Verdict on public speaking trial tomorrow

Dr Chee Soon Juan will be in court tomorrow, 21 May 08, for the verdict in his trial in which he has been charged under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act for speaking in public without a permit. Mr Yap Keng Ho is the co-defendant.

The case involves the Singapore Democrats selling its newspaper during the elections period in 2006. The police accused Dr Chee of speaking without a permit. Both he and Mr Yap are charged for eight counts.

Trial Judge Jasvender Kaur will give her decision tomorrow at Subordinate Court No. 7 at 9:30 am.

This is the second of the eight charges. Dr Chee has been already convicted for one charge in 2006 together with SDP Chairman Gandhi Ambalam and Mr Yap. The three served prison terms.

Dr Chee has consistently maintained it is the right of Singaporeans, under the Constitution, to exercise one’s freedom of speech. The PAP Government continues to wield this law in a selective manner aimed at quashing oppositional voice. The police are enforcing the law in a discriminatory manner given that street vendors and hawkers abound in Singapore and they regularly sell their products using verbal communication.

In addition, Minister for Home Affairs Mr Wong Kan Seng has repeatedly said that he will not authorise protests of any kind. Such a blanket prohibition contravenes the Constitution that guarantees Singaporeans the right of speech, association and assembly.

Dr Chee has written to the courts twice in the last few weeks asking for the hearing to be re-convened as the Judge’s decision has not yet been rendered. The SDP secretary-general has sought to introduce what Mr Wong said in recent weeks about not allowing protests as evidence that the Government is acting in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.

The most recent example is the arrest of twelve of the Tak Boleh Tahan! protesters on 15 Mar 08 while allowing the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) to conduct its march that involved thousands of people.

The Judiciary has repeatedly ignored appeals to this end, consistently upholding the Executive’s determination to ban all forms of public activity critical of the Government.

In the present case has been evidence given by the prosecution is fraught with inconsistencies and lies put forth by police witnesses even while they testified under oath (see reports here and here).

If Dr Chee is imprisoned, he will have to apply to the prison authorities to attend court to argue the defamation suits brought on by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong before High Court Judge Belinda Ang. The Lees’ lawyer, Mr Davinder Singh, has indicated that the hearing must proceed even in the absence of Dr Chee.

Note: Following the verdict tomorrow, the hearing to strike out the defendant’s Affidavit of Evidence in Chief (AEIC) will take place on Thursday, 22 May. The cross-examination of the Lees during the hearing for assessment of damages is scheduled for 26-28 May 08.

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