Protesters want hearing to be conducted in open court

The Applicants of the Originating Motion (OM) want the on-going proceedings to be herad in an open court where the public can hear for themselves the arguments made by both sides.

The hearing for the OM taken out by Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms Monica Kumar, and Mr Yap Keng Ho were originally scheduled to be heard in open court today at 10 am. However, the Attorney-General (AG), representing the Minister for Home Affairs and the Police Commissioner, applied to strike out the OM and for the proceedings to take place behind closed doors.

The AG’s application was heard on Wednesday 19 Oct 05 and continues today at 10 am in place of the original OM hearing. The Applicants’ counsel, Mr M Ravi, will make preliminary objections to the proceedings taking place in chambers and insist that the matter be brought to open court where the public can attend. At the time writing the parties are still before the judge, making their arguments in chambers. Below are Mr Ravi’s arguments:

The application today as well as Wednesday ought to have been conducted in open court. Also the hearing has been fixed on the basis of an OM application.

1. It is a deprivation of the citizen to have the issues decided in chambers rather than in open public hearing even if it is named summons-in-chambers and this is regardless of the mode of the originating process.

2. All proceedings, interlocutory or otherwise, must be held in open court.

3. Is it proper that this matter is heard in chambers when it turns on the issues of the Constitution affecting the rights of the Applicants in particular and the public-at-large?

4. The Attorney-General had brought issues of political motivation.

5. Even if parties have political interest in the outcome of the issues canvassed before this court, it is their Constitutional liberty to exercise their civil and political rights. Laws are made by politicians and the various parties should be able to canvass their rights before the people. This is the political right of citizens. Political interest should not be criminalized. Instead it is a virtue of democracy and is also recognised by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

6. The transparency of the hearing is already in question as the Attorney-General has taken out this application to have the matters determined in Chambers when these arguments could have been raised in open court. I believe the Attorney General will not object to our application to have the matter determined in open court.

7. The court should not be placed in a difficult position to decide on what the motivation of the PAP government and whether the Applicants or the SDP have any political interest in the matter. This will put the court in a quandary of politics.

8. The decision on the present application will have a bearing on whether the matter will proceed further or whether it is going to be summarily dismissed.

9. The Applicants wish to place on record they protest the current proceedings of this application in Chambers. Our application is on Article 14b of the Constitution on the issue of freedom of assembly. I am therefore urging that it is unconstitutional and a breach of the Constitution for the matter to be heard in chambers and accordingly the Applicants are making a preliminary objection that even this issue be decided in open Court on why it is unconstitutional to have it heard in Chambers.

Matters of Serious Public Interest

10. The matter is of serious public interest as the Applicant and other like-minded Singaporeans have an interest to know whether a peaceful and lawful assembly constitutes an offence in particular public nuisance offence.

11. This application is taken out under Public Law. The present proceedings today must be held in open court as it involves and attracts matters of serious public interest involving questions of Public Law. It dwells on the right of the public to hold peaceful assembly in a public place. It also deals on the question of having peaceful protests by way of a lawful assembly.  The matter is of serious public interest as the Applicant and other like-minded Singaporeans have an interest to know whether a peaceful and lawful assembly constitutes an offence in particular public nuisance offence.

12. The Applicants request the Court to have a decision on whether their constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and protest have been infringed on 11 August 2005.

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