Police will be conducting investigations on civil rights activist Jolovan Wham, in relation to his act of holding up a placard depicting a smiley face at Toa Payoh Central around two months ago.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (20 May), Mr Wham said he had received a letter from the police requesting his presence at Tanglin Police Station at 2pm on Sunday.
The social worker said that police had informed him that the act was in violation of the Public Order Act.
Mr Wham noted that he “left immediately after” holding the placard and having his photo taken with it.
In a Facebook post on 28 March, Mr Wham indicated that the gesture of holding up the smiley face placard was made in solidarity with a climate justice activist who was questioned by police and had his electronic devices seized in the process.
The activist was seen, in a photograph on the @fridays4futuresg Instagram page, wearing a face mask and holding up a cardboard placard that read “SG IS BETTER THAN OIL @fridays4futuresg” in front of Toa Payoh Central Community Club and Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre.
The 20-year-old man, said the police, “did not apply for the necessary police permit” before carrying out such an activity.
An 18-year-old woman, in a separate event the same day, had reportedly holding placards with the words “PLANET OVER PROFIT”, “SCHOOL STRIKE 4 CLIMATE” and “ExxonMobil KILLS KITTENS&PUPPIES” against the Harbourfront Tower One building signage.
Police said on 1 Apr that it had received reports on a Facebook post containing photographs from 13 Mar related to the event.
Holding or taking part in a public assembly in the absence of a permit is classified as an offence under the Public Order Act.
Police said that the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park “is the proper avenue for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that concern them, and to allow Singaporeans to conduct public assemblies without the need for a permit, subject to certain conditions being met”.
Mr Wham had earlier opted to serve a week-long jail term in Changi Prison in lieu of a fine after being found guilty of contempt of court.
In a Facebook post on 31 March — the date his jail sentence commenced — Mr Wham said that acts of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience are among some of the most necessary “tools” for opening up Singapore’s “already shrinking civil and political space”.
Such acts, said Mr Wham, “often starts with one person, or a small group of people”.
The activist said that a society that has endured “[d]ecades of oppression and persecution” is bound to become acclimatised to “injustice, especially political injustice and threats to our civil rights”.
“We have shrugged it off so much that over time, we’ve become numb to it, instead of feeling outraged,” Mr Wham added.
Said apathy, he said, is a result of the “normalisation of fear”.
“If we can’t speak up, assemble freely, and campaign without looking over our shoulders, the reforms we want can only be done on the terms of those in power. We will have to wait for when they are ready,” said Mr Wham, adding that the only issues that might have a chance at being addressed without such freedoms are possibly those that are “low-hanging fruit”.
“All the levers of change are controlled and those who don’t follow the script are persecuted. We are so muted, we can only plead, but never make our demands as equals,” he added.
Thus, said Mr Wham, the people “need to speak our truths, and to do so, we should refuse to fear”.
“I refuse to be complicit in the diminishment of my spirit: resistance is no longer a choice in a system determined to de-humanise you,” he said.
Mr Wham, however, acknowledged that not everyone may have the privilege to “not only negotiate the boundaries but transgress them”.
“Not everyone can take this position and I understand those who can’t, because the costs may be high; my privilege, on the other hand, allows me to take greater risks, and for that I am grateful,” he said.
“Those of us who can risk it, should. Those who can’t, should show their support, because solidarity is the first step to change,” Mr Wham urged.