Come 18 July, street protest may no longer be illegal in Malaysia, if the Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill tabled by Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister is expectedly, passed.
Many may ask, why can’t Singapore do the same? But in this day and age, do we really think that street protest is the most effective and the only way to be heard? Look at Hong Kong. What was supposed to be weeks of peaceful protests turned ugly in a matter of hours. Many among the protesters and even the pro-democracy lawmakers themselves were caught off guard, scrambling to explain what happened to the public after that. Official and public property was vandalised and defaced, but the biggest damage was to the international reputation of Hong Kong. No matter how justified your cause is, resorting to violence and a wilful disregard of the rules have no place in any society that upholds the rule of law.
Hong Kong is very similar to Singapore but they are also different from us in many ways. The most obvious difference is that we have no strong motherland to protect us. Protection not only in terms of preventing imminent harm, but also about having the will, might and resources to build/rebuild us. Hong Kong has reminded us of the volatile nature of street protests and the irreversible damages. Do we really think that people staying in Clementi, Toa Payoh or Bedok will still feel safe in Singapore if thousands had marched down the streets, occupied City Hall and clashed with the police for weeks? Do we really think that Singapore can regain confidence of the international community, restore stability of the country and recover totally from a street protest of similar scale and nature as that of Hong Kong’s?
So the question to think about here is not whether we should legalise street protests, but whether street protest is the only or best way to make ourselves heard. Why choose a path that will likely lead us to mass destruction? International community can weigh in for all they want to but Singaporeans should be the ones to decide for themselves. Because if we are down and out, whatever consequences and impact will be felt most by us, Singaporeans, not anyone else.