SINGAPORE - Members of the public and MPs yesterday hit out at protesters who disrupted a charity carnival at Hong Lim Park on Saturday, but the leaders of the protest rally remained adamant and defended their march through the Young Men's Christian Association-organised event.
In a Facebook post yesterday, rally organiser Han Hui Hui, a 22-year-old blogger, said the group did not heckle the special-needs children on stage as many said they did.
Blogger Roy Ngerng, 33, who spoke at the rally and is facing a defamation suit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for earlier remarks, posted a YouTube video defending the march and hitting out at MPs who criticised the protesters.
"We didn't know what was going on on the stage," he said, adding that the protesters walked off once they realised special-needs children were up on stage as "it's not appropriate".
He said he would write to YMCA to try to meet the children "and give my sincere apologies", but added: "YMCA might have been retooled for a political purpose at the protest."
Still, many netizens felt the duo had discredited themselves through the confrontational actions seen in videos posted online.
Analyst Devadas Krishnadas said in a Facebook note: "Their actions to disrupt the YMCA event speak to self-indulgence, social carelessness, immaturity and, this is ironical, a disregard for the rights and concerns of other Singaporeans, especially those in genuine need."
On Saturday, Ms Han and Mr Ngerng led several hundred people at the rally on Central Provident Fund (CPF) issues on a march through the carnival, frightening the teens on stage.
They also confronted Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, YMCA's guest of honour, who on Saturday told The Sunday Times he had to console one of the children "frightened by all the heckling".
People's Action Party and opposition MPs, as well as activists, continued to voice their disquiet on the matter online.
Pathlight School supervisor Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said: "How does such unkind and unruly behaviour help in resolving issues of concern to the protesters? I pray this will not happen again."
Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who is from the Workers' Party, posted a clip of a previous performance by special-needs teenagers on Facebook, saying: "I can't imagine how anyone can jeer at any of them, whatever the cause they may be fighting for."
But Mr Ngerng held his ground, describing their action as "the most groundbreaking protest (here) since 1965" on his blog.
The authorities were not spared the heat, with some members of the public calling for National Parks Board (NParks) to reconsider allowing more than one group at the Speaker's Corner at any one time.
Hong Lim Park has two lawns, and the authorities had allocated different lawns to the two separate events on Saturday.
Ms Han did not comply, and confronted NParks and police officers who approached her on Saturday.
The police said they will investigate the disruption.
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