The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) filed an application with the High Court for an order of committal against human rights activist Mr Wham Kwok Han Jolovan and opposition SDP vice-chairman Mr Tan Liang Joo John for contempt of court in connection with the publication of their Facebook post.
On his 27 April Facebook post, Mr Wham wrote, "Malaysia's judges are more independent than Singapore's for cases with political implications. Will be interesting to see what happens to this challenge."
In a separate press release, the AGC stated that Mr Wham’s Facebook post on 27 April, alleging that Malaysia’s judges were more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implications, had committed contempt of court under s 3(1)(a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act 2016.
"It is AGC’s case that Mr Wham’s Facebook post impugned the impartiality and integrity of Singapore’s judicial system and posed a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined," the authority stated.
Meanwhile, Mr Tan wrote on his Facebook page, "By charging Jolovan for scandalising the judiciary, the AGC only confirms what he said was true."
AGC stated that Mr Tan’s Facebook post on 6 May 2018, which stated that the AGC’s prosecution of Mr Wham Kwok Han Jolovan confirmed the truth of Mr Wham’s assertion about the independence of the Singapore judiciary, had also committed the same contempt of court under s 3(1)(a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act 2016.
AGC then noted that both Mr Jolovan and Mr Tan have been notified of the proceedings and served with all the necessary documents to allow him to respond in accordance with the Rules of Court.
On 10 May, Mr Jolovan wrote that he had received a letter from the AGC, saying that the activist had scandalised the court.
Mr Whan stated that his comment was made in response to the news that Malaysia Kini had filed a constitutional challenge to declare that Malaysia's fake news law was a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
"I said it based on several Malaysian cases I had read in which the courts upheld basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly and overturned several government decisions. It was also based on my reading of Francis Seow's book: Beyond Suspicion? The Singapore Judiciary, published by Yale University's Council on Southeast Asian Studies. Seow was not prosecuted by the government for publishing it," he wrote.
He then stressed that he did not accuse Singapore's judges of corruption, nor did he say they had no integrity and independence at all.
"I only made a comparison with Malaysia. Regardless of whether one agrees with my assessment, surely this is reasonable comment?" he asked.
He then noted that country comparisons of the rule of law are made by international organisations on a regular basis. Last year, the World Bank ranked Singapore 19 out of 137 countries on the independence of our judiciary. It was 3 places below the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 6 places above the United States of America (USA).
"With this prosecution, are we saying that the administration of justice, in particular the independence of Singapore's judiciary, can never be discussed?" he ended.
Mr Tan also wrote on his Facebook page on 12 May, announcing the charge by the authority, along with the screenshot of the letter sent by the AGC.
He asked, "Whatever happened to freedom of opinion and expression?!"