Hong Lim Park protests affected special needs children, says YMCA executive

Hong Lim Park protests affected special needs children, says YMCA executive

Organisers of Proms @ the Park event were told there would be "another speech" held at Speakers' Corner two days before the event. Four, including Ms Han Hui Hui, are contesting their charge of causing a public nuisance during a protest on Sep 27, 2014.

SINGAPORE: An executive with YMCA who was part of the organising team for the organisation's Proms @ the Park event on Sep 27 last year said she believed that the actions of protesters - including Ms Han Hui Hui and three co-accused who were on trial on Wednesday (Oct 14) - affected the special needs children at the event.

Blogger Han Hui Hui, 24, and three co-accused, Low Wai Choo, 54, Goh Aik Huat, 41, Koh Yew Beng, 59, are facing public nuisance charges for disrupting a community event held at Hong Lim Park on Sep 27, 2014, by shouting loudly, chanting slogans, waving flags, holding placards, blowing whistles and beating drums.

Their actions are alleged to have disrupted the YMCA event that was also being held there, and affected the special needs children who were performing during that event.

The four accused represented themselves in court.

Prosecution witness Samantha Seah, head of programmes at YMCA, said organisers had been informed by National Parks on Sep 25 - two days before the event - that there would be another event held that day. YMCA said they would proceed with the event as planning for it had already been ongoing for at least six months. NParks administers the booking of Speakers' Corner.

Ms Seah, 45, said she was at Hong Lim Park to oversee the Proms at the Park event and greet the guest-of-honour, Minister of State Teo Ser Luck.

"When guest-of-honour Teo Ser Luck arrived at 4.45pm, a prearranged time, the other group became more vocal and emotional at that point. The noise level from the group got louder and louder. They started to become a little bit more active, more busy, beyond the mound area" where they had previously congregated, the court heard.

She said that at that point, the protesters turned up the volume on their loudspeakers until those on the YMCA stage could not hear their own music.

"I wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying but the main message was 'Return our CPF'. They went around the main YMCA tent I would say four times, at a minimum," said Ms Seah.

Ms Han's group became "highly emotional" and surrounded the YMCA event's guest of honour Mr Teo Ser Luck as he was trying to greet and interact with YMCA's volunteers, beneficiaries and corporate partners, Ms Seah testified.

She told Judge Chay Yuan Fatt that there were 17 charities participating in the event, and it involved elderly as well as very young participants. In a video played by the prosecution lawyers, Ms Seah pointed out where these groups were seated in relation to the stage as well as the group of protesters, which included Mr Roy Ngerng.

"The whole objective of this event was to allow sponsors to interact with the beneficiaries. The opportunity to bond was affected because of this other group," said Ms Seah, whose job was to manage outreach programmes at YMCA. She was questioned by Deputy Public Prosecutors John Lu, Amanda Chong, Francis Ng and Jane Lim.

NO INJURIES, BUT ...

The protest was "teetering on violence", said Ms Seah on cross-examination by Ms Han. The YMCA executive felt it was "fortunate" that no injuries were suffered by the elderly, the physically and intellectually disabled or the children" attending the YMCA event.

She said she believed an autistic child had a "breakdown", and had to be moved to a quieter part of the park. Children with autism like things in a very structured manner, and one who is disturbed will sit covering his or her ears and rocking back and forth, Ms Seah said, demonstrating the movement. "We had to move the child because of safety issues."

The YMCA executive added that the protests affected the event in other ways. For example, one of the placards that was waved by the protesters may have hit a representative of one of the beneficiary charities, said Ms Seah.

Mr Teo also had to be moved in a different direction from originally planned, and could not interact with the sponsors, while YMCA was unable to serve food to beneficiaries, she added.

Ms Seah also testified, under cross-examination by the four accused, that the guest of honour left the event about 40 minutes earlier than planned due to safety concerns.

For disrupting the YMCA event and causing a public nuisance, each of the accused can be ordered to pay a fine of up to S$1,000. For organising a demonstration without prior approval, Han could be ordered to pay a fine of up to S$5,000.

Two more co-accused, Roy Ngerng, 34, and Chua Siew Leng, 43, have previously pleaded guilty and have been ordered to pay fines of S$1,900 and S$300, respectively.

The trial continues on Thursday, Oct 15, when the eighth prosecution witness is expected to be called.

Source: CNA/wl