I am sorry that I took some time to pen this article as memories are still raw after yesterday’s historic protest event – especially when I kept watching the re-arranged national anthem been played on youtube again and again.
I choked midway through the anthem on the stage with the rest of the speakers and could not continue anymore as the lump in the throat was unbearable.
It must have been a very poignant occasion for many Singaporeans at Hong Lim Park then and I am glad to be part of this massive movement for change.
I could see some of the audience below wiping away tears as they sang the anthem with aplomb - at that moment I felt proud to be with my fellow Singaporeans united in one heart and mind.
I never knew singing the anthem can be so emotional and I guessed the four thousands who turned up yesterday despite the rain came because they love their country too much to stay at home in the warm comfort of their home.
History in the making
They want to show their displeasure in a united peaceful manner and for that I salute them.
Changes will not come unless we want to change our own attitude and behaviour first.
Too many of us expecting change through the ballot boxes but that will happen once every five years only.
Why not initiate change when you can do it on your own collectively as a united body in a peaceful manner?
Anyway, my personal belief is that if there is no rain we can hit 6000 – 7000 people.
The official estimate from us organisers is around 4000 people.
I have told many friends that rain is our biggest enemy and the rain came as forecasted at around 3.30 pm when we were having out pre-press conference with the media.
My heart sank and when I looked at the crowd - there was merely about 300 people.
We have erected a huge tent around the stage for the speakers and press and this is going to look very awful if the whole crowd size is able to squeeze all into the tentage.
By 4 pm the rain stopped suddenly and out of nowhere the crowd descended into the park from all over.
They came into the park like ants non-stop and by 5 pm history has taken place on 16th February 2013 – Hong Lim Park has it’s biggest post-independence protest!
Hong Lim Park has the largest crowd size at around 5 pm totalling about 4000 protestors as people came from all walks of life to witness history in the making but more importantly they want to show their displeasure at the population white paper in a peaceful dignified manner.
Many came with their young children in toil and really their presence touched me ten times more than any national day parade.
They sacrificed a perfect Saturday afternoon to sleep in such wonderful rainy cold weather.
But they did otherwise and the rest is history.
Many doing it for their children
The poignant picture of a young child (picture above) reminded us that the event is not about us but something we want to do for our children and future generation to ensure that they have a better future.
By 2030, the population of local Singaporeans will lose out to that of the foreigners and this probably is the main push factor that forced many Singaporeans to take a radical step for change.
There was a mixture of young and old people attending the protest and the atmosphere was emotionally-charged and electrifying.
You could feel goose pimples all over throughout the whole event.
When I walked around the park I saw many with glistening eyes - signs that they have cried before while listening to speeches or singing to the song.
They stood in the rain for three hours without moving – some without umbrellas and I knew there and then that we have a group of die-hard patriotic Singaporeans willing to die for their country.
I believe more than 80% of the participants are first-timer and have never attend a protest event before.
Many were forced to take a gaint leap out of their secured comfort zone and threw all wind to the caution by taking the first step to protest against a policy which will reduce them to a minority population group come 2030 – all this ironically dished out to us by a govvernment whom we have elected.
What kind of government will do that to their own people?
Protest news went global
By now, our protest event has went viral worldwide and no one in this planet will not know about our infamous historic event unless he does not own a TV or the internet.
The phenomenal success of the event was ironically achieved through publicity from international and local social media.
Many socio political blogs like TRE, TOC, TRS and feedmetothefish among others heavily publicised our event enabling us to capture a sizeable proportion of the population.
Nevertheless, a good number of people still do not know about our event and I am sure that with local media coverage, we will be able to attain a 10,000-strong turnout easily in future.
Our local media only contacted me a day before the event which I thought was disappointing.
Nevertheless, each and every protestor who came to Hong Lim Park has created history not only for himself but also for the country.
The protester has shown that he is still free to move around the country without the fear of being arrested after attending a protest event in Hong Lim Park.
Amazingly, many people have asked me whether I need a permit to organise a protest at the Speakers’ Corner and I have to repeat myself that the place is a government-gazette area for public protest, demonstration and assembly.
However, all the speakers have to register with NParks online to get a speaking permit. It is usually approved within a minute.
It is the biggest post-independence political protest in history and those who went must be applauded as they not only braved the tough physical terrain due to the rain but more significantly the psychological barrier which need a longer time to overcome.
Fear is a very serious impending deterrance and mostly its psychological.
I remembered I went to an event in Hong Lim Park few years ago wearing a cap in case the cameras there could capture me! I was fearful and psychologically it was inhibiting.
I am sure for those who were there for the first time, the baby steps must be tough and gigantic.
However, once the baby steps are taken the rest of the journey should be easier.
Singaporeans are usually a pragmatic apathetic lot who prefer not to take action even when he is seriously wronged - always wishing that someone else will speak up or take the rap for him.
No one is willing to take ownership or initiate anything to resolve a serious problem.
We rather wait for another person to do it than dirty our own hands.
Apathetic unquestioning Singaporeans
We somehow over-depend on the government for everything and when something goes seriously wrong, we dn not know what to do and behave like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.
Decades of intimidation and national service have reduced our citizens to a group of law-abidng unquestioning group.
The word protest is dirty and deems anti-government.
No one bothers to show up when we orrganised any protests in the past as people are still fearful of reprisal.
Our largest crowd was barely 200 people.
This time round, people are fighting back as they are being pushed to a corner and the endurance level has been breached.
Many came for the protest not for themselves but for their children and grandchildren.
I saw young kids came with their parents and elderly parents brought to the muddy field by their adult children.
Many have their shoes caked with the mud but their faces shone as they saw hope in the gathering of like-minded Singaporeans – all fighting for the same cause of a better Singapore in the future.
It turned personal when our Singapore identity and basic survival right are taken away from us come 2030 – even though the government says that the 6.9 million population target is just a projection.
Singaoreans have increasingly distrust their leaders as years of repression and autocratic rule mean that the bond between the rulers and people is not strong.
Moreover, since PM Lee Hsein Loong took over, we have built two integrated resorts agains the wishes othe peple and hiked GST from 3 to 7%.
He does not seem to understand the ground well and leave alot of the work to his ministers.
However, Singaporeans have now managed to curve out something special for themselves by stepping up and doing something active than wait for instructions from the top.
As the euphoria is still there and Singaporeans saw a new dawn rising within the country as a result of the protest, many are wondering if this will turn into something substantial.
Of course, the authorities will now be watching future protest events closely after a wildly successful event on 16th Feb and they may be wondering why Singaporeans became so bold and defiant overnight.
History has show that when the population has lived in a repressed regime for too long, there will be a breaking point and often this is sparked by something simple and unimportant.
Many reporters have asked me what do I hope to achieve with the protest,
I told them that when we have a big crowd, there would be a break through as the fear factor has been banished.
When other people saw that the event is successful and nothing untoward has happened to anyone attending , more people may come for the next event.
Already, I have received emails from many people asking for a second protest event against the population white paper.
Let us enjoyed the historic occasion abit more before we plunged into trying to organise another event.
The journey is long still and change will not come in an instant.
Its evolving and people have to be patient.
However, I must add that the hugely successful protest event has managed to break through the fear barrier and the road ahead seems promising and positive.
For that, I must thanked the four thousand brave Singaporeans who came out despite the rain and decided to create history with their own courage.
They will be remembered in the history books for generations to come and no one can take that away from them – for they have decided to take matters into their own hands and forged a new future for themselves and their children.
Count on me Singapore!
Written by: Gilbert Goh