Going to jail is least of Chee Siok Chin’s concerns

Singapore Democrats

Ms Chee Siok Chin walked out from Changi Prison today after serving a one-week jail term for distributing flyers that were critical of the PAP.

Together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Dr Chee Soon Juan, Ms Chee was convicted for distributing flyers in a group of 5 or more persons without a permit outside the Raffles City Shopping Centre in September 2006 which was considered an illegal assembly.

District Judge Chng Lye Beng convicted the three in December last year. All three have appealed the conviction.

Ms Chee, however, chose to go to jail first. (In fact, she may be the first female inmate to enter the facility in 2010, her prison number is 00001-2010.) Judge Chng reminded her that if she served the prison term first the appeal would be academic because the authorities could not compensate her for her lost time if she won the appeal.

The Judge is wrong. Ms Chee is fighting not to avoid going to jail but to demonstrate how wrong the system is.

If opposition politicians cannot come together in groups of 5 or more to “demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government” then what good is the opposition.

It is common knowledge that Singapore is not a democracy, but the decision of this judge has taken the matter to a whole new level.

This is because the Prosecution took pains to emphasize on the phrase “intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government” in its charge (see below). It is unfortunate that Mr Chng has seen it fit to agree with the Executive on this point.

The Defendants contested vigorously that the charge itself of penalising citizens for criticising the actions and policies of the PAP Government is unconstitutional. How can it be an offence to criticise what the Government does? Isn’t the basis of a democracy one where an opposition exists to oppose the actions of the Government? Isn’t it only in a totalitarian state that forbids criticism of the powers-that-be?

More ominously, is the PAP becoming even more oppressive, if that’s possible?

This matter will be brought before the High Court when the appeal is heard in a few months time. It’s decision will be closely watched not just in Singapore but around the world.

Probably more around the world because most Singaporeans don’t know about this episode and the arguments surrounding it. Why? Because the local media has decided to completely blackout this news. It is clear that the PAP is bent on “winning” the argument by banning and keeping information from the public rather than having an open debate and allowing citizens to decide for themselves.

How is Singapore a First World country when its laws are so backward and the media is controlled? More importantly, can Singapore cope in the future when laws oppress Singaporeans to such a frightening degree?

Now can you see why going to jail is the least of Ms Chee’s concerns?


The charge

You are charged that you, on the 10th day of September 2006 at about 12:15 pm, in the vicinity of Raffles City Shopping Centre, North Bridge Road, Singapore, which is a public place, together with 5 persons did participate in an assembly intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government, which assembly you ought reasonably to have known was held without a permit under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Processions) Rules, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Rule 5 of the said Rules.

Mark Chua
Senior Investigation Officer
Central Police Division
29 December 2008

Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance)(Assemblies & Processions) Rules: Any person who participates in any assembly or processions in any public road, public place or place of public resort shall, if he knows or ought reasonably to have known that the assembly or processions is held without a permit, or in contravention of any term or condition of a permit, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.

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