So, after organising many unavailing gatherings in the name of the unemployed, Gilbert Goh has finally managed to pull off a successful event at Hong Lim Park despite shooting himself in the foot with a patronising summary of foreigner stereotypes. That was ironic, considering the event was supposed to be gathering of Singaporeans against the government's liberal immigration policies, not actually against foreigners themselves. I guess Gilbert missed the homing pigeon's message to "hate the PAP-yer, not the game" since the crowd appeared to relish in the delight of slamming the PAP. Perhaps he got too caught up with all the media attention, perhaps he is a closet xenophobe, but I digress.
With so much angst over the white paper, the huge crowd turn-out ,in hindsight, does not seem all that surprising. But it seems that the opposition parties (in particular SDP and NSP) caught that on early, and being the opportunistic vultures that they are, rode on the wave of Singaporeans' discontent for political mileage.
First, notice the number of speakers who are or were, associated with opposition politics. Mind you, these are not novices but heavyweight personalities such as Vincent Wijeysingha and Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss (I am loathe to include Tan Jee Say in the mix, although he did seem popular with the crowd). Take notice too of SDP-affiliated personalities amongst the crowd - former ISA detainees, left-leaning civil rights activists and NGO representatives. Second, I found it too much of a coincidence that the SDP had launched their own population and immigration policy paper just a couple of days before the event at Hong Lim. On top of that, Wijeysingha had opened his speech at the event promoting SDP's policy paper. He even took pains to mention NSP's own "robust" alternative policy report to reporters at the post-event press conference, though it was strange that he left out WP's proposals.
Considering the huge media coverage, especially from the foreign press, accorded to the event, it was smart of the SDP to leverage on the event to raise its political profile both locally and internationally. NSP resources went into the event presumably as Gilbert was or is NSP while SDP went along for a free ride. SDP recently preached about opposition unity like its generous offer of a
SDP MP in parliament if it took part with WP in the Punggol election
and won, and WP can administer the SMC chores, also has a protest culture
and wants to portray itself as the leader of the opposition to the
foreign press. Thus, the event fitted nicely with SDP's image.
In my opinion, it was SDP that benefited the most from the event, unfortunately at the expense of Gilbert and those who attended it. A pity for Gilbert as he was the one who had tirelessly initiated and organised the event. A pity for the crowd who naively thought they were part of a landmark occasion where 4,000 brave Singaporeans stood up for themselves, when they were in fact pawns in SDP's game of political chess.