Mr Jolovan Wham, a local activist for migrant worker rights and human rights, has been issued a stern warning for the use of the Singapore and Malaysian flags at an event at Hong Lim Park that he had organised last year.
The event was held in support of the Bersih 5 rally in Malaysia on 13 November 2016 and had around 15 participants attending the event. There were pictures showing them laying Singapore and Malaysia flags on the mats and other times participants held the flags up and took pictures with them.
Participants of the event were questioned by police officers at Kreter Ayer Police Post between 6.20pm to 7.30pm on Sunday.
The event organisers, Community Action Network (CAN), 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.
The public display of the national emblem of any country, including flags, is prohibited except by certain people, such as diplomats, and when an order is published in the Government Gazette to allow it, under the National Emblems (Control of Display) Act. Offenders can be fined up to $500 and jailed up to six months.
Authorities have also charged Wham on Wednesday (29 November) with seven charges which include three counts of organizing a public assembly without a police permit and one count of vandalism for sticking two A-4 paper on a MRT train carriage panel.
Changes to the warning letter served by Police after court challenge by Wham in 2015
Wham wrote a Facebook post on Tuesday (5 December) and posted pictures of the warning sent by the Police.
“In addition to the 7 charges, I was given a ‘stern warning’ for an event I organised last year at Hong Lim Park in solidarity with the Malaysian Bersih movement,” he wrote.
He noted that in the warning received from the Police, it says he committed the offence of allowing the flag to touch the ground (Wham clarified that he placed it on a mat) and displaying the Singapore and Malaysian flags in public.
Wham then stated that what is interesting is that the letter now comes with a clarification on the back page that a warning does not amount to a conviction or finding of guilt by a court of law, does not mean that you have a criminal record, cannot be raised by the prosecution as a criminal record against you in any future court matters for the purpose of enhancing a sentence and does not affect your legal rights, interests or liabilities.
“Before this, the effect of a warning letter wasn’t clear,” he stated.
“But this was clarified by a high court challenge I initiated 2 years ago with Remy Choo Zheng Xi representing me in which I tried to quash the warning. Even though I ended up being slapped with a $6,000 cost, I think it was worth it,” he ended the post.
Wham had commenced judicial review proceedings to quash two warnings administered to him by the Police in 2015, though the action was not successful, but the court determined that stern warnings from the Police are not judicial findings of culpability. Prior to this, suspects are issued with warnings by the police which are worded in a way that they admit having committed an offenc and acknowledged that they were let go with just a warning.