Social activist Jolovan Wham shared in his Facebook several pictures of a demonstration which happened in an MRT train. The demonstrators were protesting the Internal Security Act detentions of 1987, framed as “Marxist Conspiracy to overthrow the Government” by the authorities. The demonstrators stood blindfolded in the train with signs posted behind them, on the window of the train. They also held up a book titled, ‘1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On‘, and pretended to read.
A netizen who responded to journalist Kirsten Han’s Facebook post of the protest remarked that it looked well planned. Others chided the demonstrators for taking their protest to the MRT trains.
A rare protest on Singapore's MRT today: seeking answers for Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy of 1987.(Photo credit: Jolovan Wham's Facebook page)
Facebook user Soh Yong Bin Matthew said that the purpose of the MRT is “to move people (and) not move people’s mind.”
Other commenters to the journalist’s post suggested that with the terror attacks happening in public spaces in many parts of the world, the most recent being London’s terrorist knife-attacks, it was irresponsible of the demonstrators to alarm the commuting public.
Responding to questions if the authorities will come down on the demonstrators, Ms Han said: “we’ll have to keep an eye on this to see what the authorities do!”
On 21 May 1987, 16 social workers were arrested and accused of waging a “conspiracy” to topple the government. 6 more were arrested for the same reason later. The accused were never charged in open court, neither were they allowed to defend themselves.
The former detainees continue to maintain their innocence, and accuse the government of faking the “conspiracy” for political reasons. The Government on the other hand, continues to maintain that the ex-detainees were subversives, driven by communist ideology.
Public demonstrations are rare in Singapore due to laws that make it illegal to hold cause-related events without a valid licence from the authorities. Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park is the only designated space in Singapore for citizens and permanent residents to hold demonstrations.