Dr Chee Soon Juan was at Raffles City Shopping Centre to sell his book Democratically Speaking yesterday when security personnel stopped him because they said that the area was private property belonging to CapitaLand.
Dr Chee was surprised as he, together with other SDP activists, was charged for assembly in a public place without a permit in 2006 at the same spot.
He told the security guards that if the area was indeed private property, he would stop his sales but he needed to be sure.
He then called the police to ask them to help verify if the area was private property. When the police arrived, Dr Chee explained the situation and asked them to ascertain the veracity of Raffles City personnel's claim.
After a few minutes, the officer-in-charge said that one of his men had seen the documentation and confirmed that the area belonged to Raffles City. Dr Chee then told the officer that he took the police's word for it and stopped the sales.
This raises a question: On 10 September 2006, he and other activists were distributing flyers at the same location.
They were stopped by the police and subsequently charged for illegal assembly in a public place (see the Charge sheet below). They were found guilty and jailed for 1 week in default of a fine of $1,000 each.
How could people be charged for public assembly without a permit in a public place at the same location if the area is private property?
Raffles City says it is private property, the Attorney-General's Chambers says it is public property. If Raffles City is right, the AGC has a lot of explaining to do.
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You are charged that you, on the 10th day of September 2006 at about 12:15 pm, in the vicinity of Raffles City Shopping Centre, North Bridge Road, Singapore, which is a public place, together with 5 persons did participate in an assembly intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government, which assembly you ought reasonably to have known was held without a permit under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance)(Assemblies & Processions) Rules, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Rule 5 of the said Rules.
Senior Investigation Officer
Central Police Division
29 December 2008
Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance)(Assemblies & Processions) Rules: Any person who participates in any assembly or procession in any public road, public place or place of public resort shall, if he knows or ought reasonably to have known that the assembly or processions is held without a permit, or in contravention of any term or condition of a permit, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.
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