High Court Judge Choo Han Teck has reserved judgment on the appeal by the Attorney-General against the acquital of the SDP leaders when they walked from Speakers’ Corner to the Queenstown Remand Prison in September 2007.
District Judge John Ng had acquitted the four defendants (Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Mr John Tan, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr Chong Kai Xiong) because he held the opinion that given the way the activity was organised, the was no procession.
The other defendant is Mr Yap Keng Ho who was not part of the group.
The defendants conducted the event to mark the first anniversary of the WB-IMF protest which took place on 16 Sep 06.
The AG’s Chambers appealed against Judge Ng’s decision which was heard yesterday morning.
The Court had appointed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the person of assistant professor Cheah Wui Leng of the NUS Law faculty to provide an opinion.
The don agreed with Judge Ng that the Miscellaneous Offences Act under which the defendants have been charged does not provide a clear definition of what constitutes a procession.
She raised certain constitutional issues, pointing out that:
This case raises a number of constitutional issues. The right to hold and participate in processions stems from the right to assemble ‘peaceably and without arms’ in Singapore’s constitution. Constitutional rights should be given a ‘generous interpretation’ (Ong Ah Chuan [1980-1981] SLR 48). This does not mean that constitutional rights are absolute in nature. However, it does mean that the court should adopt a protective approach towards rights. Restrictions of right should not be easily assumed.
Read Ms Cheah’s submissions in full here.
Despite this, Judge Choo opted for more time to render his verdict, the date for which is yet to be fixed.
Appeal for Yong Vui Kong
In another court development, the Court of Appeal (comprising of Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, High Court Judges Andrew Phang and V K Raja) also reserved judgment after it heard arguments on convicted drug trafficker Mr Yong Vui Kong, who has been sentenced to death penalty.
He has been through 2 stays of execution. Escorted into the courtroom by four uniformed guards, the 21 year-old Malaysian hardly moved in his seat throughout the hearing, with his shoulders hunched and head bent as he followed the proceedings intently via the court translator.
Mr Yong’s counsel, Mr M Ravi, advanced arguments based Article 9(1) of the Singapore Constitution, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance of the law.
Mr Ravi contended that the mandatory death penalty violated international law.
Attorney-General Walter Woon argued for the Prosecution. At one point Mr Woon cited political arguments like Singapore being an Asian country and therefore needing strict laws.
Read Mr Woon’s submissions in full here.