On behalf of client Han Hui Hui, lawyer M Ravi has submitted a letter of demand to the National Parks Board and an appeal to the Minister for National Development, requesting for the ban on Ms Han to use Speakers’ Corner be reversed and future restrictions lifted.
Ms Han had her earlier approved permit to use Speakers’ Corner on 25 October revoked by NParks. In addition, she and a number of her fellow protesters, including blogger Roy Ngerng, have been banned from making further applications to use Speakers’ corner, situated in Hong Lim Park, pending the current investigation and charges for an earlier protest held on 27 September.
The 27 September protest saw Ms Han’s group clash with a YMCA charity event, which was also granted a permit to use HLP concurrently.
Ms Han and Mr Ngerng have both been charged under the Parks and Trees Act (Parks and Trees Regulation).
In the letters, Mr Ravi appealed for the cancellation of Ms Han’s permit to be reversed, and for her right to hold future events at HLP to be reinstated.
“The reason given for the cancellation – that the Appellant “is assisting the Police with investigations into an incident which occurred during the “Return of the CPF Event” at the Speakers’ Corner on 27 September 2014 – constitutes, a breach of the Appellant’s rights of freedom of speech and assembly under Article 14 of the Constitution,” said Mr Ravi.
“That reason is also ultra vires Regulation 8(3) of the Parks and Trees Regulations… inasmuch as the act of assisting the Police, nor even the commencement of legal proceedings against the Appellant, does not constitute nor can it be construed as an implication, assertion or proof of guilt of any offence, nor does it constitute evidence of a breach of any law or of the terms and conditions of approval for the Return Our CPF Event, or a lack of readiness to comply with the law and abide by such terms and conditions.”
Mr Ravi also said that there was no rational basis for the revocation of Ms Han’s 25 October permit, and that it amounts to a form of pre-emptive justice.
“At best, it entails a second-guessing of the outcome of legal proceedings. At worst, it involves the Commissioner in acting as prosecutor and judge over matters not within his jurisdiction.”
Mr Ravi said that Ms Han being charged with offences does not mean she is convicted of a crime, and she is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence.
Similarly, Mr Ravi said that the ban on Ms Han to apply for permits to use HLP for other events until completion of police investigations or the resolution of her case is a breach of her Constitutional right to free speech and ultra vires to the Parks and Trees Regulation.
“Depending how long the Police investigations take, the restriction may last indefinitely,” said Mr Ravi. “It is an indeterminate, wholly disproportionate and oppressive ban. There is therefore no rational basis for the ban on applying for a permit and it is beyond the limited powers of Regulation 8(3) of the Act as being irrational, wholly unreasonable and based on irrelevant considerations.”
He also indicated that the short notice given to Ms Han about the revocation of her permit and the ban prevents her from preparing and lodging an appeal or seeking any sort of legal redress in the Courts in time to enable the 25 October protest to proceed, which also makes NParks’ decision “unreasonable”.
Mr Ravi said that Ms Han will be “vigorously defending the charges brought against her”, pending which the cuggent charges made against her should have no impact on her eligibility to apply for another permit to use Speakers’ Corner.