3 persons arrested after protest outside MOE building

Dhany Osman
·Editor
·3 min read
Three persons were arrested after they staged a protest outside the Ministry of Education headquarters on 26 January 2021. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman)
(From left) Elijah Tay, Lune Loh and Kokila Annamalai seen protesting outside the Ministry of Education headquarters at Buona Vista on Tuesday (26 January) afternoon. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Three people were arrested following a short protest outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) headquarters on Tuesday afternoon (26 January).

Elijah Tay, 19, Lune Loh, 24, and Kokila Annamalai, 32, were seen holding placards outside the building when Yahoo News Singapore arrived at the scene around 5.10pm.

At least a dozen plain clothes police officers were at the scene, some of whom were seen interviewing the trio. After about 30 minutes, the trio were arrested by uniformed officers and escorted away in a police van.

Elijah Tay, 19, was arrested with two others after they staged a protest outside the Ministry of Education HQ on 26 January 2021. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)
Elijah Tay, 19, was arrested with two others after they staged a protest outside the Ministry of Education HQ on 26 January 2021. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

According to a statement by the group issued earlier to the media, they were there to stage a “peaceful demonstration” and asked for Education Minister Lawrence Wong to end what they perceived as discrimination against LGBTQ+ students at MOE schools.

They also called on Wong to “uphold the fundamental right of all students to an education within a safe and supportive school life”.

Police statement

In a statement, the police said they have arrested three individuals aged between 19 and 32 for allegedly taking part in a public assembly without a permit on Tuesday.

At about 5pm, a group of five had allegedly staged a protest outside the MOE HQ with placards stating, “#FIX SCHOOLS NOT STUDENTS”. “WHY ARE WE NOT IN YOUR SEX ED”, “HOW CAN WE GET A’s WHEN YOUR CARE FOR US IS AN F”, “trans students will NOT be erased” and “trans students deserve access to HEALTHCARE & SUPPORT”, the police said.

The group did not have a police permit to carry out a public assembly. Only three individuals remained upon the arrival of police officers.

“The police warned them to cease their activities as they were liable for offence under the Public Order Act. However, they ignored the police’s warning and continued with their activities.”

The group were then issued with a “move-on” direction under the Public Order Act and were told they would be arrested if they failed to adhere to the direction. “The three refused to comply despite the police’s repeated warnings, and were arrested under the Public Order Act at around 5.35pm.”

Five placards, two multi-coloured flags and a blue bag were seized. The trio were released on bail at about 10pm.

The police reminded the public that organising or participating in a public assembly without a police permit is illegal and an offence under the Public Order Act.

Background to protest

The protest comes after a transgender student alleged earlier this month that her school, Millennia Institute, had barred her from attending classes on several occasions over non-compliance of the school’s dress code.

Ashlee, who prefers to be identified by she/her pronouns, claimed in a statement issued by a group of LGBTQ organisations that Millennia Institute told her she could attend classes if she cuts her hair and wears the uniform for male students. The statement also alleged that Ashlee had been facing difficulties in seeking hormonal replacement therapy as a result of MOE’s interference.

The MOE released a statement on 16 January, denying that it had interfered with Ashlee’s medical treatment. It later issued a separate joint statement with the Institute of Mental Health that “the school is committed to providing the education support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning”.

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