By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
SINGAPORE – Thousands of Singaporeans held a silent protest on September 16th to express their discontent with the recent uncontested presidential election. Mostly dressed in black, the protest started with a crowd of about 200 people but grew to around 2,000 people.
Two former presidential candidates, Tan Cheong Bock and Tan Jee Say, both attended the protest. On Facebook, Tan Cheng Bock wrote: “It is not President Halimah as a person that Singaporeans are unhappy about. It is about the way our government has conducted this whole walkover presidential election.”
In order to unite the country, Singapore had decreed that the presidency would be reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community. In Singapore, the presidency is viewed as a ceremonial six-year post.
There were five total applications for the presidency, but two were not Malays and two did not meet other requirements to be considered for the position. Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was selected as the country’s first female president. She had automatically qualified as she held a senior public post for over three years. Halimah was declared elected as soon as the nomination period closed on Wednesday, September 13th.
Gilbert Goh, one of the main organizers, stated that the protest was silent as the organization needed a special permit from the police if speeches made during the protest touch on race and religion.
In Singapore, displays of dissent are very unusual. As one of the richest and most political stable countries in the world, political protests are rare.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been ruling the country since 1965. The current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, is considered as the country’s founding father.
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