Amnesty International expresses serious concern at the imprisonment of Chee Soon Juan and Ghandi Ambalam for holding a rally without a permit. Both men were imprisoned after refusing to pay fines, totalling S $4500 and S$3000 respectively, in connection with a variety of offences relating to a gathering outside of Singapore’s Presidential Palace. Chee Soon Juan was imprisoned for five weeks of which four weeks relate to the illegal rally charge, and Ghandi Ambalam to four weeks of which two weeks are for holding a rally without a permit.
“Amnesty International is very concerned that these arrests typify a pattern of unreasonable restriction on public gatherings and on the free expression of dissenting opinion. This is not a simple procedural dispute but an unusual display of protest against the restrictive laws which deter the expression of dissenting views and encourage a climate of self-censorship.”
Background on Chee Soon Juan, who has been penalized on a number of occasions following his criticisms of the government:
Charges against Dr Chee and Ghandi AmbalaM related to a rally held without a licence 1 May — Labour Day. Police had refused to issue a rally permit citing “potential law and order problems.”
Dr Chee had no legal representative at the trial. In his closing submission, he stated “I long for the day when we can all be free again to listen to our consciences and not be forced to perpetuate such kinds of injustice, tell such kinds of lies, betray our fellow citizens in such a shameful manner all because of the PAP….The universal freedoms of speech and assembly is not a subject solely for parliament to debate. In a democratic and just society…the judiciary must also shoulder that responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of the citizens….I am not a criminal and no amount of time in prison can shake my belief that freedom, justice, and democracy must be embraced if we are to join the civilzed world.”
Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia
Amnesty International Canadian Section