Rain threatened the Singaporeans First event yesterday at Speakers Corner but it held off gloomily as we started our speeches against the heavy foreign influx of workers.
I expected about 100 people to turn up and was slightly disappointed that we were off by about ten in numbers.
Most of our events were attended by between 100 – 150 people on average and as usual the same old familair faces were present of whcih we are thankful.
I heard that some other organisations have less than 50 people turning up for their events and I am sure that organisers will be disappointed as it took alot of efforts to put up any event publicly.
First, you have to gather the speakers and I have to contact 20 over speakers before five agreed to take the stage yesterday.
I also need to romp in volunteers to design, print and put up the posters. Finances are also needed to pay for the posters, drinks and a good meal for all the speakers and helpers after the event.
One also couldn’t sleep well the night before as you wondered what can go wrong? Will the speakers all turn up?
I have speakers informing me last minute that they couldn’t speak and you can’t romp in another one easily – so I always try to have more speakers than schudled for such eventuality.
More importantly, will there be a crowd?
People tend to look at your crowd size as the main gauge of your event’s success – so it is most important that you blast out emails and text messages to remind people to turn up.
I must have sent out hundreds of reminders last week to ask people to turn up for the event. If you want 100 people to turn up – you must have reach at least 1000 people.
Moreover, those who promise you to turn up may also not come due to personal reasons so its always good to have at least 200 verbal agreements to turn up.
Surprisingly, yesterday, I could spot one or two foreigners among the small crowd and many friends have cautioned me not to stir the issue too much as it is sensitive and also harmful to my own safety.
When the event has ended, two more ang mohs dropped by – took a peek and turned straight into the MRT station at CLark Quay.
I was told by some friends that the foreign embassies were keenly monitoring the anti-foreign sentiments here as people are more vocal these days and the recent general election result has provided mixed adversial signals to the authorities to stop the current influx.
Just two days ago, ominously, a person also called me on my handphone and scolded me in Hokkein vulgarities. His number was an unlisted one.
During the last event in 2011, someone also called me warning me not to stir the same issue when we had our last Singaporeans First event in September before we closed the year for a 4-month haitus break.
This message was sent by a friend though but of course I was disturbed.
Incidentally, many event organisers are afraid to plan protest events at Speakers Corner as the turn out is usually bad.
If you expect more than a hundred people to turn up then you will likely be disappointed as historically most events at Speakers Corner do not fill up more than 100 participants.
Only events such as the fun-filled Pink Dot annual rendevous could manage successfully to bring in more than 10, 000 people due more to its fun-filled theme than anything else.
Perhaps, I must speak with the organiser of the Pink Dot to gather some new ideas for our next event in May!
Some people I spoke to told me that perhaps we didn’t do enough publicity on our event or we didn’t arouse enough in our previous events to entice more people to come for future ones. Some also asked me to bring in Nicole Seah so that more people will turn up.
I feel that if we have to entice the crowd with personalities then something is wrong with our people. We should try to motivate people to attend such events as a show of unity with the theme than anything else.
If people can’t identify with the theme then sure enough they won’t want to turn up. Perhaps this is one area that we fail to do – generating enough interest on our message theme and we will want to do more of this in future.
Moreover, we have all along posted our event notices on TOC, TRE and other major blogs but it is difficult to generate interest when even young people are afraid to attend such events.
I spoke to one young man who is currently jobless. He refused to attend the event as he fears that his face and particulars will be captured on the government radar and this may affect his job opportunities when he goes for interview at civil service employment centres!
The government has intimidated people from showing up at Speakers Corner by saying that more surveillance cameras were installed last year to deter mischief at the grounds.
Mr Prabu, one of our speakers, told me that although the cameras were up, he detected that the wires were all left dangling – a show that the authorities may be resorting to using threats to deter people from coming to all sorts of mischief at Speakers Corner.
Such hot potato event, if held in Hong Kong, will likely garner more than a thousand supporters – regardless of who the speaker is. The Hong Kongers also have an issue against the PRC mainlanders who flock to Hong Kong to work and give birth.
Recently, some of them put up a full page advertisement calling the PRC Chinese people locusts. sparking off alot of ill sentiments between the two territories.
I am sure that Singaporeans are more civil to do that and moreover our authorities will not want that to happen – sensing that indeed anti-foreigner sentiments may be boiling over anytime soon if some organisation is trying to agitate it.
While organising the event, I am prepared to call in by the authorities for questioning as it is an event that could threaten national security if handled badly.
Thankfully, all our speakers spoke midly and wisely…I am sure that we will not get into trouble.
Perhaps, a fear mentality coupled with strong apathetic spirit among the citizens have deterred many Singaporeans from gathering together in protest against events that threaten our basic survival.
Many people have also spoke of the daft 60% majority who voted for the government despite the various ill-thought policies that were put up during the past years.
Yet when there is an event been planned for them to come and voice out their frustrations, they didn’t want to turn up for personal reasons.
TOC recently organised an event to protest against the mismanagement of SMRT CEO Ms Saw and less than 100 people turned up.
The TOC event was also followed up by Yahoo Singapore – none of the mainstream media came to report on such an important current event.
The same thing happened on yesterday event – only yahoo Singapore sent a reporter Deborah to report and none of the mainstream media came.
This is disappointing but transitioning.org will battle on to act as a lone voice for the country – despite the many obstacles that we have to face.
We will put up an online protest petition soon so that Singaporeans can act out their frustrations online.
However, much can be achieved if more people turn up for our events in future – the authorities will act if there is people power like the ones we saw during the general election.
If not, even the foreigners will laugh behind our back – at our weak show of support for such protest events meant for Singaporeans.
Written by: Gilbert Goh