Is the Attorney-General serious?

At the hearing last Friday over the legal action taken by the CPF protesters against the Minister for Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police, the Attorney-General (AG) came up with some brilliant arguments which the Singapore Democrats would be grossly negligent if we did not bring them to the attention of the public.

The protesters dispersed voluntarily

The first one was dazzling: Mr Jeffrey Chan, Principal Senior State Counsel for the AG, said that on 11 August 2005 during the protest itself, the police had not used force on the four protesters to move away but that they “dispersed voluntarily” and because of this the police “could not be said to have acted unlawfully.” Talk about Singapore’s finest!

Didn’t the protesters think that the police were only kidding when they ordered them to disperse? But what about the video that captured Deputy Superintendent John Baptist threatening the protesters with arrest if they didn’t disperse? Maybe it was just MediaCorp artistes shooting the CSI: Singapore series. And the riot police? They just happened to be there to conduct their annual CPF-protest-for-transparency-and-accountability drill. Pure coincidence.

But what about the police hauling Dr Chee Soon Juan away when he didn’t leave the premises outside the Istana when he was ordered to do so? Oh that…that…was just a misunderstanding. Dr Chee was also voluntarily leaving the place and the officers were just giving him a hand so that he wouldn’t trip and fall. The police van was even there to give him a ride.

The police did not seize the T-shirts, the protesters handed them over voluntarily

The same argument was made for the police seizing the T-shirts. Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms Monica Kumar, and Mr Yap Keng Ho had stated in their Originating Motion that the police had wrongly seized their T-shirts which had slogans calling for transparency in the GIC, HDB, NKF, etc. painted on them. Mr Jeffrey Chan argued that the protesters had handed over the T-shirts and placards “without protests i.e., voluntarily.” The legal finesse is breathtaking. As the less cerebral of us would say: “Give that man a beer!”

Again, didn’t anyone watch the video and see the protesters skipping up to the police officers and saying: “Excuse me, sirs, could you please take our T-shirts too so that you can use it for your investigation?” Police: “Are you volunteering them, dear protesters, because we are not asking you to hand them over as that would be unlawful?” Volunteers: “Of course! We insist because you guys and gals are doing such a fine job of violating our rights of speech and assembly.”

Singapore a one-party state? Where got?

Mr M Ravi, counsel for the protesters, then charged that there is discrimination against non-PAP groups and individuals when it came to allowing protests to take place in Singapore. To this, Mr Chan shot back with bold, penetrating cleverness: “Prove it!” It was a sight to behold.

How dare Mr Ravi make such unfounded allegations? Singapore a one-party state? What about Swing Singapore, Chingay, and the much beloved NDP? What do you call those? Huh? Huh?

And talking about Swing Singapore, Ms Chee Siok Chin made the ridiculous comparison that there was much mischief and disorderly behaviour that went on during the merry-making. Yet the Government tolerated it and even staged it annually until everyone got tired of it. In contrast, Ms Chee said, there were only four peaceful protesters outside the CPF Building. Yes, but can’t she see that dancing and walking down Orchard Road is good for Singaporeans, but calling for transparency and accountability will only make them think more and, worse, confuse them?

The protesters are abusing the court process

The AG’s Chambers also accused the Applicants of abusing the court process for political purposes. Ms Chee then made the outrageous observation that Government officials were the ones who had abused the court process for political purposes by suing and making bankrupt opposition leaders. Again, Mr Chan’s wonderfully deliberated riposte was: Where got? (Actually the words used were “there’s no evidence of this.”)

Let’s get one thing straight. PAP leaders have the right to defend their reputation when they have been defamed. The protesters, however, have no right to ask the courts to declare that under the Constitution, citizens have the right to gather in public if there are not more than four persons. So what’s the difference between the PAP leaders’ rights and the rights of citizens? See now we have to think again and it’s confusing, right? Better just to listen to the AG and Mr Chan. This way you won’t be confused. It’s such a waste of time to have to do that silly thing called reasoning.

The Applicants are out to embarrass the Minister personally

Mr Chan said that the Applicants’ objective was to focus public attention on the police’s reaction to their protest in order to embarrass the police and Minister Wong Kan Seng personally. This is one point that the Singapore Democrats will have to disagree with the AG. The protesters could not have not embarrassed Mr Wong. The Minister is doing a damn fine job of it unaided, thank you very much. Send in the riot squad to quell a silent protest of two guys and two gals? Ask the US ambassador if he wanted to press charges against six anti-Iraq War protesters when six million were demonstrating across the world? Perhaps Mr Wong Kan Seng should learn a thing or two about brilliant thinking from the AG and his chambers.

The police had no prior knowledge about the nuisance call

Mr Chan defended the police and said that they were just responding to a 999 call about being a nuisance on the afternoon of 11 August 2005. They had no prior knowledge of what was going on and that they were acting on their common sense and immediate instinct.

Doesn’t everyone know that the police always respond to calls about nuisance by calling on the riot squad? Why everybody so stupid, har? Why only our AG understands this? Our Deputy Superintendents are so hardworking that they are always the first to arrive at the scene whenever they get complaints of nuisance from members of the public, and before they arrive they always ask for back up of the riot squad and two dozen of their fellow officers.

The protesters were blocking the thoroughfare.

The Principal Senior State Counsel also cited that the protesters were blocking the walkway outside the CPF Building. The observation powers of the AG are so good that he managed to figure out that four people (average height of 5 ft 6 in and width of 2 ft 2 in – though it must be said this statistic is hotly disputed by the protesters) were blocking the entire thoroughfare of 50 ft by 20 ft. The riot police, in order to clear this blockage, then assembled right smack in the middle of the building entrance. Not satisfied, the Sergeant in charge growled his command and the Darth Vader-like officers quickly took up positions and – guess what – surrounded the entrance. And what were their instructions? Stop everyone and anyone from going in or coming out of the building. And to think we carp on the fact that our Ministers are the most expensive ones in the world.

Now you know why the AG wanted the hearing to take place behind closed doors. With such intellect, who wouldn’t?

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