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Singapore Sees Cyber Protest September 11, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News.
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Singaporeans have started a rare protest against a new pension reform plan with an online petition that has drawn over 700 online signatures so far. The government has proposed to make it mandatory for all Singaporeans under the age of 50 to buy annuities and which would impose restrictions on how pension savings are invested.

In a related move, blogs carried a cyber poster mobilising a planned protest. The event outside Centrepoint, a popular downtown mall drew a thin crowd which was attributed by some to the amorphous nature of its organization. Nevertheless, activists tested a ban on demonstrations by staging a symbolic “black T-shirt” protest.

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Word was originally spread through the Web and participants told to wear an item of black clothing and appear at the mall at 4 pm. It’s believed the subtle protest was initiated by a person with a nickname “Thinkall” in the Sammyboy forum

Singaporeans have turned increasingly to the Web as an outlet for their grouses. Despite the failed protest, its genesis on the Web is noteworthy in a city state where outdoor demonstrations are banned and public gathering of more than four people requires a permit.

Many accounts have highlighted the importance of the Web in mobilising mass protests and in the activity of campaigning organisations. How effective is the Web as a catalyst for political participation and an active citizenry?

It would be interesting to track whether ‘virtual’ mobilisation translates into ‘real’ political activity. Do people activated online but with little history of political activism gradually become politicised and engaged on and offline over time? If so, then the Web may be offering something novel to participatory politics.

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