Asked for an account of the Hong Lim Park incident on Sept 27, when protesters allegedly disrupted a charity carnival, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday told Parliament he could not comment as police investigations and court cases are ongoing.
But he said that on many occasions before Sept 27, different groups had held multiple events at the same time in the park and there had been "no untoward incident".
Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC) had asked for a full account of the incident in which a protest rally held at the park's Speakers' Corner had spilled over to another part of the lawn where a YMCA charity carnival was being held.
He also asked whether there was any non-compliance by the organisers of the events, in ensuring public peace. And if any follow-up action had been taken to ensure such incidents would not happen again.
Mr Khaw replied: "The police investigation into the incident has yet to be completed. The legal proceedings against certain persons related to the incident are also ongoing. It is not appropriate to reply to this question."
His response came a day after lawyer M. Ravi submitted a petition to Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, urging Members of Parliament not to say anything in the House that would influence proceedings before the courts.
Mr Ravi is acting for six protesters facing public nuisance charges. They include protest organisers Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui, both of whom have also been charged with organising a demonstration without approval.
Yesterday, Madam Halimah reminded MPs about the related cases before the court, and said she would not allow any statement or supplementary question that would impinge on the principle of mutual respect and forbearance between the House and the courts.
Mr Khaw also said it was inappropriate to "give a view on what could or could not have prevented such an incident", in response to a related question from Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC).
But he added that, like any other public park in Singapore, Hong Lim Park is a shared space for all Singaporeans to use, and to conduct community events or other activities for residents.
"It houses two lawns which have been designated as Speakers' Corner," said Mr Khaw, adding that members of the public can be present at these places as the lawns are not for the sole use of Speakers' Corner participants.
Ms Phua had asked about the use of Hong Lim Park, as well as the activities for which the facilities at the adjacent Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre can be used.
The minister replied that Hong Lim Park users can apply to the community centre for the use of its facilities and the stage.
Their use is subject to People's Association terms, Mr Khaw added. For example, the stage should not be used for political or religious activities.
"For the Speakers' Corner, Singaporeans can speak, hold demonstrations and performances after seeking NParks' approval," added Mr Khaw, who is the minister in charge of the National Parks Board (NParks).
Ms Phua also asked for an assurance that the Sept 27 episode would not be repeated.
Mr Khaw replied with a smile, to laughter from MPs: "Can I give an assurance that nobody would speed on the road when we all know that one should not speed?"
This article was first published on Nov 04, 2014.
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