Protest speakers air their grievances

Protest speakers air their grievances
Supporters and members of the public making donations after the Labour Day protest organised by Mr Gilbert Goh. The crowd sang songs like Scorpions' Winds Of Change and the national anthem.

Several speakers led by the head of a support group for the unemployed spoke at Hong Lim Park yesterday, lashing out at what they described as pro-foreigner policies and the high influx of foreign workers.

The Labour Day protest organised by Mr Gilbert Goh lasted three hours, with many speakers stressing they were not being xenophobic, and that their main interest lay in protecting Singaporean workers.

"We want to give workers a chance to voice out their grievances. I think there are many," said Mr Goh, 53, the founder and president of Transitioning.org.

"When you speak out for your country, if you are branded a xenophobe, I don't know what to say. I am doing this all for my country."

Among the speakers at the event, themed "Protect the Singaporean Workers", were bloggers Roy Ngerng, 33, and Mr Leong Sze Hian, 60.

Mr Leong took issue with the unemployment rate of locals here, as well as the high number of foreign students in local universities.

Mr Ngerng argued that ministerial salaries were too high, and this had contributed to Singapore's high income inequality.

Another speaker, logistics call agent Linda Yau, shared her experience of not having her job contract renewed and being replaced by a Malaysian instead. She got her job back after sending an e-mail to her company's human resources director, the 41-year-old said.

"If you know you have been wronged, you have to voice it to your employer. Communication is important," she said.

Other grievances voiced by the speakers included the 6.9 million population figure floated during the Population White Paper debate last year, and the use of Central Provident Fund monies by the Government.

During the event, the crowd sang songs like Scorpions' Winds Of Change and the national anthem. Some also chanted slogans such as "We want change" and "Vote them (the People's Action Party) out", when led by speakers.

News agencies estimated the crowd to number about 400. Some protesters wore black headbands that read "Protect Singaporean rights".

Mr Goh said the event was attended by about 500 to 600 people in total. This was a significantly lower figure than the crowd at a similar protest he organised exactly a year ago, which he had said drew between 5,000 and 6,000.

In the lead-up to yesterday's event, Mr Goh, claiming that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sided with foreigners, said on Facebook that he would put up a picture of the Prime Minister at the protest and invite protesters to kick at and deface it, among other things.

But this did not materialise, after Mr Goh received a police warning on Wednesday that these acts may constitute offences under the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

This article was published on May 2 in The Straits Times.

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