I am also fortunate to have a group of supporters helping me with the planning and logistics but the weight of the event truly is mind-boggling.
My head is still spinning from the frenzy that the event has generated and I could hardly sleep the past few nights - wondering if all this is but a dream.
Years of protests organised at Hong Lim Park
I have organised protests at Hong Lim Park for the past few years and our best crowd size is about 200 people – mostly die-hard regulars who listened attentively when we spoke from the little grown patch of grass at Hong Lim Park.
We struggled with mother nature alot at Hong Lim Park as the sun beats down hard on us as we tried our best to generate enthusiasm with a weak crowd.
What irked me alot is that a group of young Singaporeans usually played frisk bee behind us as we talked about national matters in front!
How insensitive can you get?!
Many supporters have told me to stop such protest activities as the logistics involved usually are laborious and the small crowd size did not paid any justice to the hard work put in.
You need at least 5-6 volunteers to help with the logistics and when the crowd size dwindled a little after each event, you naturally feel discouraged and want to give up.
I stopped our protest event at Hong Lim Park altogether when the last event we had last year could only pull in a crowd size of about 100 people.
We usually talk about employment and foreign influx matters at such events.
Mind boggling attention for 16th Feb protest
So when I planned for the protest event on 16th Feb abeit cautiously, I was only mentally preparing for 200 people – max!
Never in my wildest dream could I anticipate the kind of response the event has generated so far and somehow I felt that it has also united the whole of Singapore into a mighty force ready to display their displeasure at the government’s 6.9 million population White Paper.
I must thank Facebook, Reuters, Bloomberg and Yahoo Singapore for helping me to publicise the event so widely and by now more than 100, 000 people would have known of the event.
We are now expecting a minimum turn-out of 2000 people and this could even be a very cautious estimate!
Rights of the common man stripped
Hong Lim Park is a tiny speakers’ corner gazetted by the government to allow peaceful legitimate protests without the need for a proper license.
However, speakers have to go to the NParks website to register online and you have to provide your full name, IC no and address.
So far, only Mr Tan Kin Lian could pull in 1000 plus people to the corner as he was speaking to many who got hit in the pocket during the mini bonds crisis.
Of course, the social Pink Dot club has annually managed to pull in more than 5000 people to their events.
In Singapore, people are more concerned with stuff that affect them economically than anything else.
People also prefer to conveniently hide behind their moniker than come out and show their face at a protest to register their presence.
I must reiterate here that changes will not happen if you keep complaining behind your Facebook page but a united front of a peaceful nature is a different story altogether.
As for the population white paper, many felt that their livelihoods and national existence are at stake here when the government tries to bring in too many foreigners in the bid to artifically boost up the population to 6.9 million by 2030.
It forces many apathetic Singaporeans to show up – for the first time – at a protest event and many are bringing their children along.
Maybe they felt trapped in a hopelessly precarious situation and want to do something about it.
Foreign media interest
Moreover, the event has mysteriously attracted alot of media attention and so far big foreign media giants like CNN, Bloomberg, AFP, Reuters and ABC news have indicated their interest to attend and report on the historic event.
Perhaps, in protest-shy Singapore with tight monopolistic control, such events are considered rare and the foreign media wants to know what triggers the abnormal backlash.
Many Singaporeans have realised that if the foreign presses are coming to the event, then that could be an avenue whereby their turn-out could provide more weight to the cause.
Our local media is considered government-controlled and hardly wants to cover such event fairly.
So far, Bloomberg, Reuters and Yahoo have carried out articles on our protest the past week and this further adds to the hype of the event.
Singaporeans shy of protest?
All along, Singaporeans are noted to be protest-shy as the word protest itself seems anti-government and subversive to alot of neutral citizens.
It is also considered negative and if you protest you are branded as a trouble-maker.
Decades of propaganda by the government has completely reduced the rights of a free speech of the common citizens to almost zero.
In fact, many people will be stepping on the ground of Hong Lim Park for the first time on 16th Feb to become a peaceful protestor!
The government has so successfully curtail the basic rights of our citizens to speak out freely that the forthcoming protest event could be a historic occasion whereby the fiery spark of unified voice will be heard for the first time!
Most of the governance stuff is debated and passed off in Parliament and the ruling party’s overwhelming presence means that the voice of the common people is always nullified.
Singaporeans are apparently pissed off that 70 over men in Parliament could pass off a bill that will have devastating repercussion on the country’s future for many years to come.
More than 90% have indicated that they are not welcoming of the population white paper on our online poll here and the protest event provides them a chance to come out as a united force to show their displeasure at the flawed policy peacefully.
However, not many people like to organise such protest events as firstly you are unsure of the turn-out and secondly you fear for your job, family and other form of reprisal imaginable.
To be fair, I must state for the record that so far besides a cordial lim-kopi session with the head of registry of societies towards the end of last year, the authorities have not in any way try to stop my protest activities.
We have also conducted a few dialogue sessions with MOM and TAFEP and have earned the reputation for being measured in all that we do for the country though some sessions with the government body were rather heated.
More importantly, Singaporeans now know that they could not wait for the next polls to voice out their discontentment as that will be too late.
The human body also needs an outlet to vent out whatever displeasure one feels towards an issue and hopefully the protest event has provided that avenue.
There is truly power in unity and if this peaceful protest is done properly, it could generate alot of nationalistic patriotism as people who turn up for such event are usually caring and love their country alot.
I sense an excitement in the air as Singaporeans unite together for the first time regardless of whatever political parties they support and speak as one voice in unison against the policy.
That by itself is already a major achievement for a country that does not cordon protest and speaking up - whereby even a one-man demonstration outside of Hong Lim park is deemed illegal.
Come on 16th Feb to experience a truly historic event! Don’t miss it Singapore!
Can we count on you?
Written by: Gilbert Goh