Unsurprisng perhaps but the Judiciary has again crushed Singaporeans’ right to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly. High Court Judge Woo Bih Li this morning dismissed all the appeals of SDP activists who were convicted of three charges all involving public assemblies and processions.
After the Judge gave his verdict, Dr Chee Soon Juan said: “It is most unfortunate that basic freedoms are completely crushed in Singapore.” He said that the appellants would pursue the matter all the way to the Court of Appeals.
In ordinary circumstances, appellants are allowed one level of appeal. However, there is provision for cases of public interest to be heard by the Court of Appeals even though the case is first heard by the Subordinate Courts and the appeal heard in the Court.
The appellants had asked the Judge to look into the abuse of powers by the PAP in outlawing public assemblies and processions when the Constitution clearly guarantees Singaporeans those freedoms.
Secondly, the appeal also argued that the Government allows organisations affiliated to it to conduct assemblies whereas it bans other groups from doing the same. This one-rule-for-PAP-and-another-for-others is clearly not what rule of law is about.
The Singapore Democrats continue to fight for basic freedoms of speech and assembly because without them elections continue to be a sham and used as a facade to legitimise autocratic rule.
Despotic governments in the Middle East have long held elections designed to keep the despots in power. Whether it was Saddam Husien in Iraq or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, elections were a regular affair and every election was a foregone conclusion. For a time such shenanigans worked but in the long run they covered up much discontent in society. Over time, however, the people’s discontent and frustrations build up and eventually boil over.
In Singapore, PM Lee Hsien Loong has admitted that he will buy his support and fix the opposition. Like in other authoritarian systems, this may help prop up the PAP for a time.
The Singapore Democrats have repeatedly appealed to the good sense of Singapore’s rulers to let the political society in Singapore evolve peacefully and avoid upheavals like those we see in other jurisdictions. But like all autocratic regimes, appeal to logic falls on deaf ears.
Nonetheless, the SDP will contunue to campaign on behalf of the people on all fronts including in court.
Obviously, we will also contest in the elections to make sure that the people’s voices are heard especially on the Internet where information flow is harder to control, and use the opportunity to educate the people on the importance of their political freedoms.
The present appeal involves Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Chee Soon Juan, Seelan Palay, John Tan, Chong Kai Xiong, Jaslyn Go, Mohd Shaff’ie and Jufrie Mahmood. The first five defendants have already served their sentences. The Judge gave Chong, Go, Shaff’ie and Jufrie two weeks to pay their fines.
High Court dismisses 3 sets of SDP appeals
Selina Lum, Straits Times, 23 Feb 2011
A HIGH Court judge yesterday dismissed three sets of appeals by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) leaders and supporters against their convictions and sentences for separate cases of illegal assembly and taking part in an illegal procession.
The first case took place on Sept 10, 2006, during the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, and involved SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, his sister Chee Siok Chin, and party chairman Gandhi Ambalam.
The trio, together with others, had gathered at Raffles City mall to distribute fliers to passers-by, to publicise a protest march on Sept 16 that year at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park.
In December 2009, they were convicted of taking part in an assembly without a permit and each fined $1,000. The trio served the one-week jail term in lieu of paying the fine.
At the appeal hearing in November last year, Dr Chee argued that there must be imminent threat to public order before they can be charged with the offence.
He compared their activities to groups distributing commercial fliers, for example, to advertise a tuition centre.
But Justice Woo Bih Li, in his written judgment released yesterday, said it was not the act of distributing fliers that had contravened the law. Rather, it was the fact that the assembly was for the purpose of a demonstration.
The second case involved the Chees, Mr Gandhi and SDP supporter Yap Keng Ho on Sept 16, 2006. The quartet, together with three others, were convicted of attempting to take part in a procession from Speakers’ Corner to Parliament House without a permit. They had just set off when they were stopped by police officers.
In February last year, they were found guilty and each fined $1,000. The quartet served the default one-week jail term.
The Chees again featured in the third case, along with Mr Gandhi and Mr Yap, assistant secretary-general John Tan, and five other SDP members and supporters. They were charged with illegal assembly and procession at the driveway of Parliament House on March 15, 2008.
In March last year, the 10 were each fined between $1,800 and $2,000.
In the latter two cases, Dr Chee had applied for a permit but was rejected. He argued that the police’s standing policy of not allowing any outdoor demonstrations was unconstitutional.
But Justice Woo said the constitutionality of the police’s rejection of a permit was irrelevant to their convictions. He added that they had been rightly convicted, since they knew they did not have a permit when they committed the offences.
The judge added that the proper recourse was for Dr Chee to seek judicial review of the police’s exercise of discretion.