In an open letter today (14 April), various community groups and civil society organisations urged the Singapore Police Force to end its investigations against the two youths who conducted solo climate protests this year. The group called for an end to the investigations without any charges and warning, adding these youths have done nothing wrong.
The 29 signatories include Community Action Network, Function 8, HOME, MARUAH, Pink Dot SG, Fossil Free Yale-NUS, SG Climate Rally, Speak for Climate, and Students for a Safer NUS.
The group expressed its solidarity with the two young Singaporeans who held up signs with environmental messages and took photographs of themselves in a public area. They noted, “These are peaceful acts which have not caused harm to any persons or property.”
The group went on to say that it does not see public benefit in tying up resources further in this investigation, especially given the current existential threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter also noted, “In addition, we are deeply troubled that peaceful expression on environmental issues that affect all of us is being silenced by authorities. This could impede open dialogue on such issues going forward.”
The group called on the state to “seriously reconsider” the laws under which these two Singaporeans are being investigated, saying that they are concerned that such “benign actions” of calling for a better world are being penalised.
Noting that the youth of today are the ones who would be most affected by the climate crisis and looming ecological breakdown, the letter stressed, “Instead of dismissing those who speak up, we should listen to and empower them, like many other countries are doing for their own youth.”
It continued, “Those who speak up on the climate crisis contribute in their own way to larger efforts to bring about a more just and inclusive Singapore. We should not be punishing them for it.”
The letter went on to emphasise, “Singapore cannot afford to turn away from our own carbon footprint and our responsibility to act, given our national resources and our capacity to enact real systemic change when we put our collective will to it.”
Using the example of the community’s response to the current challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter explained that “the same political will to act decisively, at a systemic and collective level, is urgently needed to deal with the climate emergency ahead of us.”
The signatories concluded the letter by saying that the crisis cannot be collectively addressed if there is no open dialogue and a “penetrating understanding” of the problem.
“Ensuring that the youth and other inhabitants of Singapore can ask for a liveable future, without fear or intimidation, is only the start, but it is the least we can do,” it stressed.
Police investigating two youths over separate solo climate strike incidents
Earlier this month on 1 April, the police announced that it is investigating an 18-year-old woman and 20-year-old man over two separate incidents of them allegedly participating in public assemblies. In its statement, the police said that neither of them had applied for the necessary permits before carrying out their activities.
Holding or taking part in a public assembly in the absence of a permit is classified as an offence under the Public Order Act.
On 13 March, the 18-year-old Singaporean student conducted a “climate strike” at HarbourFront—which houses the office of oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil—where she held up signs that said, “Planet over profit, School strike 4 climate, ExonMobil kills kittens and puppies”.
The police began investigating this student when it received a report of a Facebook post containing those same photos. In the course of their investigation, the police said they found that the 20-year-old man was involved in a separate incident later on 22 March. He had been photographed in front of Tao Payoh Central Community Club and Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre holding a placard that read “SG is better than oil @fridays4futuresg”.