Speakers' Corner is an area located within Hong Lim Park where people can demonstrate, hold exhibitions and performances, and speak freely on most topics with the appropriate approvals
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Large space... in the middle of nowhere.
Oh this place, I know. The place where anyone can visit in hopes of speaking their mind - with the clause that the government has to first approve of their application. Ironic, it is no wonder whenever I happen to stroll by this place in the area, it is mostly empty, save for large events such as Pink Dot where people actually bother to go down and support in a sea of Pink.
For me, this place hardly strikes a chord within me. I find it funny to place a speaker's corner in the middle of nowhere (even though it is just outside the mrt station). It is hardly likely, too, that anyone would actually come down here to speak for a cause or make a statement if they didn't have the capacity to promote and advertise. Other than that, if one actually has the means to campaign, this place is actually good for a large crowd with its large area.
I walked past this place a few times while I was visiting some cafes nearby. The quiet and tranquility of the place actually speak volumes about its purpose as a platform for the common Singaporean to speak out.
I don't agree with the policy of having to apply a permit to speak at all. Imposing restrictions on free speech is like releasing a prisoner from solitary confinement. That guy is still in prison, albeit a larger one. But hey, some might argue, it's still an improvement right? Maybe, if we're in North Korea where the whole country is one big prison camp.
In this Internet age, I cannot imagine the government still thinking that the Speakers' Corner is gonna work out. More likely, the place is just a relic that the political bigwigs can point to and show other political bigwigs that yeah, we're a democracy. We even gave the little guys a place to speak but they just didn't want to.
Talking to the air
This year, I went there for the first time in support of ACRES, an animal welfare group who was protesting against the use of dolphins in performances. Now, perhaps this 'Speakers' Corner' could do well in countries with more relaxed rules on 'freedom of speech' (such as America), but in Singapore, which has some of the strictest rules on what one can say in public, I personally think that Speakers' Corner is merely an outlet to let certain groups of disatisfied people vent their frustrations in 'public'.
Putting aside the point that one has to get approval first before speaking there, another point is that there is simply few to no people who would actually travel there to listen to what is being said. Those who do go are usually already in support of whatever cause is being spoken of. Look at it this way: The purpose of 'protesting' there is usually to get more supporters or to attract the attention of the media or important people who can help their cause. However, if no one besides the original supporters are there, it kind of defeats the purpose of speaking since no one is listening anyway. So why not save your breath instead?
Why take the trouble?
Ironically, the Speaker's Corner is where one may not Speak. What actually comes out of your mouth is simply politically correct answers and these answers have to be screened through your neighbourhood police post before you can proceed.
Personally, I won't want to take the stage. After all, there is no point having that one minute of fame. Firstly, should you endeavour to speak anything that critiques the incumbent government or insensitive remarks, you will tend to land yourself in hot soup with the authorities. Secondly, what you say will be in the public eye, a tiny step out of the line will lead to many Singaporeans filming you/taking pictures of you which will end up on STOMP or HardWareZone Forum where you will subsequently be flamed/witch-hunted/verbally abused.
I've never really saw the point in this speakers's corner. It's main purpose is to allow the freedom of speech right? But the funny thing is that, you would probably have to write up a proposal and apply for a permit to use that place - not so 'freedom' in my point of view.
Besides hearing the yearly event of 'pink dot' being held there, I've never really noticed much events taking place at Speakers' Corner. There's just a stage infront of the whole grass patch, and possibly some birds, and people lazing around on a good chilly afternoon.
Good concept from the government, but not exactly very appealing, or practical.
Too pointless to exist.
If I could have my way when managing places in Singapore, Speakers Corner will have to go.
Say if I were to demonstrate on something against the government, I would have to go to a police post, which is part of the government itself to seek approval? Isn't it a tad too ludicrous? Why would the government allow their citizens to speak against the government, especially in a "democratic" country like here? Plus, I believe Speakers' Corner is too isolated for a place to demonstrate. With Singaporeans having too little time on their hands with school and work, who would come all the way to Hong Lim Park to listen to a demonstration they'd most probably be nonchalant about?
With advancing technology, any concerned Singaporean can express their views online like TheSmartLocal, Stomp, or any social networking website. All this takes little time and without approval for authority, with hundreds of people able to see it. Why take the hassle to gather people for demonstration, seek approval, and hope that at least a dozen people will turn up to hear your views?
So much for government attempts to provide liberalism for its people.
Governmental Lip Service
I wish I could give this place a zero rating, so I'll give a 0.5 in lieu of zero.
The Speakers' Corner was set up for people to be able to speak "freely" but they have to register with the police at the nearby police post before they could speak. That alone, having to register with a figure of authority can be construed as intimidation. Of course there have been people who actually went there to say something, but they might as well say nothing.
The govt considers the corner as a shining beacon of free speech and presents it as such to the world. Who's deluded?
A lost cause.
I like the concept of Speaker's Corner. However, in practice, Speaker's Corner is a flop. The throbbing street democracy has all but vanished, leaving Speaker's Corner deserted. Rather than political discussions and the sharing of liberal ideas taking place, there are only people strolling though the area with barely a glance.
It's model, the renowned Hyde Park, is a far cry from this. What's the difference? The people involved. I find that our citizens prefer to air their views out through writing instead of daring to speak out openly. Perhaps the next generation can speak up their views and can shake off their baseless fears.
Good concept but not enough daring people
Speakers corner is definitely a good concept, and is one of the ways that the Government tries to open up and allow anybody to make the views in public. However, there is a catch as there will always be. If I am not wrong, the person or organisation who wants to utilise the corner, still needs to get a approval from the police before they could proceed.
I guess there are good and bad on this. The good is that at least we can be sure that the corner will not be misused by any tom dick or harry, who just makes use of the area to talk about unnecessary stuff which might create unnecessary tension. But the bad is that, then what's the point of having this corner if we think that the SIngaporeans are not matured enough to accept free speech.
Actually, in that spirit, i think the Corner can be said to be a failure, as there is not much alternative or radical views being brought out. There are also much lesser people who are willing to speak up, and even lesser people who are willing to listen.
I remembered I saw an article that showed one of the independents candidates talking to nobody. Although he was very enthusiastic and kept on his presentation, I would probably have stopped since there was no listeners. I do hope that more people would used the corner and eventually generate a more active politics or even other social matters amongst us.