5,000 turn up at Hong Lim to reject population white paper
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Written by Ng E-Jay
18 February 2013
The Hong Lim rally on Saturday unequivocally rejected the Population White Paper (PWP). 5,000 strong turned up, braved the rain and the muddy ground, and made their stand against being treated as economic digits, and against being forced to endure the consequences of unsustainable growth policies.
We can quickly sum up the mood by looking not just at the sheer numbers who attended, but also at the placards that were displayed. Slogans like “We Are Not Your Sheeple“, “Singapore For Singaporeans“, and “We Want To Be Heard, Not Herded“, rang loud and clear. Singaporeans felt that their voices had fallen on deaf years and the government had ceased to listen.
The rally should send shockwaves down government ranks. In the minibond rallies organized by Tan Kin Lian, a couple of thousand people also turned up at the height of the saga, but they were composed primarily of middle aged folk, especially those who had lost their investments.
Pink Dot attracted a greater turnout, but the crowd was different, being comprised of youths, the more well-educated segment, the more hippy and artistic, as well as members of the LGBT community.
By contrast, the 5,000 who attended Saturday’s rally defied any classification because they literally came from, and fairly represented, all walks of life. They were solidly working as well as middle class Singaporeans, the types who pound the ground daily, who take the buses and trains daily, who endure the ERP and the massive crowds daily, who attend school daily from 730 in the morning to 630 in the evening, who worry about putting meals on the table each and every single day.
The 5,000 were your regular heartlanders who fill the HDB coffeeshops on the weekends and the train stations on the weekdays, who receive one job interview for every fifty applications they send out, and who suffer from chronic underemployment once they hit the age of forty.
In other words, they were precisely the crowd that represent the core of the electorate, whose vote count every election because of the sheer proportion of the population they represent. They are the Singaporean core who can swing an election, or peacefully replace a government if need be. They are the core that the government needs to pay most attention to, and which the government has most angered by the PWP.
What this rally signifies
This rally marks an important turning point in the peoples’ engagement with the government. It shows that people are willing to turn up in force and make a peaceful public stand for causes that matter to them, and they did it in a way that sent the message out loud and clear.
By contrast, the national conversation attempted by the government really counts for nothing as it never gained traction and was never well received by the people.
The people are fed up with their voices falling on deaf ears and they turned up at Hong Lim to show their disapproval and dissatisfaction in a way that cannot be misunderstood or mistaken.
The public rally is a direct bypass of all normal channels of communication with the government, which evidently are no longer attuned to what the people are saying and are ignoring their concerns.
This rally also shows the galvanizing power of social media, which is now playing a pivotal role in spreading awareness and creating the drive in people to stand up and be counted. Despite a total blackout by the mainstream press, 5,000 turned up to reject the PWP. The social media is something that will forever lie beyond the control of the government, unless the government is willing to turn Singapore into another North Korea that shuts its doors to the world.
The rally is a vote of no confidence in the government and in the PWP in particular. In the past, all these sentiments would have been buried underground and denied the light of day by the state-controlled media. But today, the social media is giving ample space to all the dissenting voices, and in its own way, unifying as well as amplifying the movement. Through social media, people are crystallizing their thoughts and articulating cogent views that years ago would have lied buried.
From the way people rallied at Hong Lim on Saturday, and from the content of the speeches made, we can tell that people understand the issues clearly and are genuinely affected by government policies that have hurt them.