Did PAP MP Louis Ng obtain a police permit before holding a smiley face placard at a hawker centre?

It is probably fair to say that for a law to be respected, it must be applied evenly and fairly to all, regardless of whether one is a known government critic or a People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP). However, this principle seems to be called into question in the case of Nee … Read more

Lawrence Wong’s silence in relation to transgender student issue and DMA is deafening

Minister for Education, Lawrence Wong (Wong), has been criticised for not addressing the mounting concerns that have arisen in the Ministry of Education (MOE) – that of the deployment of the Device Management Application (DMA) on the devices of students and that of how the Ministry has dealt with transgender students. In fact, Wong has … Read more

Have the peaceful protests by students upset the balance between the right of individual expression and societal stability?

The police have arrested three individuals for allegedly holding and participating in a public assembly without a permit. The individuals had held up placards, some of which read “#FIX SCHOOLS NOT STUDENTS” and “trans students will not be erased” –  made in connection to the recent saga where a transgender student alleged that the Ministry … Read more

FORUM-ASIA calls for S'pore authorities to end of judicial harassment of Jolovan Wham and repeal Public Order Act

The summoning of activist Jolovan Wham by the Singaporean authorities for posting a picture on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, points to an escalating repression of human rights defenders in the country. In a joint statement, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), along with Singapore-based civil society organisations Think Centre … Read more

Police to investigate civil rights activist Jolovan Wham for allegedly violating Public Order Act

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 … Read more

A flawed Bill that Parliament must not enact

Picture from AFP
Picture from AFP
Vincent Wijeysingha
The Ministry of Home Affairs has introduced another Public Order Bill, supposedly aimed at dealing pre-emptively with potential unrest in Little India. The move is being sold as necessary, in the aftermath of Singapore’s worst riot in 45 years. But a closer examination of the Bill raises disturbing questions.
In enacting this Bill, the government proposes to take drastic action against both Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans living within as well as passing through Little India. Measures include strip-searches for alcohol, raiding premises and vehicles without a warrant anywhere in Singapore, banning ‘suspicious’ persons from entering a designated ‘Special Zone’, consisting of most of Little India, for up to 30 days.

Read more

For much is at stake


The government’s feeble justifications for passing the Public Order Act (POA) have been roundly and rightly denounced by the Opposition parties and netizens, and I shan’t repeat their indictments here. It is important that you read their responses closely.

Take heed: the POA is not just about maintaining our racial and religious ‘harmony’. Harmony can be maintained, if it must, with the existing laws, as they always have been maintained, with a grip so ironical that one wonders if our vaunted ‘harmony’ even exists.

The POA is also not just about the impending APEC meetings or Youth Olympics and the protesters that accompany these events, for the POA is here to stay.

The POA is about preserving the dominance of the PAP. For this reason, the POA is about us, the citizens.

Read more

Why proper oversight of police powers is important

Andrew Loh

Two articles from The New Statesman and The Economist show that abuse of powers by the police can happen if left unchecked. How does our new Public Order Act square up to this?

After the demonstrations during the recent G20 summit in London, the biggest story is not about the alleged rowdiness of the demonstrators but the possible misconduct of the police in handling the protestors as well as their involvement in the death of a British by-stander.

This goes to show that the law minister’s rhetoric during the recent debate over the Public Order Bill about believing that policemen are “fundamentally honest” is missing the point: given that the latter are the ones carrying guns and batons, it is important to ensure that there is proper oversight over police powers, which is critically missing from the Bill.  Instead, what the Bill does is to grant the police even more abitrary powers.

No one would advocate crippling the effectiveness of the police force – but it is crucial to ensure that there is proper accountability when something does go wrong.  Worryingly, the government’s track record gives little reassurance that the public can expect such accountability.

The truth of the G20 case of Ian Tomlinson and the other one of Brazillian Jean Charles de Menezes, wrongly suspected of being a potential suicide bomber who was shot by British police, came to light only when video footages (from a by-stander and from CCTVs) revealed that what had taken place were contrary to what the police had first claimed.

In Singapore’s Public Order Act and in the amended Films Act, the police can stop anyone from filming such events and order the person to destroy the recording. What would have happened if Britain’s police too had powers to do the same? (Watch the four videos below)

Read more

TOC Editorial: Muzzling the madding crowd

The government’s arguments for the Public Order Bill are unconvincing

Over the objections of the opposition and not a few concerned queries from ruling party MPs, Parliament passed the Public Order Act on Monday to rationalise the existing Public Entertainments and Meetings Act and the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

In presenting the government’s case, Law Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam tried to square two contradictory motives.  On one hand, he presented the Act as a step forward in liberalisation, part of the government’s efforts to adjust its policies to balance the individual’s political space with the need for security and order.  To this end Mr Shanmugam cited the Act’s liberal aspects, such as a rationalisation of the permits regime that would do away with the need for permits for “50 per cent” of public activities.

On the other hand, the Act introduces potentially draconian powers, chiefly in the form of so-called “move-on” powers, which enable the police to order a person to leave an area if they think that he is about to break the law.  Mr Shanmugam argued that these are necessitated by the examples of disturbances elsewhere in the world.

Read more