Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Police rounds up participants for Bersih event at Hong Lim Park for questioning

Participants of a peaceful event at Hong Lim Park, were questioned by police officers at Kreter Ayer Police Post between 6.20pm to 7.30pm on Sunday.

According to the event organisers, Community Action Network (CAN), the event “The Yellow Sit-In”, was organised in solidarity with Bersih 5.0, a movement of Malaysian citizens and activists, calling for electoral reform and genuine democracy in their country.



There were a few speeches by the organisers and sing-along during the event.

At the end of the event, the participants were rounded up at the conclusion of the event.

The event organisers noted that prior to and during the event, plain clothes police were seen, walking around the park and taking pictures of the participants secretly. The confirmation came when the officers were the who interviewed the participants.

Kirsten Han, a freelance reporter wrote on her facebook that the police walked up to the attendees while they were packing up their stuff.

According to those who have been questioned by the police,  the questions asked by the questions were about:

  • Their nationalities
  • The reasons for the event
  • The reasons the attendees were there
  • How the participants knew about the event
  • Whether the organisers took any precautions to prevent foreigners from participating;
  • Whether the foreign attendees were merely observers
  • The use of the Singapore and Malaysia flags during the event.

The police were not specific about why the participants were brought in for questioning, nor did they cite the legislation granting them powers to seize their belongings (a Singapore flag and a mat) when we asked them.

One member of CAN, Jolovan Wham was prohibited from calling his lawyer for advice when he requested it.

He was quoted to have said, “He refused to let me call a lawyer… he wanted to seize my property, and I said I needed to check,” he said. “I asked him to refer to the necessary legislation which allows him to do that and he refused to let me know which law allows him to seize my stuff.. So I asked him, ‘So under what law?’ He refused to tell me which law gave him the authority to seize my things. Then I requested to call a lawyer and he refused my request, but I still called the lawyer anyway.”

CAN wrote in its blog, “It is our view that all persons assisting in investigations should be told of the alleged offence that had taken place and have the right to seek legal advice when necessary.”

A participant of the event, also had his photo taken in the police station without prior notice from the officer. 

Another participant had four police officers visiting his house as he had not be rounded up for the questioning.

CAN noted its blog, “We would like to thank friends, colleagues and other members of the public who showed their concern when we were questioned by the police. We are also grateful for the support of the foreigners who observed the event.”

Function 8, another civil group, issued a statement on the questioning, saying, “Singaporeans are already ridiculed internationally for having such a small space to exercise their limited rights to free speech and assembly. To tell the world that Singaporeans are permitted to protest at Hong Lim Park and yet authorise our police to harass and intimidate protesters is to be totally dishonest. We call upon the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop harassing and intimidating our citizens.”

Hong Lim Park was launched on 1 September 2000 as a “free speech area” where speaking events could be held without the need to apply for a licence under the Public Entertainments Act, now the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act. Anyone can register at National Park’s website to speak at the park according to the terms and condition of the park.

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