The Police has informed through a press release that they will be charging Jolovan Wham, a well-known labour and human-rights activist in Court on Wednesday (29 November 2017) for organising public assemblies without a police permit under the Public Order Act, an offence of vandalism under the Vandalism Act, and for refusing to sign his statements under the Penal Code.
The various offenses include organising a candlelight vigil with 16 other persons outside Changi Prison Complex (CPC) on 13 July 2017, a silent protest on MRT train with eight persons on 3 June 2017, organising an indoor public assembly which featured a foreign speaker and pasting two A-4 sheets of paper on a MRT train panel which is deemed an offence of vandalism.
Illegal candlelight vigil
According to the Police, Wham had earlier created a Facebook event on 13 July, asking the public to participate in a “vigil” outside CPC.
The vigil was meant for Prabagaran Srivijayan, a Malaysian national sentenced to death and executed on 14 July. On the eve of his execution, Wham, along with anti-death penalty activists as well as friends and family of Prabagaran gathered outside Changi prison, where they held a candlelight vigil and displayed pictures of him. Police turned up and confiscated the candles and photo of Prabagaran but allowed them to stay at the site. Two months later, 17 of the attendees including Wham were called up for investigation for their various roles in organising and participating in an illegal public assembly.
The Police claims that Wham stated in the Facebook post that a permit had not been sought for the event but went on to hold the “vigil” and will charge him for organising a public assembly without a police permit.
Illegal silent protest
On 3 June, nine activists took to the train to protest the horrendous treatment that the Singapore government meted out upon 22 individuals who were detained 30 years ago under an operation that was entitled,”Operation Spectrum” with the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The protest that was held on Saturday afternoon (3 June), was in the form of a silent demonstration with the activists holding a book, “1987 Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy, 30 Years On.” and blindfolds on, briefly along the North-South Line.
In relation to this event, Police states that Wham organised a “silent protest” on an MRT train with eight other persons without a police permit and that he had also pasted two A4-sheets on an MRT train panel committing an offence of vandalism under Section 3 of the Vandalism Act.
Illegal public assembly for having foreign speaker
Police states that Wham had earlier organised an indoor public assembly featuring a foreign speaker, which required a Police permit. It claims that it had engaged Wham prior to the event and advised him that a police permit was required. As Wham proceeded to hold the event without a police permit, the Police notes that Wham committed an offence of organising a public assembly without a police permit under the Public Order Act.
The foreign speaker was Joshua Wong, more publicity known as the face of the Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong held in 2014. He, along with two other speakers, activists Kirsten Han and Seelan Palay, held a discussion on civil disobedience and democracy. Because of that forum, various equipment from the organisers were confiscated and they were investigated upon.
The Police noted that Wham had refused to sign his statement on multiple occasions when required to by Police. The statement by the Police goes as far as to state that Wham is recalcitrant and has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for the law~ especially with regard to organ!sing or participating in illegal public assemblies and emphasised that it is a criminal offence under the Public Order Ad to organise or participate in a public assembly without a police permit in Singapore.
“The Speakers’ Corner, on the other hand, is an established space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues with which they are concerned. Singapore citizens can organise public assemblies at the Speaker’s Comer in accordance with the rules.” wrote the Police.
Wham is understood to be currently in Police custody.
Anyone convicted of the offence of organising a public assembly without a police permit under Section 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, Chapter 257A, is liable to be fined up to $5.000 Repeat offenders are liable to be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to 6 months or both. As for vandalism, if found guilty of the offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, and shall also, subject to sections 325(1) and 330(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 68), be punished with caning with not less than 3 strokes and not more than 8 strokes, except that the punishment of caning shall not be imposed on a first conviction under the Vandalism Act.