MP Louis Ng subject to police investigation for not obtaining permit before holding placard in support of hawkers

Nee Soon Group Representative Constituency (GRC) Member of Parliament, Louis Ng is currently under police investigation for a possible offence of public assembly without a permit after holding a placard next to hawkers in June last year.

“We have already interviewed Mr Ng. Police investigations are ongoing,” said police on Wednesday (3 Mar).

In June last year, Ng uploaded photographs of himself holding a placard in support of the hawkers at the Yishun Park Hawker Centre.

The placard stated “Support Them“, with a smiley face next to the wording.

He was seen posing next to hawkers at their respective stalls at the said hawker centre.

Source: Louis Ng Kok Kwang / Facebook
Source: Louis Ng Kok Kwang / Facebook

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Ng said that he was at the Yishun Park Hawker Centre in June last year during a walkabout to “make sure our hawkers were doing okay”.

“As we all know, they suffered badly during the circuit breaker,” he said.

Mr Ng added that he wanted to “urge our residents to support our hawkers“, which was why he “held a sign indicating this and took photos together with the hawkers”.

He confirmed that he had been asked by the police to provide a statement on this matter and that he has already done so.

“Separately, in January this year, I also held up a sign for the climate change video introducing the first-ever parliamentary motion on climate change.

“To clarify, that sign was an empty piece of cardboard. The words were superimposed into the video which I posted,” said Mr Ng.

It is likely that Mr Ng is being investigated now due to TOC chief editor Terry Xu’s recent applications for permits to hold various public events.

Six of Xu’s public assembly permit applications were collectively dismissed by the police, with reasons such as restricting “non-essential” activities during COVID-19 and encouraging safe distancing protocols cited as justifications behind rejecting the applications.

It is noted that Ng’s action also took place during the COVID-19 situation.

Source: Terry Xu / Facebook

One of the applications sought to replicate Mr Ng’s action last year.

However, the police seemed to have only initiated investigations into Mr Ng’s placard-holding just recently — over nine months since the act was committed and published online.

In contrast, civil rights activist and social worker Jolovan Wham was charged for holding a smiley face placard at Toa Payoh Central.

Mr Wham had done so in support of two youth climate activists who were investigated by the police for holding up placards of their own on separate occasions.

He was informed by the police that he had flouted the Public Order Act despite having “left immediately after” holding the placard and having his photo taken with it.

The Public Order Act is drafted widely and could bind anyone — even a lone individual such as Mr Wham — for trying to do any of the following without a valid police permit:

  • Demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any persons/groups/government;
  • Publicise a cause or campaign; or
  • Initiate or commemorate any event.

Even those who do not plan to hold any placards at a particular place are required to apply for a police permit.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who is Mr Ng’s fellow Nee Soon GRC MP, was instrumental in changing the legislation when the Public Order Act defined one person as an assembly back in 2009.

The Minister said:

“The number of persons, which is five in the Miscellaneous Offences Act, has been used as a proxy for a possible disruptive effect of the activity. But it is more logical to simply focus on the activity rather than choosing an arbitrary number, for example, a group of four intend in causing disruption could pose a far greater threat than a group of 20 who wish to promote a peaceful cause. Thus, we have decided to focus on the activities and their effects, rather than the number.”

A person found guilty of partaking in a public assembly without a permit may face a fine of up to S$5,000.
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March 2021