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The Tak Boleh Tahan! campaigners visited the Law Society office today to call on the organisation to arrange for legal representation for them.
Nineteen persons have been charged for participating in a procession and assembly without a permit. All have claimed trial. The cases are fixed for pre-trial conferences on 18 Jul 08.
In a letter jointly signed by the 18 activists presented by lawyer Mr Chia Ti Lik (Mr Yap Keng Ho is not one of the signatories as he is not part of the campaign and the TBT event), the group said that the Law Society “must assist citizens who are prosecuted by the State for exercising their fundamental liberties and cannot just stand idly by and be content to do nothing.” (See below)
Law Society’s Communications officer, Mr Shawn Toh, received the letter and promised to hand it over to the president, Mr Michael Hwang SC.
In the letter, Mr Chia asserted that “A government must be subservient to the People. This government cannot act unchallenged when it tries to restrict the fundamental liberties of Singaporeans.
“The Laws of a country should be enacted to further the interests of the People and cannot be used to throttle civil and political expression.
“Citizens have rights only slaves have no rights. Singapore Citizens are entitled by citizenship to fundamental liberties guaranteed by our constitution.”
Dr Chee Soon Juan then asked Mr Toh to arrange for a meeting with Mr Hwang and other leaders of the Law Society. Mr Toh promised to convey the request.
Dr Chee pointed out that the Law Society had recently set up the Public and International Law Committee to highlight the issue of human rights in Singapore. It would be, therefore, opportune for the Law Society to weigh in on the case.
He said that the matter was not just a straightforward case of whether a law had been broken, but also whether the state had applied the law in a discriminatory fashion. While it banned the Tak Boleh Tahan! protest, it allowed a similar event to be staged by CASE (Consumers’ Association of Singapore).
Mr Hwang had promised to study the issue of human rights in the context of legal principles. He noted that the study “will cover rights granted under the Singapore law, as well as rights that are granted by international law, to the extent that it is received in Singapore.” (see here)
In the Society’s official publication, Law Gazette, Mr Hwang noted that when it came to Public Law, his organisation needed to “be able to identify lawyers ready to take on such cases and to prepare themselves adequately by proper research to do a good job for their clients where there may not be many precedents to follow.” (see here)
One of the key statutory purposes of the Law Society is “protecting and assisting the public in Singapore in all matters relating to the law.”
Letter to the Law Society (Taken from Chia Ti Lik’s blog)
c/o 24 Peck Seah Street
#05-09/11 Nehsons Building
16th July 2008
Mr. Michael Hwang
President, Law Society of Singapore
APPEAL FOR PRO BONO LEGAL REPRESENTATION
We are the 18 Singaporeans charged for allegedly participating in an assembly and procession without permit near Parliament House on 15th March 2008.
We had as citizens claimed our right to peaceful assembly and presented ourselves before Parliament House to speak out against the multitude of ill-timed price hikes initiated by the Government, which have exacerbated the inflationary situation and cost of living for Singaporeans.
On 11th July 2008, we were all charged each with one count of assembly without a permit and one count of procession without a permit.
In light of the price hikes further initiated from the 15th March 2008 till today, it is clear that this Government remains unwilling to take active steps to make life less unbearable for all Singaporeans.
In the light of the decision to charge us for speaking up as citizens, it is clear that this Government will not hesitate to silence citizens by discouraging citizens from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Any stifling of civil and political expression by citizens is unhealthy for Singapore and it breeds contempt of the citizenry by the Executive which in turn leads to brazen disregard of citizens’ welfare in the policies practiced.
A government must be subservient to the People. This government cannot act unchallenged when it tries to restrict the fundamental liberties of Singaporeans.
The Laws of a country should be enacted to further the interests of the People and cannot be used to throttle civil and political expression.
Citizens have rights only slaves have no rights. Singapore Citizens are entitled by citizenship to fundamental liberties guaranteed by our constitution.
In view of the above, the Law Society of Singapore, being the body that represents our defenders of justice must assist citizens who are prosecuted by the State for exercising their fundamental liberties and cannot just stand idly by and be content to do nothing.
We hereby urge the Law Society of Singapore to step forth to arrange for legal representation for the 18 of us.
Chia Ti Lik
For and on behalf of:Chee Soon Juan
Chee Siok Chin
John Tan Liang Joo
Ghandhi s/o Karrupiah Ambalam
Seelan s/o Palay
Muhammad Jufri Bin Mohd Salim
Lim Teck Hee Sylvester
Chong Kai Xiong
Surayah Binte Akbar
Lang Chin Kah Carl Coca
Francis Yong Chu Leong
Chia Ti Lik
Go Hui Leng
Mohamed Jufrie Bin Mahmood
Govinda Rajan s/o Surian
Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi Bin Sariman