It would appear that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has filed for an order of committal against activist Jolovan Wham for contempt of court. Personally, I think that is a massive overreaction given that I don’t really think that his comments constituted contempt in the first place. Wouldn’t a public apology suffice if the courts really felt that aggrieved? Why is there a need to send him to jail over Facebook comments that neither incite violence nor in any way sway public opinion. Indeed, it would be reasonable to assume that many members of the public have voiced similar sentiments over coffee, drinks or WhatsApp chats. Would sending him to jail cause more public outrage and doubt in the judiciary? Would it not be more effective for the courts to clear its name by issuing a statement?
Further, it has been reported that the AGC is also taking action against another individual, Mr John Tan Liang Joo for posting on Facebook that the “AGC’s prosecution of Mr Wham confirmed the truth of Mr Wham’s assertion about the independence of the Singapore judiciary”. In my opinion, this is likely to come across as using a sledgehammer to kill a fly to the public and may actually backfire on the AGC. It might serve their purposes better to simply engage in dialogue rather than come out with all guns blazing to crush the little people.
In this atmosphere of prosecution, is it really right for Ng Eng Hen to say that Singapore wants to attract new and divergent ideas?
When Singapore hosted the Trump Kim summit, it took great pains to ensure that there were no public protests. In fact, the South Korean women who dared to protest against a known totalitarian tyrant, Kim, were unceremoniously bundled out of the country. I would have thought that a peaceful protest against a known murderer such as Kim would not have been controversial.
Contrast this with the situation in London where thousands took to the streets to protest Trump’s London visit. Not only did the authorities not clamp down on the protests, they facilitated it by closing roads and diverting traffic.
Does this mean the British government does not want to work with the US? Of course not. It is simply recognising that people have a right to have an opinion. That is perhaps why London is the centre for finance and an important hub for many creative ideas.
If Singapore wants to be a place that attracts new ideas, it needs to allow people to have an opinion. The system (which includes both the judiciary and the government) has to facilitate the development and expression of new ideas. It cannot take everything and anything as a threat and shut it down before it even begins.