Led during examination-in-chief by the DPP, prosecution witness DSP Mohd Hassan said that he was deployed to the vicinity of Suntec City, the venue where the WB-IMF was held in September 2006, to maintain law and order.
Mr Hassan was testifying at the trial of Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Ms Chee Siok Chin who are charged with participating in an assembly without a permit on 10 Sep 06.
The DSP said that he had taken a coffee break at Starbucks at about noon when he spotted Dr Chee Soon Juan and a male Indian who was wearing a “dark-red shirt with floral prints” (Mr Jeffrey George) at the entrance of the City Hall MRT Station outside Raffles City Shopping Centre.
“Initially, I did not relay information to anybody when I first saw Dr Chee and Mr George,” the officer told the Judge. “But after I saw five of them (Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr Tan Teck Wee joining the two), I relayed the information to the Command Post.”
During cross-examination by Ms Chee, however, the DSP said that he had called the Command Post immediately after he saw Dr Chee and Mr George.
“But you said earlier that you had called the Command Post only after you saw the three of us joining Dr Chee and Mr George,” Ms Chee pointed out.
“I cannot recall saying that,” the officer replied.
Ms Chee asked the Judge to read his recording back to the witness. Trial judge Chng Lai Beng confirmed that the witness had indeed earlier said that he did not call the Command Post when he first spotted Dr Chee and Mr George.
“Now which is it Mr Hassan, did you call the Command Post when you first saw Dr Chee and Mr Jeffrey George or did you call only after you saw the other three of us joining them?”
“I might have relayed the information to the Command Post after I saw Dr Chee and Mr George,” DSP Hassan meekly offered.
“Now we have three versions. First, you say you didn’t, then you say you did, now you say you might have. Which is it?” Ms Chee pressed.
Mr Hassan finally admitted: “I called the Command Post after I saw Dr Chee and Mr George before I saw the other three joining them.”
“It would save a lot of time if the witness would answer the questions forthrightly instead of holding out on the truth,” Ms Chee said. She then went on:
CSC: Was Dr Chee behaving in a disorderly fashion?
CSC: Was Dr Chee stealing anything, threatening anyone, or acting suspiciously in anyway?
CSC: Did both men look like they were going to commit an offense?
MH: No, they were just talking.
CSC: Is there any offense when two persons are just talking to each other?
CSC: Were there other people standing around and talking at the location that day?
CSC: Did you call the Command Post to inform them of other people standing around and talking?
CSC: So what made you call the Command Post when you saw Dr Chee and Mr George standing there and talking?
MH: Because my assessment then was that Dr Chee’s presence at the location could cause public order concerns and my assessment proved to be right.
CSC: Would his presence in other locations cause public order concerns too?
MH: At other locations at other times perhaps not. His presence at the WB-IMF vicinity would be a public order concern.
CSC: Is Dr Chee a terrorist?
MH: No, that would be a criminal concern.
CSC: Why do think that his mere presence would be a public order concern?
MH: My assessment was based on the fact that Dr Chee had previously used…perhaps…big events to conduct activities which attract attention to his cause.
CSC: What are these big events?
MH: I cannot recall now.
CSC: You said that your assessment was based on ‘the fact’ that Dr Chee used big events. If it’s a fact that you’re relying on then you must be able to tell the court what that fact is.
MH: I cannot recall offhand.
Note that the witness could recall what Mr Jeffrey George wore, down to the floral motif — and that is after a lapse of more than two years — but cannot remember one “big” event that Dr Chee had used.
A more important point: DSP Hassan had said during examination-in-chief that he did not inform the Command Post when he first saw Dr Chee and Mr George. He called only after Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Mr Charles Tan and Ms Chee joined them.
He later changed his story and admitted that he did in fact call the Command Post when he first spotted the two men standing and talking. He could even relate in detail why he contacted the Command Post (that Dr Chee was a public order concern because he had used many big events to attract attention to his cause).
Is it possible that an officer can remember his own assessment that he made more than two years ago which led him to call his Command Post and yet omit to tell the judge that he had, in fact, made that call?
We will find out as the hearing continues tomorrow at 9:30 am in Subordinate Court No 19.