In what might very well be the first of its kind, prosecution witness Mohd Hassan told the court that the charge written by the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the WB-IMF protest was “incorrect”.
DSP Hassan was testifying on the third day of the current three-day tranche for which Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin, Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Tan Teck Wee, and Mr Teoh Tian Jing are charged with “attempting to participate in a procession from the Speakers’ Corner to Parliament House” on 16 Sep 06.
In a bizarre day of testimony, the officer said that the protesters and the crowd who had gathered on the morning of 16 Sep at Hong Lim Park was illegal as the place was not Speakers’ Corner.
This, Mr Hassan indicated, was why he had ordered his assistant to use the loudhailer to order those present to disperse as the gathering constituted an unlawful assembly. This was also why officers were advising members of the public who had turned up not to join in the illegal event.
But it was pointed out to the witness that the group had registered at the police station before proceeding to speak and that no permit was required for the Speakers’ Corner.
Dr Chee Soon Juan even produced a map of Hong Lim Park showing the demarcation of the Speakers’ Corner.
DSP Hassan was mot moved. The area was still not the Speakers’ Corner, he insisted.
“But the charge says we were at Speakers’ Corner and had attempted to stage a procession from Speakers’ Corner,” Dr Chee pointed out. “Yet you say that we were not at Speaker’s Corner.”
“Yes, I did not draft the charge, Your Honour,” Mr Hassan told the judge.
“So are you saying you are right and the charge is wrong?” asked Dr Chee.
“No, I never made the allegation that Dr Chee intended to march specifically from Speakers’ Corner.”
“So you disagree wtih this charge?” Dr Chee pressed as the witness was obviously prevaricating.
Mr Hassan hesitated: “It’s not up to me to agree or disagree.”
“You say one thing and the charge says another. Do you disagree with the charge?” Dr Chee asked the third time.
“I’m not sure,” the witness started to waver, “because I was not involved in its drafting.”
“Witness, I’m not asking whether you were involved in drafting the charge,” Dr Chee pushed on, “I’m asking you whether you agree with the charge or not.”
Mr Hassan refused to answer.
“Let me make this simple. You testify that we were not within Speakers’ Corner. I’ve shown you this charge which specifically says that we were at Speakers’ Corner. The two are at odds. I’m asking you right now, whether you drafted it or not, would you say that this charge is incorrect?”
The witness thought for a moment and finally conceded, “Yes.”
‘Dr Chee broke away’ – or maybe not
On another topic DSP Hassan had testified that he stood directly in front of Dr Chee to stop the SDP secretary-general and the group from carrying out the march. In addition, two police cordons were formed around the group to prevent it from proceeding out of Speakers’ Corner.
Based on that the officer allowed the protesters to proceed separately. A few seconds later, however, Mr Hassan changed his mind and ran after Dr Chee to stop him. By then Dr Chee was at the traffic-light junction of North Canal Road and South Bridge Road.
In a shocking twist, however, the DSP told the court that “Dr Chee managed to break away” from him.
Mr Gandhi Ambalam confronted Mr Hassan on this and pointed out that it was the DSP who had allowed Dr Chee to pass through him and the police cordons.
“I didn’t allow him to pass through, he broke through,” the witness insisted.
When Dr Chee took over the cross-examination, Mr Hassan again claimed that it was the SDP leader who had broken away and not he who had allowed Dr Chee to pass through.
“I’m giving you every opportunity to be as clear as you can be,” Dr Chee warned. “I’ve no pleasure in confronting you at a later stage with evidence. I’m reminding you that you are under oath. Now again, did you at any point allow me to walk away outside the cordon towards the corner of North Canal Road and South Bridge Road? Yes or no?”
“It’s not that I allowed Dr Chee to move, but he did break away,” the witness resisted one last time. Then he conceded, “I initially told Dr Chee to go ahead. If your intention is to walk alone, then you should proceed.”
“I’m glad for your own sake that you now admit that I did not break away. You had allowed me to go by saying ‘go ahead’, correct?” Dr Chee asked.
“Yes,” the DSP finally relented, “that was my reaction initially, Your Honour.”
By then it was close to 6 pm and the hearing was adjourned to the next tranche of dates set for 18-19 Mar 09.
Note: The local media is completely censoring news about this and other hearings involving the SDP and other activists. The reason is because the PAP doesn’t want the public to understand legal arguments about civil liberties, and the many gaffes and lies of the police as they try to fix peaceful protesters.