The free speech Speakers' Corner of Singapore has been closed following the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore.
Lee Kuan Yew, who bore the title of Minister Mentor, was the first ever Prime Minister of Singapore. He passed away peacefully at 3:18am Singapore time on Monday 23 March.
The Office of Singapore's present Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong released an official statement to announce the passing of Lee around 7am Singapore time, but prior to that, the Ministry of Home Affairs had already revoked a part of the Public Order Act that relates to citizens' use of unrestricted areas from 5:30am onwards on 23 March.
The Speakers' Corner in Singapore is a "free speech area" located in Hong Lim Park that was launched in September 2000 and designated as an "unrestricted area" by a 2013 Order.
Hong Lim Park public order act revoked
According to the document seen by The Online Citizen, the right to use any unrestricted area in Singapore has been revoked until further notice.
The National Parks Board, which is responsible for Hong Lim Park, also released a statement that offers a reason why:
"Hong Lim Park, including the Speakers' Corner, is one of the designated community sites for remembering the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
With the park designated as a community site, those who wish to speak or organise events at Hong Lim Park (including Speakers' Corner) will not be able to do so.
As such, we will not be able to accept any applications to use Speakers' Corner during this time."
Speakers' Corner (named after the world famous London site in Hyde Park) is used to hold demonstrations or stage performances and exhibitions, as long are they are organised by Singapore citizens and attended by only citizens and permanent residents.
Citizens can register online with the National Parks Board to use the space and are also allowed to use portable amplification devices like loudhailers between the hours of 9am to 10:30pm.
Banners or placards may be carried, but they cannot contain violent, lewd or obscene material, and citizens must also ensure they do not speak about any issue that would foster ill-will or hostility between the different racial and religious groups in Singapore.
Speakers' Corner revoked during other political events
If Singapore citizens do want to protest or demonstrate at Hong Lim Park this week, they will first need to obtain permission from the police and give advanced notice.
Dr Jack Tsen-Ta Lee of the SMU School of Law told The Online Citizen that the Public Order Act was issued in order to create the Speakers' Corner and this has been revoked and reissued four times since 2011, including the 2011 Singapore general election, the presidential election that followed in the same year, as well as two by-elections for suburbs in Singapore in 2012 and 2013.
Lee said that the Speakers' Corner was suspended during these occasions in order to ensure that election rallies were only held in areas designated by the Singapore government, and that it would be likely that the Order would be reissued after the period of national mourning for Lee's death is over.