District Judge Ch’ng Lye Beng found Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin guilty of distributing pamphlets criticising the PAP Government without a permit and fined the three SDP leaders the maximum amount of $1,000 each or one week’s jail in default.
The Judge agreed with the Prosecution that distributing flyers in a group of 5 or more persons criticising the PAP Government’s policies is an offence. He gave the decision in court yesterday morning, adding that most of the evidence submitted was irrelevant.
The group had distributed flyers at the Raffles City Shopping Centre on 10 Sep 06 questioning the ministers’ salaries as well as the denial of political rights to Singaporeans (see here).
Judge Ch’ng did not give reasons for his verdict. The Defendants will appeal the conviction whereupon the Judge will then have to give his grounds of decision. The sentence will be held in abeyance pending the appeal.
The SDP leaders argued that to make illegal criticism of the Government is itself unlawful under the Constitution and a breach of the principles of the rule of law.
In particular they emphasized that the Miscellaneous Offences Act under which they have ben charged has been abused by the police to target and criminalise legitimate political activity conducted by the opposition.
After the sentence was passed Ms Chee rose to tell the Judge:
“I continue to say that what we did was not a crime. Criticising one’s government is a right guaranteed in a democratic society. By finding us guilty you are as good as saying that we do not have this right. By pronouncing us guilty you are also saying that Singapore is not a democratic society and that this government is an undemocratic one. That is all.”