SINGAPORE - A group of special needs children, who were performing on stage at Hong Lim Park on Saturday afternoon, were disrupted by a group protesting against the CPF.
The incident occurred at a charity carnival organised by YMCA and attended by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck. The Return Our CPF rally was held simultaneously on the same day.
According to reports, several hundred protesters were there to hear blogger Han Hui Hui, 22, speak about the CPF together with blogger Roy Ngerng, 33, who is facing a defamation suit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
It is understood that Ms Han led the march after Mr Teo arrived at the event for YMCA beneficiaries, mostly the elderly and disabled.
The group marched to the charity carnival, some waving Singapore flags, and paused in front of the stage, chanting "Vote them out, PAP" and "Return our CPF", just as the group of special needs children was about to perform a dance item.
The performers from the group Y Stars were visibly shocked, reported The Straits Times, and stopped briefly.
Some protestors were also seen going up to Mr Teo and one was shouting: "Teo Ser Luck, return our CPF." Online reports also state that vulgarities were hurled at Mr Teo by the CPF protestors.
Participants of the protest rally had marched around the YMCA event at least four times, stated online reports.
Videos of the encounter have been circulating on social media and drew criticism from netizens.
Police said they will be investigating into the incident in a joint statement with National Parks (NParks):
"Speaker's Corner in Hong Lim Park is designated by the Government as an area for public speaking and demonstrations.
Application to use the park was first received from YMCA and approval to use the park was given to YMCA on Sep 9. Ms Han's application was received on Sep 22 and approval was granted to Ms Han on the same day.
In anticipation of the crowd this afternoon, NParks demarcated and allocated space for both events. There are two lawns at Hong Lim Park, and each event was allocated a lawn. NParks and SPF approached Ms Han to request her cooperation to speak at the allocated space.
We regret to note that Ms Han did not heed our advice and continued to hold her event at the same lawn as YMCA. Ms Han's group encroached into the YMCA event area, holding placards and shouting slogans, disrupted performances and frightened participants, including special needs children who were performing at the charity event.
The Police will be conducting investigations into this incident."
Mr Teo later told reporters that he hope that things could be done in a more friendly manner.
"They have their views, which they want to share, and which they voiced out in a different way," he said.
Ms Han told reporters that they had planned "not to do anything phsyical to them (special needs children)" and that they had just wanted to spread their message across.
However, their actions have drawn swift criticism from ministers and political watchers.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing posted on Facebook:
"Read with dismay what happened at Hong Lim Park today.
One may hold different viewpoints and try to seek attention to one's cause. But to do so with no regard or respect to the elderly and special needs children present is most unbecoming.
To cause alarm and distress to special needs children, and disrupting their routine cannot be right no matter how righteous you think your own cause may be.
This cannot be the type of behaviour that represents Singaporeans."
Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin also wrote on Facebook:
"I am appalled. We now heckle special needs children?
Vile. Total and absolute disgrace.
We can disagree. We can be critical. We can debate. How we do so defines us and our society.
The space is wide. But there are some lines they we should not cross.
This is one line I never expected to see violated in this manner."
Facebook post from Worker's Party activist Bernard Chen:
"My father is a coffee shop runner and my mother is a part time cleaner. They do not have enough retirement monies in their CPF.
They would like to inform Ms Han and Mr Ngerng that they do not need them to speak up for them and go marching around at Hong Lim Park on their behalf.
My parents are not well-educated and they are not able to write long speeches the way both of them do, but they do know how to speak up for themselves in Singapore.
Your attention on this matter would be much appreciated, Ms Han and Mr Ngerng. Time to come down from your self-righteous pedestal. Thank you."
Former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng wrote on Facebook:
"Arrest Han Hui Hui now.
Singapore is a place of law and order.
There is a limit to tolerance of bad behaviour.
It is at times like these that the leadership needs to show some strength.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew would have."
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Yee Jenn Jong said on Facebook:
"After watching a video clip taken at Hong Lim Park today, I was reminded of this performance by the special needs / Down syndrome teens at the recent Hari Raya celebrations at Punggol East. The performers were greeted with cheers and applause by an appreciative audience.
It must have taken them lots of practice and courage to perform in front of so many people.
Their parents must have be proud of them to be able to do what they did.
I can't imagine how anyone can jeer at any of them, whatever the cause they may be fighting for."
PAP Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said on Facebook:
"A pity that special needs children were heckled by protesters at event by YMCA at Hong Lim Park.
One thing to want to make a statement, and another to cross the line in this manner."