Police stop commotion at Potong Pasir petition event
By Jeremy Au Yong & Jennani Durai

THE police yesterday dispersed a crowd that had caused a commotion in Potong Pasir during the signing of an ongoing petition against the narrow electoral defeat of Mrs Lina Chiam in the single-seat constituency.

There was dispute among residents over the petition signing, said police spokesman Humphrey Sew.

'Police then warned the parties concerned that what they are doing may constitute an illegal public assembly, and advised them to discontinue and disperse immediately,' he said.

He added that police are investigating the incident.

It was not clear what was the cause of the dispute.

But in their statement, the police said they received a call at about 8.40pm yesterday from a resident complaining about the commotion at the void deck of Block 108, Potong Pasir Avenue 1.

The area is the former site of opposition stalwart Chiam See Tong's Meet-the-People Sessions.

Hundreds of his supporters have been gathering at the void deck every evening since Sunday, when word spread that a petition could be signed there to call for a by-election in Potong Pasir.

The sessions have been mostly peaceful, with occasional rowdy moments. At one point yesterday, the crowd surrounded a Straits Times reporter and shouted abuse when someone accused the reporter of being a People's Action Party (PAP) mole.

Petition organisers had said they were unhappy with the narrow loss of Mr Chiam's wife in the General Election.

Based on local votes, PAP candidate Sitoh Yih Pin beat Mrs Chiam by a narrow 114 votes.

Yesterday, executive Vanitar Sindaya, 30, a volunteer in organising the petition, said its status was uncertain: 'The police came and said that (the gathering) was illegal, and that we'd better pack up and leave.

'The volunteers heeded the advice and left. So most of them probably believe it's off for now.'

The petition has been attracting both supporters and opposers online.

Many, including Mr Chiam, have commented that the move has no legal basis.

Elections in a first-past-the-post system, like that in Singapore, can be won by a single vote.

The petition itself has taken several forms since it was started.

Initially, the call was for a by-election in Potong Pasir. Then, it changed to a call for an inquiry into the narrow margin and a suggestion for a by-election.

Yesterday, volunteers said it would just call for there to be a stronger mandate.

Mr Chiam's Singapore People's Party is not involved in the petition.

Said SPP's Mr Benjamin Pwee, who contested in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC: 'The party is aware but not involved in the petition. The party calls on its supporters to calm down and act in a responsible manner. Mr Chiam has publicly said he does not believe the petition will work.

'Democracy needs to be fought for objectively and peacefully. And we will work together to win back Potong Pasir at the next election.'

He and other party members were at a thank-you dinner at Orchard Road.

Mr Chiam added: 'If any political party wants to grow, it needs to build credibility and trust in the eyes of the people and not resort to violence and hooliganism.'