interests of others."

Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who is from the Workers' Party, posted a clip of a previous performance by special needs teenagers on Facebook, saying: "I can't imagine how anyone can jeer at any of them, whatever the cause they may be fighting for."

But Mr Ngerng held his ground, describing the protesters' action as "the most ground-breaking protest in Singapore since 1965" on his blog.

The authorities have not been spared the heat, with some members of the public calling for NParks to reconsider allowing more than one group at Speakers' Corner at any one time. Hong Lim Park has two lawns, and the authorities had allocated them to the two events on Saturday.

Ms Han refused to comply when NParks and police officers asked her on Saturday to move out of the lawn allocated to YMCA. A video of that confrontation was put online.

Police say they will investigate the disruption.

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