Singapore

Security checks, barricades at this year’s Pink Dot event

Security checks, barricades at this year’s Pink Dot event
This year's Pink Dot event ambassadors are (from right) Singapore paralympian Theresa Goh, local singer Nathan Hartono, and actor Ebi Shankara. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY
Published: 8:41 PM, May 30, 2017
Updated: 3:14 PM, May 31, 2017

SINGAPORE — For the first time, barricades will be set up around the Speakers’ Corner site of the annual Pink Dot SG event, and attendees will have their identity cards or passports checked before they can enter the area.

There will be seven access points around the cordoned field, and there are plans to hire 50 security personnel to be stationed there. 

These details were announced by the event organisers on Tuesday (May 30), in light of recent policy changes. They added that most of the park would be barricaded, but more information would be made known in the coming weeks. 

Earlier this month, they already said that the event would not be open to foreigners. The ninth edition of Pink Dot SG — in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community — will be held on July 1 this year at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park near Chinatown.

In a press statement, its spokesperson Paerin Choa said: “The set-up of barricades and checkpoints around the park was the only measure deemed acceptable by the authorities; this was a decision taken out of our hands and is something we do not readily agree with.”

He added that this “greatly impacts” potential participants who might not be Singapore citizens or permanent residents (PR), since couples and families wanting to join in the gathering “may be separated” because of the measures. 

The steps were a result of negotiations with the authorities, following changes to the Public Order Act, which came into effect on Nov 1, stipulating that only Singaporeans and PRs are permitted to assemble in support of any cause at Speakers’ Corner. 

In previous Pink Dot events, foreigners were allowed to assemble at Hong Lim Park, but not take part in the rally. They were allowed to observe from the sidelines. 

Individuals caught illegally taking part in Speakers’ Corner events can face a fine of up to S$3,000 for their first offence, and up to S$5,000 if they are repeat offenders. Organisers found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to S$10,000 or be jailed up to six months, or both.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the launch of Pink Dot 2017, Mr Choa reiterated that with the amended laws in place, “the onus is on the organisers to ensure that no foreigners (enter Speakers’ Corner)”. 

The organisers said that they were asked by the police to propose measures, and some of them included having checkpoints in areas of the park where security personnel would check the identification documents of event-goers, or have foreigners not wear pink on the day. But these proposals were rebuffed as not being “foolproof” enough by the authorities. 

Stressing that the barricading of the park was “the last resort”, 

Mr Choa said “it became clear” after much discussion “that the only way to bring the new law to its logical conclusion was to set up barriers of entry into an open park”.  

“We were holding back the barriers solution until we saw that nothing else was possible,” he added. 

Mr Choa said the idea for a barricaded park was approved by the police one to two weeks ago. On Tuesday, the organisers received approval from the National Parks Board for their plan. 

Attendances at the event have grown significantly over the years, hitting record numbers in recent years, including drawing 28,000 participants in 2015. 

On how the measures could affect the turnout this year, the organisers said that it was too early to say.  

Still, Mr Choa said they were confident that Singaporeans and PRs would “stand up and be counted” at this year’s event, which he described as a “turning point for Pink Dot, and for the LGBT movement”. 

The new regulations also mean that from this year, foreign companies cannot sponsor the event. Recalling how the organisers were initially worried about the loss of funding from foreign companies, Mr Choa said: “We were not sure if (local companies) would step up ... (but) we had good response.” This year’s Pink Dot has attracted the sponsorships of 116 Singapore companies so far, surpassing its target of 100.

Mr Choa added: “We hope that the response from the companies will ... (lead to) Singaporeans and PRs (stepping) up the way the local companies did.” 

Responding to media queries, the Home Affairs Ministry reiterated that “organisers are responsible for ensuring that suitable and appropriate measures have been put in place to ensure these rules are complied with”.

The ministry's spokesperson added: “The police have also advised the organisers to consider conducting bag checks for the safety of their participants, given the current security environment.”

At the launch, the organisers also announced that this year’s Pink Dot ambassadors are Singapore paralympian Theresa Goh, singer Nathan Hartono and actor Ebi Shankara.