Protesters take Minister and Police Commissioner to court

The demonstrators who had called for government transparency and accountability recently in an historic protest outside the CPF Building today filed an Originating Motion (OM) at the Supreme Court today.

Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms Monica Kumar, and Mr Yap Keng Ho (the fourth protester Charles Tan is out of town) today initiated the legal action, calling on the courts to declare that police had acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully when they ordered the four to disperse during the protest on 11 August 2005. The OM named Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs, and Mr Khoo Boon Hui, Commissioner of Police, as respondents.

The action also asked the courts to declare that the police had wrongfully seized the T-shirts of the protesters and for the items to be returned. The T-shirts had the words: “NKF, CPF, HDB, GIC, Financial Reserves: Be Transparent Now!” painted on them. The protesters had called for greater openness in how the government deals with public funds used for retirement pensions, overseas investments and the building of HDB flats.

The lunchtime protest had been partly a result of the NKF scandal which is reflective of the entire system in Singapore where public matters are run in a non-transparent and non-accountable manner. The protesters in a statement had called on the HDB and the GIC to open their books for public scrutiny.

The police had sent the riot squad to order the four silent protesters to disperse or face arrest. The officer-in-charge told the four that the police had received a call complaining that the protesters were a nuisance. When the four eventually complied and left the area, the police followed suit and asked that the T-shirts be handed to them.

Under the law, any public protest of at least five people without a police permit is deemed illegal. The applicants of the court action are claiming that since there were only four, the police had no right to order them to disperse.

Lawyer Mr M Ravi will act for the Ms Chee, Ms Kumar and Mr Yap. The Attorney-General will act for Mr Wong and Mr Khoo. The date for the hearing is fixed for 21 October 2005 at 10 am at the High Court.