Opposition rally no threat to law and order: defence lawyer

AFP Report

A DEFENCE lawyer on Tuesday, Oct 1, disputed prosecution claims that an illegal Labour Day rally by opposition leader Chee Soon Juan threatened law and order.

On the second day of the trial against Chee and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) colleague Ghandi Ambalam, lawyer Ling How Doong questioned assertions by police officers the May Day rally this year outside the Istana presidential complex could have got out of hand.

Chee, secretary general of the SDP, and Ghandi are on trial for holding the rally without a permit and for trespassing on the grounds of the complex which houses the offices of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and President S.R. Nathan.

A fifth prosecution witness, police Deputy Superintendent Teo Chun Ching, took the stand Tuesday saying he saw Chee addressing a crowd and that there was potential for disorder.

“There was some shouting, the atmosphere was tense and there were many other people in the area. My assessment is that this disorderly behaviour has the potential to lead to law and order problems in those circumstances,” he told the court.

The second prosecution witness for the day, Senior Staff Sergeant Douglas Yeo, said: “There was some pushing and people were trying to get near the accused (Chee) and definitely the crowd was increasing in number.”

Lawyer Ling, who is representing Ghandi, noted that all three police witnesses gave the same figures when they asserted that the crowd had swelled from 30 to 50 in two minutes.

But Ling suggested there was no such threat as Chee was not acting aggressively and did not raise his voice.

Ling also said Chee was not making a speech but was answering questions from journalists gathered around him.

Chee, who is representing himself, told reporters outside the court that the prosecution’s case “seems centered around the fact that there was a crowd”.

“We will be countering that by proving that the crowd was all journalists. There were no members of the public,” he said.

The defence plans to present a witness as well as a videotape of the rally, Chee said.

Video tapes of both the prosecution and defence were submitted as evidence and will be shown to the judge when the trial resumes Wednesday.

Prosecution witnesses on Monday testified that the rally threatened law and order in the strictly controlled city-state.

Chee has paid a series of fines and served brief prison terms in his fight against the ruling People’s Action Party, which has dominated Singapore politics since independence in 1965.

In August, he was ordered by the High Court to pay damages to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for defamation, but has said he will appeal the decision.

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