Social worker and civil rights activist Jolovan Wham on Monday (23 November) was charged in the District Court with two counts of holding public assemblies without a police permit.
One of the charges pertains to his act of holding up a placard depicting a smiley face at Toa Payoh Central in April, in support of two youth climate activists investigated by the police.
One of the youth activists 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.
The other activist–an 18-year-old woman–in a separate event the same day, had reportedly held placards with the words “PLANET OVER PROFIT”, “SCHOOL STRIKE 4 CLIMATE” and “ExxonMobil KILLS KITTENS&PUPPIES” against the Harbourfront Tower One building signage.
The other was based on a separate, unrelated instance of holding a sign outside the State Courts which urged the Government to drop the criminal defamation charges against TOC chief editor Terry Xu and TOC contributor Daniel De Costa.
Mr Wham and his supporters turned up at the court today–with smiley faces printed on their masks–without any obstruction from court officials.
Mr Wham is facing seven charges in total.
On top of the charges above, he is also currently facing other pending charges pertaining to his alleged act of organising other protests without a permit.
One was in relation to a protest outside Changi Prison Complex prior to the judicial execution of Prabagaran Srivijayan, who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in 2014. Prabagaran’s execution took place on 14 July 2017 — the day after Mr Wham’s protest.
Another was in relation to a protest on MRT trains in June 2017 in commemoration of Operation Spectrum‘s 30th anniversary.
Operation Spectrum saw 16 people arrested and detained without trial under the Internal Security Act over their alleged involvement in a purported “Marxist conspiracy” to overthrow the People’s Action Party government, with six other people being arrested later in the final stage of the operation.
Lawyer Teo Soh Lung–one of the individuals arrested and detained in Operation Spectrum–said in a Facebook post today that the judge had ordered Mr Wham’s bail to be increased “as requested by the prosecution, saying that it is because Jolovan had committed new offences when he was out on bail”.
Mr Wham’s bail was increased from S$8,000 to S$15,000.
Ms Teo said that Mr Wham had objected to the increase, as “his passport is with the police and he is not a flight risk”.
“He has been attending court without fail. As for the 2 offences he is being charged, they have not been proven,” she wrote.
Mr Wham had already been convicted for three of the seven charges and has served the sentence.
“With the 2 new charges the total number remained at 6. Therefore there is no reason to increase the bail,” said Ms Teo.
She stressed that bail is offered to “ensure the attendance of an accused person and not whether he is accused of committing additional offences when he was out on bail”.
“I therefore disagree with the order for additional bail,” said Ms Teo.
Ms Teo noted that Mr Wham is not represented by any lawyer for the two charges made in court today.
Mr Wham in a Facebook post later in the evening said that he did not expect the prosecutor to increase his bail amount.
“I argued that it was not fair to decide on this matter now since the prosecutor had not made out a prima facie case for my offence, and therefore at the very least, a separate hearing for my bail amount has to be convened before making a decision,” he wrote.
The judge, added Mr Wham, had “disagreed with all my arguments without explaining”.
A person found guilty of partaking in a public assembly without a permit may face a fine of up to S$5,000.
A pre-trial conference will be held on Friday (27 November). Mr Wham will be able to raise issues on bail during the pre-trial conference.