By Deborah Choo
Three members of the Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) are currently being investigated over the sale of 12 copies of the book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock at a film screening at the Substation on 14 November 2010. The trio are Mr Seelan Palay, Mr Jarrod Luo and Miss Rachel Zeng.
TOC speaks to SFD Executive Director Dr James Gomez to find out more.
Q: What was the event about?
JG: It’s the screening of 7 short films from Freedom Film Fest, a premier event in the calendar of Malaysia’s civil society for the last seven years.
Q: How many turned up for the event that day?
Q: How were people notified of the event?
JG: About 3000 people were invited via a FB event page – 2100 did not reply, 450 replied they were not attending, 220 maybe attending, 210 replied attending. But in the end about 80 people turned up.
Q: Was the sale of the death penalty book before or after the screening?
JG: It was through the event.
Q: I understand there were many people at the booth – not just Rachel, Seelan and Jarrod. Why do you think only the three of them are under investigation?
JG: This is a question you need to ask the police.
Q: What was the nature of the sale of book? i.e. Did any of the three members personally approach the people to sell the book? Did the people approach the counter directly and there was no hard selling involved?
JG: I understand people approached the counter directly.
Q: Did anyone actively promote the buying of the book perhaps before, during and/ or after the screening? i.e. an announcement in the screening premises
JG: As far as I know, no.
Q: Did any of them expect to get investigated for this?
JG: No, as the book was not banned. Otherwise permits for screening the films were obtained by SFD.
Q: Do you think it was because of the photos on Facebook and SFD’s website that showed the sale of the book that prompted this investigation?
JG: We don’t know if this is so, the Police have not said anything about this.
Q: Do you expect your call for the banning of the book to be answered as requested by the relevant authorities?
JG: I am not sure, but I am hopeful that some appropriate classification is assigned to the book.
Q: Lastly, how are the three of them feeling at this point in time?
Not very good. An investigation like this gives an adverse impression that the SFD trio are involved in some pre-meditated illegal activity which in turn damages their reputation as upright and honorable citizens. Further, the investigation comes about from the unclear position on the ban or lack of ban of a book currently the subject of legal proceedings. Such sloppy policing to me is an act of bad faith which seeks to intimidate ordinary citizens and brings into question the nature of policing in Singapore. The police as an arm of the executive and thereby representing the state has a solemn obligation as a duty bearer to protect the human rights of citizens at all times and to act responsibly in the discharge of their duties.