SDP Assistant Secretary-General, Mr John Tan, was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment by High Court Judge Judith Prakash for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a kangaroo in a judge’s gown during the defamation hearing between Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore Democrats.
Fellow activists Mr Shafi’ie and Mr Isrizal were each sentenced to 7 days imprisonment also for wearing the T-shirt. Mr Tan’s penalty was heavier because he had handed the T-shirt to the other activists.
All three men were also ordered to pay $5,000 as cost to the Attorney-General.
During the hearing on 24 November, the Attorney General had wanted a harsh punishment for the three because, according to Deputy Solicitor-General Jeffrey Chan, “calling the judicial system a kangaroo court is the worst insult one can hurl against it.”
Mr Tan had argued that since the presiding judge had conceded that the judiciary is not beyond criticism, the court should then accept the message conveyed by the T-shirt as fair criticism. The SDP leader explained that the purpose of his action was to point out weaknesses in our judiciary system and had hoped that improvement to the quality of justice would be made.
The arguments, however, did not sit well with Judge Judith Prakash, who found the three men guilty as charged.
In another incident, Mr Gopalan Nair called on SDP’s leaders and other human rights advocates after he was released from jail on 20 Nov 08, following his two-month imprisonment for insulting High Court Judge Belinda Ang. Mr Nair bade farewell and the SDP wished him well and a safe journey home to the US. He left Singapore yesterday.
Read also Yawning Bread’s Conversation stoppers.
Three Singaporeans jailed for wearing Kangaroo T-shirts
The Singapore High Court Thursday sentenced three Singaporeans to seven to 15 days’ jail for wearing T-shirts bearing a picture of a kangaroo in judge’s robes in the vicinity of the New Supreme Court Building last May.
Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi Sariman and Isrizal Mohamed Isa were jailed for seven days each and Tan Liang Joo John, 15 days, by Justice Judith Prakash.
She also ordered each of them to pay the Attorney-General’s Chambers S$5,000 in costs and disbursements.
The case against the trio for contempt of court was heard on Monday.
The Attorney-General had applied for contempt proceedings to be instituted against the three after they appeared in the T-shirts in the court which was hearing assessment of damages in respect of a defamation action brought by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) leaders last May.
The AG’s Chambers took offence as it implied that the court was a kangaroo court.
Tan was also heard saying: “This is a kangaroo court” to Lee when the Minister Mentor walked past him outside Court No. 4B at the New Supreme Court Building.
On 27 July this year, an article entitled “Police question activists over kangaroo T-shirts” appeared on the SDP website.
The article reproduced a photograph of the three men wearing the same T-shirts and it was meant to give wider publicity to their allegation that the court was a kangaroo court, the AG had said.
At the Monday hearing, the Attorney-General was represented by Deputy Solicitor-General Jeffrey Chan Wah Teck, principal senior state counsel Jennifer Marie and state counsel Gillian Koh Tan and Lee Jwee Nguan.
Tan and Isrizal appeared in person while Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi was represented by Chia Ti Lik.
After reviewing the evidence from both sides, Justice Prakash found that each of them was in contempt of court in the manner alleged.
In the case of Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi and Isrizal, Justice Prakash found that they were in contempt for wearing the T-shirts in the vicinity of the court and inside the courthouse.
In the case of Tan, the judge found him to be in contempt for distributing the T-shirt in the court building and wearing the offending T-shirt and for being involved in the posting of the photograph on the SDP website.
The three men also refused to apologise to the court or to withdraw their insinuation about the Singapore court when given the opportunity to do so by Justice Prakash.