Below is the statement issued by Function 8, a local non-government organisation in response to the seven charges filed against Jolovan Wham, a well-known activist by the Singapore authorities on 29 Nov 2017.
We are alarmed and disappointed that Jolovan Wham, a promising, award-winning young social worker and a courageous human rights defender, was charged with 7 offences under the Public Order Act, Vandalism Act and the Penal Code on 29 November 2017.
We are dismayed that Jolovan Wham faces three counts of unlawful assembly under the Public Order Act. He was alleged to have been involved in holding a vigil outside Changi Prison for a man who was to be executed at dawn, organising an assembly without permit in a train and a forum involving a foreign speaker through skype.
He also faces one count of vandalism for temporarily sticking two A4 size papers with the words “MARXIST CONSPIRACY? #notodetentionwithouttrial” and “JUSTICE FOR OPERATION SPECTRUM SURVIVORS #notodetentionwithouttrial” on a panel of an MRT train and three counts of refusal to sign his recorded statement under the Penal Code.
For more than a decade, Jolovan Wham has been the voice of the voiceless. He tirelessly championed human rights causes. He spoke up for migrant workers who suffered abuse and ill-treatment by unscrupulous employers. He sought and continues to seek improvement for their work and living conditions.
Jolovan Wham has spoken up against the death penalty and detention without trial. He is an advocate for freedom of speech and assembly. He is a constant reminder that we as a first world country, should strive to attain the standard of human rights enjoyed by other first world countries. He is our conscience and we should appreciate his contributions to the nation.
Jolovan Wham was recognised for his work with the Promising Social Worker Award in 2011. This award is nominated and judged by his social work peers and seniors and which accords recognition to social workers who are newer in the field but who have made a difference in the lives of their clients as well as the community. It is an award conferred by the President of the Republic of Singapore and presented at the Istana.
We do not understand why the State is pursuing the seven charges against Jolovan Wham for events which were all peaceful and non-violent. He works for the good of our country, which we are told, aims to be inclusive and which respects diverse voices. We support Jolovan Wham and his humanistic ideals.
We urge the Attorney-General to exercise his prosecutorial discretion, reconsider the case and drop the charges against Jolovan Wham and cease all proceedings against him.
We urge the Government to review the law to ensure that genuine and peaceful civil actions like those of Jolovan are not prosecuted by the overly wide provisions of our legislation.
We call on the Singapore government to give space for loyal citizenship in all peaceful forms.