Local human rights group, MARUAH has issued a statement against the prosecution of Singapore’s well-known activist, Jolovan Wham over organising of civil gatherings, stating that Singapore’s consitution guarantees citizens of Singapore the right to freedom to of speech and expression and the right to assembly peaceably.
The authorities have filed seven charges against Wham on 29 Nov. Three counts of organising illegal public assembly; 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. One count of vandalism for pasting two A-4 sheets of paper on a MRT train panel and three other charges for not signing on the police statements for the three occasions.
MARUAH states that the protests that Mr Wham is charged with leading are well-documented in mainstream and social media, and it is readily apparent that none of them posed a credible threat to public order. Mr Wham’s actions are merely public criticisms of the government’s stance on detention without trial, capital punishment and free speech. It is revealing that in the police press release announcing the arrest of Mr Wham, the police make a great deal of Mr Wham’s “recalcitrance” as if he were a child defying parental authority.
It further highlights that the Singapore’s Constitution guarantees citizens of Singapore the right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to assemble peaceably.
“Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” while Article 20 (1) provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” ” wrote the human rights group.
MARUAH urges the government to drop the charges against Mr Wham and to remove all unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions on the right to free speech, expression, and assembly in Singapore. Other than MARUAH, various local and international NGOs have also voiced out against the charges against Wham, such as the Human Rights Watch.