The Attorney-General (AG) Mr Chao Hick Tin (previously High Court Judge and Judge of Appeal) has taken out a Creditor’s Bankruptcy Application against Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms Monica Kumar, and Mr Yap Keng Ho.
Ms Chee, Ms Kumar, Mr Yap, and Mr Charles Tan had staged a silent protest in August last year to call for transparency and accountability in the way public funds were handled by the Central Provident Fund, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Housing Development Board. The protest came in the wake of the National Kidney Foundation scandal.
Halfway through the protest, the police sent in the riot squad and ordered the protesters to disperse or face arrest. The four complied.
Ms Chee, Ms Kumar, and Mr Yap subsequently took out a court application to declare that the Minister for Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police had been unlawful and unconstitutional when they ordered the protesters to disperse.
This was because under the constitution only five or more persons gathered in a public area with a common intention is deemed an illegal assembly.
High Court Judge Mr V K Rajah ruled in favour of the Government and ordered that the protesters pay the cost of the court hearing which amounted to $23,550.45.
AG Chao is now proceeding to make Ms Chee, Ms Kumar, and Mr Yap bankrupts because they are unable to pay the legal expenses.
The hearing for the bankruptcy application is scheduled for 3 November 2006.
Ms Chee said that the bankruptcy proceedings is just another attempt to silence dissidents which will not succeed: “We will continue to speak up no matter what the Government throws at us.”
The AG’s action brings shame to Singapore because the subject in dispute concerned the Constitutional rights of the people which have been flattened since PAP came to power. The State should absorb the cost of the hearing instead of trying to punish citizens who speak up and in the process make money off them.
The activists will appeal for funds from the public to help defray the costs. An announcement will be made soon.
In dismissing the activists’ application, Judge Rajah incredibly claimed in his judgment that the protest was “incendiary” and that such protests would “improperly undermine both a hard-won national dignity and a reputable international identity.” (See also Judiciary steps into politics with decision on protests)