Singapore protest biggest since independence

In rare show of anger, crowd voices opposition to policy of increasing immigrant numbers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 2:03pm

Thousands of Singaporeans braved drizzle to attend a rally yesterday to oppose the government's plan to increase the population by bringing in more foreigners - a rare example of protest in the tightly controlled city state.

An organiser, Kwan Yew Keng, estimated that 3,000 people took part, making it the biggest demonstration in Singapore since it gained independence in 1965, barring election rallies.

Rally leaders, who used Facebook and other online platforms to organise participants, openly attacked the People's Action Party (PAP), which has been in power for more than 50 years and controls 80 of the 87 seats in parliament after losing two byelections in the past year.

"The large crowd here shows the PAP government that they [the protesters] are not afraid any more. They don't want to hide behind a moniker on Facebook to show their displeasure," said one of the organisers, Gilbert Goh, a former opposition candidate for parliament.

One sign, apparently directed at Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, read: "Ah Loong sweetheart, 6.9 (million) is a kinky number, but quality, not quantity," referring to his comment that the country's population could reach 6.9 million by 2030. A speaker at the rally, Kumaran Pillay, said he wanted his country to be led by "a man with vision" and did not want Singaporeans' lives to be controlled by "number Nazis".

Another speaker, Sem Teo, a banking executive, said: "Singaporeans should stop being afraid and speak up for change."

Rally participant Tan Jee Say, an ex-civil servant now in opposition who ran for president in 2011, said: "The prime minister has failed us. Make way for a new prime minister."

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse