Public Order Act: Managing space the Singapore way

Posted on: 14 April, 2009 | Tagged as: ,

Through our stories, we find that a common approach to space management in Singapore is the idea that everything has its proper place. For instance, skateboarders should be at the skate park and street advertising should stay in the designated boards. The government’s proposed changes to the Public Order Act (POA) is a great example of how such management extends beyond just physical space and into the political realm. If the POA is changed, the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park will become a designated ‘unrestricted area’, or the state’s proper place, for political expression, but everywhere out of it is subjected to a permit.

The changes also affect the space allowed for filming as law enforcement officers will also have the power to stop people from videotaping security operations even if in the public. However, certain restrictions on this has been explicitly stated, including the fact that this is “not targeted against the filming of acts of civil disobedience”. Perhaps this was in anticipation of questions if it targeted filmmakers like Martyn See, who had documented the only public protest during the 2006 IMF-World Bank meeting in Singapore in his short film Speakers Cornered.

Despite these upcoming regulations to better manage political space, a solution that has existed, and continues to exist is to reclaim virtual space to discuss politics. For instance, you could read an interview a friend recently did with See and watch his banned political films, Singapore Rebel and Zahari’s 17 years all in the comfort of your personal space without applying for a permit.