We reported yesterday how Inspector Tan Sin Choon from the Tanglin Police Division told Ms Jaslyn Go during her interview that promoting a cause or a campaign was considered an illegal activity in Singapore.
We thought Mr Tan had gotten it wrong because the law cannot possibly state that. We thought wrong.
The investigating officer repeated the statement to Mr Chia Ti Lik when the lawyer went down for his interview following Ms Go’s.
“Do you know that the Miscellaneous Offences Act prohibits the participation in an assembly or procession without a permit to promote a cause or a campaign?”
Momentarily stunned, Mr Chia groped for a response. “There’s nothing in the Miscellaneous Offences Act which says that,” the lawyer-cum-accused said when he recovered.
According to the Inspector, however, the clause is found in the Act posted on the AG’s Chambers’ website. The section for which the activists are being investigated is Section 5(4)b regarding Assemblies and Processions of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act:
(4) Any person who —
(b) participates in any assembly or procession in any public road, public place or place of public resort where he knows or ought reasonably to have known that the assembly or procession is held in contravention of an order under subsection (2) or any prohibition or restriction under subsection (3) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Subsections (2) and (3) state that:
(2) The Minister may by order prohibit or restrict, subject to such conditions as may be specified in the order, the holding of any assembly or procession in any public road, public place or place of public resort specified in the order.
(3) A Deputy Commissioner of Police may, with the concurrence of the Minister, prohibit or restrict the holding of any assembly or procession in any specified public road, public place or place of public resort in any particular case where the Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that the holding of such assembly or procession may result in public disorder, damage to property or disruption to the life of the community.
If anyone can see anything in the above law even remotely mentioning anything about the prohibition of promoting any cause or campaign, please email us.
“After 9 years of practice, I have discovered something new,” Mr Chia told his website, “In law school, we are taught that it was Parliament that made statute law and that no one else had the right, mandate or power to do so.
“Today I was confronted with the prospect that the Singapore Police Force or the Attorney-General’s Chambers had the power to expand on a parliamentary statute.”
Ironically the current Attorney-General, Mr Walter Woon, was Mr Chia’s lecturer in Law School.
Shocking as it is, this is not the first time that the police have tried to use the law to prevent the campaign for democracy in Singapore.
In 2007, Mr Gandhi Ambalam was being investigated for “promoting the cause of freedom” and Dr Chee Soon Juan was told then that it was illegal to assemble to “promote the cause of democracy.” (See here and here)
Maybe the authorities know something that lawyers don’t. If so, the rule of law in Singapore is in more trouble than we thought.