Activist Jolovan Wham (Wham) has reportedly been charged under the Public Order Act for participating in a one-person assembly. The sum total of this so-called “assembly” was Wham holding a smiley sign in support of two youth climate strikers who were being investigated by the police and holding a sign outside the State Court, silently urging the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) Government to drop its criminal defamation charges against, Editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), Terry Xu and TOC’s one time contributor, Daniel De Costa.
According to Wham, he was at the alleged “assembly” venues for “barely more than several seconds”.
If this is indeed true, how can this be construed as an act that is against public order in any way, shape or form? It also throws up many questions, namely – can one person be construed as an “assembly” without defying common sense? Are the police so free as to bother with a non-violent individual holding a “smiley” sign?
Where is the danger here?
By taking action against Wham here, the police could be seen by the public as participating in a politically motivated charge when it is a state-funded agency that is supposed to be partisan. Is this the reputation that police really wants to have? Does it not erode public trust and confidence?
Secondly, by taking time out to deal with what is essentially a non-urgent, non-violent and harmless act, the police are behaving in a manner that contradicts what Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, has said about the police being “very stretched“. So stretched apparently that we should “not stretch them further”.
If the police are “so stretched”, why do they have time to deal with such a trivial misdemeanour (if you can even call it that) on the part of Wham?
Surely, if the police are so stretched, they should focus on more serious crimes? Do the police need further training on how to prioritise?
To claim that they are so busy but yet, in the same vein, to waste time on a non-violent individual whose transgression was holding a sign, the police could appear disingenuous. After all, if you are really so busy, why not free up your time by ignoring minor issues such as sign holding and focus on more pressing issues such as the mistakes made in the Parti Liyani case?
Are the police hiding behind the shield of “busy-ness” just to avoid answering the more pertinent questions of the Parti Liyani case?