SINGAPORE: A protest was held against the government’s White Paper on Population at Speakers’ Corner on Saturday, organised by Transitioning.org.
Organisers said about 5,000 were present.
The intermittent drizzle did not deter the organisers, who led attendees in singing the national anthem and reciting the pledge.
"I think it’s the largest protest in decades. It is also the first one where anger is directed squarely at the government," said Reuben Wong, an assistant professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
"People are now more willing to air their grievances. They have been doing it on the Internet for the past few years, but it is new for them to physically come down in such numbers," he told AFP.
The 12 speakers lined up for the event included young Singaporeans, bloggers, and opposition politicians. Most of them called for more consultation with the public.
Lawyer Nizam Ismail called on the Singapore government to supersede the White Paper with a Green Paper.
He said such a procedure is in practice in developed countries.
Mr Nizam argued that the Green Paper will contain the views of Singaporeans about the population challenges, and he stressed that this was missing in the formulation of the White Paper.
Former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian argued that four rounds of the baby bonus had not solved the problem of declining total fertility rate.
He said at the end of the day, it all boils down to affordability for Singaporeans to first get married and then have children.
Mr Tan said it is important for a policy change on the part of the government to encourage marriage and procreation.
However, he did not offer any new solutions or ideas to improve the total fertility rate.
Samantha Teo, a young Singaporean, also shared her thoughts on stage: "Right now a scarier concept is what Singapore can potentially become in another 20 years. Imagine a place where your cultural identity is slowly eroded away surrounded by unfamiliar faces, a stranger in your own homeland. How different is that from living in another country?"
"The large crowd here shows the PAP government that they are not afraid any more, they don’t want to hide behind a moniker on Facebook to show their displeasure," said chief organiser Gilbert Goh.
"They are showing their deep displeasure with the White Paper," he told AFP.
The protest was held a week after Parliament endorsed an amended motion on the White Paper after a five—day debate.
The amendments ensure that the 6.9 million population figure in 2030 is not a target and the projection is for infrastructure planning.
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