Police launches investigation on public forum on civil disobedience for possible legal violation

A police investigation has been launched upon a civil society event, “Civil disobedience and social movement”,  that was held on 26 November at AGORA, a venue that holds discussion and talks. It is said that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is looking into possible legal violation by the organisers of the event.

In a Facebook post by Jolovan Wham, one of the organisers for the event, he wrote that the Police got him down to the police station to take a statement for organising the public talk which had Hong Kong’s student activist, Joshua Wong as one of the speakers. The other two speakers of the event are Seelan Palay, film-maker and activist and Kirsten Han, a freelance journalist and anti-death penalty activist.

Wham wrote that he is surprised that a work permit is needed for a foreigner to speak to an audience even via mobile communication, “So apparently a work permit and a police permit are required for any public talk as long as one of the speakers is a foreigner, even when the said speaker is participating via Skype. ”

He conceded that there has been no permit granted by the Police for the event but he and his co-organiser, Rachel Zeng went ahead with the event because they felt it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements.

In response to the news that Wham has been investigated by the Police, Joshua Wong posted on his Facebook on Thursday evening stating that it is simply unbelievable.

He wrote that he was merely expressing his opinion in a discussion form and the content of social movement are those which could have been read anywhere on the internet.

He added that the authoritarian mannerism of the Singapore government is nothing new but what intrigues him is what legislation is the SPF basing on to request the organisers of the event to produce his work permit for speaking in the forum.

He wrote in Mandarin, “Just an hour of connection across the oceans with Singapore, also warrant the investigation by the Singapore government. Simply lawless.  A fundamentally isolated and authoritarian government still fear for the unity of the organisations in South-east Asia.”

Wong said that he is contacting the friends in Singapore as he is concerned that this would implicate them in a possible arrest or trial. However, he stated that the Hong Kong activists will continue its international connections, hoping to share experience with the other human rights activist organisation while pushing for Hong Kong’s democratic rights so as to support one another on this rough road ahead.

There have been publicity and reports on Wong’s appearance via Skype prior to the actual event. On the actual day, no police presence was made and the whole event went on without interruption.

SPF has since confirmed that an investigation is being carried out on the event.

Under the guidelines issued by the Police, the organiser of a public talk, seminar, talk or discussion is required to seek the approval of the Ministry of Manpower if speaker is a foreigner and is giving a talk on racial, communal, religious, caused-related or political topics. The applicant has to submit the letter of approval for a Miscellaneous Work Pass (for foreign speaker) to the Police Officer before a permit can be issued.

Earlier on 8 October 2011, the Police also proceeded with investigation upon the Singapore Democratic Party for holding a public talk which featured Mr Francis Seow via teleconferencing but no further actions was taken upon the political party apart from a warning.