The rise of the Opportunist Activists where self-victimisation is more important than Palestine

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is investigating two events that happened on Feb 2.

The first involved about 70 individuals gathering on Orchard Road and proceeding towards the Istana, carrying umbrellas adorned with watermelon imagery, a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Their objective was to deliver 70 letters to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, advocating the Palestinian cause.

The SPF is also investigating “Steadfast for Palestine,” a hastily-organised private event that happened on the same evening. Initially planned for The Projector with around 300 RSVPs, the organisers were informed by the SPF that a permit was necessary. However, the permit was not issued, citing the event’s focus that may touch on race and religion, leading to the organisers switching venues and changing the event status to invite-only.

In the livestream video of the event, attendees were seen chanting “from the river to the sea,” and others chanting, “Palestine will be free” in response. According to SPF, the phrase “from the river to the sea” is associated with calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

The organisers behind the “Steadfast for Palestine” event.

The ‘Steadfast for Palestine’ event was organised by 3 key players: Kokila Annamalai, Suraendher Kumarr and Elijah Tay Peng with aspiring internet person Siti Amirah (also known by her moniker as Camira Asrori) as the supporting token.

(L-R: Suraendher Kumarr, Kokila Annamalai, Elijah Tay, Siti Amirah)

Image: Suraendher keeping a low profile

Of the four, Suraendher is touted as the brains and architect of the group, albeit the only one (trying) to keep a low-profile. This 30-year-old was a former valedictorian in 2019 and once lauded the Hock Lee Bus Riots as a form of empowerment by workers. He is also the board secretary at HOME, a migrant worker NGO.

Suraendher, primarily engaged in environmentalism and climate change, often leverages these topics as a springboard to explore a range of intersectional goals. His discussions extend to a wide critique of capitalism and its intertwined societal impacts, thereby merging environmental advocacy with an extensive anti-capitalist stance. Suraendher acknowledges the intellectual challenge in maintaining this balance, at times facing the risk of contradictory elements in his arguments.

Palestinian advocacy or self-serving agenda?

There’s an emerging consensus that the organisers are more focused on eliciting a police response to challenge Singapore’s activism policies than on supporting the Palestinian cause.

When the police sent letters to their homes to call them in for ‘voluntary’ questioning, the organisers didn’t waste time to gloat about the police ‘invites’ they received, with Siti Amirah even framing the letter.

In a video, Siti Amirah juxtaposed ‘advice’ against alleged police intimidation with promotion of her tube-top keffiyeh bandana and jewellery, seemingly trivialising the seriousness of the situation.

Even seasoned activists like Subhas Nair and Kirsten Han have hinted at the organisers’ self-centered motives. They contend that the organisers deliberately skewed their narrative from supporting Palestine to self-victimisation in light of police scrutiny. This suggests they were not only anticipating, but also provoking, a crackdown to shift focus onto themselves.

By inciting the public to participate in a ‘protest’ walk along Orchard Road, a notably sensitive area, the organisers seemingly sought to provoke a legal backlash, casting themselves as victims under Singapore’s stringent public assembly laws.

Self-victimisation – a tactical tool for the organisers

Rather than enhancing understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict, the discourse has shifted to Singapore’s legal framework and the government’s response to public demonstrations, possibly diverting focus from the original issue, either inadvertently or intentionally.

The developments have also polarised public opinion, impeding constructive dialogue and meaningful action, with the spotlight now on police conduct rather than the Palestinian situation.

What are the organisers’ true intentions, really?

Is their primary goal to challenge Singapore’s activism regulations and make a statement on civil liberties or is the Palestinian cause indeed the primary driver of their activism?

The Palestinians would like to know too*.

(*Assuming the event had any impact beyond Singapore’s shores.)

What do you think?

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