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SFD Human Rights march rejected (Updated)

Police has rejected a proposed protest march by the Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) on Friday to mark International Human Rights Day. The proposed march was scheduled to start at 1pm at Hong Lim Park and would end at 1.45pm at the Parliament House less than 1km away.

In a press release by the SFD, it was stated that  those marching would be "casually dressed (no standard attire)" and carrying 8 placards such as "Respect Freedom of Speech" and "Respect Freedom of Assembly".

No reasons were given in the rejection letter from the Singapore Police Force (see below) but in a Straits Times report today, the police said that the application was turned down because of ‘law and order considerations’.

When contacted, filmmaker Martyn See, who made the application for the march, said that it didn't make sense the police could allow 60,000 people to take part in a marathon but not 30 people for a walk.

A march along St Andrew's Road outside City Hall, 1964. Note the policeman walking besides the demonstrators to ensure law and order.

If the size of the group does not appear to be a consideration for 'law and order', we are hazarding a guess that the rejection could be due to the inflammatory nature of the words on the placard. "Respect Freedom of Speech", it appears, can drive bystanders and passers-by to acts of irrationality and violence.

"You may be well-behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid."

- Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee in 2007, on why an application by the Worker's Party to hold a cycling event for it's 50th anniversary was rejected.

Nonetheless, SFD should take comfort that at least they are still allowed to march around Hong Lim Park, and in case of bad weather, in a hotel ballroom.

On 9th Dec 2010, SFD Executive Director James Gomez issued a press release asking for greater clarification of the reasons for rejecting the application and also asking for the results of the appeal to stage the march on another date:-

Cancellation of International Human Rights Day March

Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) will cancel its scheduled march for 1pm from Speakers' Corner to Parliament House on 10 Dec 2010 to commemorate International Human Rights Day. SFD has still not received the results of its appeal for a permit to march.

We appealed because no written reasons were provided by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) when denying SFD's initial application for a permit to march. Please refer to their letter: http://theonlinecitizen.com/2010/12/sfd-protest-march-rejected/

We note that an SPF spokesperson cited "law and order considerations" to the media for denying SFD a permit to march on International Human Rights Day. We also note that media reports cited the SPF as advising the organiser to hold the event at Speakers' Corner.

Speakers' Corner is not a Marching Corner. Marches are symbolic, they travel from one point to another point and the choice of destinations have meaning. In this case, SFD wants to point out that human rights issues in Singapore are best resolved via changes in law that need to be made in Parliament. Thats why the end destination is important and that is why we chose Parliament.

The SPF should provide detailed reasons to the relevant applicant for any permit rejected. Stock answers such as "law and order considerations" are not helpful. Providing detailed reasons are important as the march circumstances for each application may be different. If reasons are provided in a timely manner then steps can be taken to ensure such "law and order considerations" are met in cases where an initial application is rejected. Without such clarifications, when permits are rejected, applicants are unable to re-design their march and successfully apply again for the relevant permit in a timely manner.

Because SFD has been denied a permit, it regrets its unable to lawfully march on International Human Rights Day.

Meanwhile, we at SFD are optimistic the Minister for Home Affairs will approve our appeal and that we can organise a march at the next opportune date.

Dr. James Gomez
Executive Director
Singaporeans For Democracy

On the same day, SFD received a latte from the Ministry of Home Affairs stating that its appeal has been rejected. The following is SFD's response:-

Response to Appeal Outcome

We refer to the letter from Wai Cheng Theng (9 Dec 2010) on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs stating our appeal for a permit to March on International Human Rights Day cannnot be acceded to.

A blanket reason - that political and cause-related street processions/marches pose a higher security risk - is unsatisfactory if the risk assessment is not made known to the applicant.

SFD would like to know what is the nature of the security risk assessment, how it was done and who are the personnel involved. This information is important in order for us to re-design our March and to apply successfully for another permit.

SFD will be submitting a fresh application to organise another march with different specifications to ensure it is attracts a lower security risk premium.

Dr. James Gomez
Executive Director
Singaporeans For Democracy