Recently one of the senior state politician disclosed that Penang is going to have Speakers' Corner. It will at the Esplanade, the place where Capt Francis Light landed. It will also be a democracy square(民主廣場), where mass demonstration can be held there.
The Esplanade, the place planned for Penang Speakers' Corner
View Larger Map
What is Speakers' Corner(演说者角落)?
A Speakers' Corner is an area where public speaking is allowed. The original and most noted is in the north-east corner of Hyde Park in London, England. Speakers there are allowed to speak as long as the police consider their speeches lawful. Contrary to popular belief, there is no immunity from the law, nor are any subjects proscribed, but in practice the police tend to be tolerant and therefore only intervene when they receive a complaint or if they hear profanity.
Historically there were a number of other areas designated as Speakers' Corners in other parks in London, (eg. Finsbury Park, Clapham Common, Kennington Park and Victoria Park) as well as other countries.
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, England and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.
The park is divided in two by the Serpentine. The park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens; although often still assumed to be part of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens has been technically separate since 1728, when Queen Caroline made a division between the two. Hyde Park is 142 hectares (350 acres) and Kensington Gardens is 111 hectares (275 acres), giving an overall area of 253 hectares (625 acres), making the combined area larger than the Principality of Monaco (196 hectares or 484 acres), but smaller than New York City's Central Park (341 hectares or 843 acres). To the southeast (but outside of the park) is Hyde Park Corner. Although, during daylight, the two parks merge seamlessly into each other, Kensington Gardens closes at dusk but Hyde Park remains open throughout the year from 5 am until midnight.
The park was the site of The Great Exhibition of 1851, for which the Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton.
The park has become a traditional location for mass demonstrations. The Chartists, the Reform League, the Suffragettes and the Stop The War Coalition have all held protests in the park. Many protestors on the Liberty and Livelihood March in 2002 started their march from Hyde Park
The Speakers' Corner in Singapore
The Speakers' Corner in Singapore was opened on 1 September 2000 to allow Singapore citizens to speak freely. They are exempted from the need to obtain a police permit so long as they meet the terms and conditions of use.
The Speakers' Corner is located in Hong Lim Park, a popular venue for many election rallies and political speeches in the 50s and 60s. Hong Lim Park is centrally located, well-served by public transport and is sited in a high public density area.
In 2004, public exhibitions and performances were added to the list of exempted activities at the Speakers' Corner.
From 1 September 2008, Singapore citizens can also organise or participate in demonstrations at Speakers' Corner without having to obtain a police permit. With this latest change in policy to allow the venue to be used freely as an outdoor demonstration site, coupled with the liberalisation on the use of sound amplification and the extension of operating hours of the venue, the Speakers' Corner aims to address the genuine desire by some Singaporeans for lawful outdoor demonstrations and processions as a means of political expression.
Singapore citizens who wish to hold a speech, exhibition/performance or demonstration at the Speakers' Corner can register with the National Parks Board, which manages Hong Lim Park. Online registration is available at http://www.nparks.gov.sg. Terms and conditions are also stipulated on the website.
Thailand's Speaker's Corner
An area was set up in Bangkok in the 1930s, and quickly became known as Hyde Park, to enable freedom of speech and the airing of political views in Thailand. The area was shut down after student rioting and the lethal intervention of the army and it is not discussed openly today.
In 1955, Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram had visited the London as part of an international tour. He became impressed with the 'Speakers' Corner' in Hyde Park. Upon his return to Thailand a 'Hyde Park' space for free speech and assembly was instituted at the Phramane Grounds in Bangkok. The experiment was well received and effectively stimulated political debate. The experiment was not appreciated by the government though, and in February 1956 restrictions were imposed on the Phramane 'Hyde Park'. However, during this period the Hyde Park Movement Party had evolved, upholding the legacy of the Hyde Park experiment
If Penang's plan to have Speakers' Corner materialized, it will be the first in Malaysia. Penang people will be proud of the proposal. But there are certain problems we need to address:
(i) Is the venue/location suitable?
(ii)Is the police and Ministry of Internal Affairs allow us to speak in total freedom at the Speakers' Corner? Otherwise it is meaningless to have one. There must be promise of democracy of speech , democratic right for association (gathering), and no interference from the authority?.
(iii) Are our Malaysian open for Speakers' Corner? With the recent development in the country, where there are incident of religion and racial intolerance. Are we open minded to accept different views and opinions? even on the sensitive issues?
(iv) Is our legal and statutory laws allow it? our ISA, our Sedition Act, Police Act;
(v) Is the people have the discipline to listen only, and not react to violence when the speakers touch on the sensitive issues? are we ready? Are they disciplined to just walk away and laugh if the speakers touch on the sensitivity of him or her?.....Speakers Corner is not for narrow minded and immature people and cultural environment with much restrictions.
(vi)Who are going to monitor, and manage the place?
(vii) What are the rules and regulation? Any legal authority to take action to stop a speech
At the point of its inception, Singapore Speakers' Corner was regulated by the Singapore Police Force. The original regulations which were in force included:
* Only Singapore citizens can speak.
* Religious and racial issues are not allowed.
* Microphones and loud speakers are prohibited.
* Speakers must register at the Kreta Ayer Neighbourhood Police Post before speaking.
*In 2004, public exhibitions and performances were added to the list of exempted activities at the Speakers' Corner.
*From 1 September 2008, Singapore citizens can also organise or participate in demonstrations at Speakers' Corner without having to obtain a police permit.
And the Singapore Speakers' Corner today, the initial enthusiasm has waned, and there are very few spectators or audience at the corner. Well the Penang Speakers' Corner follow the same fate(as Singapore and Bangkok)?...... or better than Singapore and Bangkok, and will reflect better democracy than them?.....
If the plan is successful, Penang will be the first again; to show that Penang allow freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, freedom of association; and Penang people are open minded and can accept different views; Penang people are mature; Penang are democracy state; Penang ....always the first and able......
Penang lang hua hi lah(Penang people happy), ka meng chu lah(and also more democratic)....
View Larger Map