Another trial commences

February 2, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Prosecution, or is it persecution, of SDP members and its supporters continues after the Lunar New Year festive lull. This morning the trial of Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr Chong Kai Xiong, Mr John Tan, Mr Charles Tan Teck Wee, and Mr Yap Keng Ho got underway at the Subordinate Courts.

The six are charged with participating in an illegal procession on 16 Sep 07 under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Processions) Rules.

The charge was, however, amended at the last minute just before the Lunar New Year to specify that under Rule 2(c) the defendants had participated “in a procession intended to commemorate the first anniversary of the WB-IMF protest held on 16 Sep 06.”

The original charge, served on the accused persons on 24 Jun 08, did not mention anything about the WB-IMF protest the previous year. It only accused the group with “participating in a procession in a public place” without a permit at the vicinity of Funan Digital Mall at North Bridge Road.

Today, Ms Chee Siok Chin objected to the way the prosecution had been dealing with the defendants, not only in this case but also in previous trials.

Ms Chee, one of the defendants said: “It has become the habit of the AG’s Chambers to wait for a week or less before the trial begins and then serve on us the amended charges. This is not the first time. This has happened in the previous two trials and the AG’s Chambers has now done it again.”

Ms Chee said since she and her co-defendants were neither legal practitioners nor having legal educational background they would need more time to re-prepare on the amended charge.

DPP John Lu argued that the amended charge is “only minor” and it did not alter much the original charge.

“If its only minor, why did the prosecution take more than six months to come up with the amendment?” Mr Ambalam shot back.

Mr Ambalam repeated the defendants’ need for a couple of days to study the amended charge.

District Judge John Ng noted that the amended charge “is different from the original charge on two material aspects” and gave the defendants until Wednesday to prepare their case.

The trial resumes at Subordinate Court 19 on 4 Feb at 9.30am.

Besides this trial, a number of SDP members, their supporters and activists are facing successive trials, mostly involving illegal assemblies and processions. One such trial is the Tak Boleh Tahan protest in front of the Parliament House on 15 Mar 08 organised to highlight the escalating cost of living in Singapore.

CHARGE
(Amended)

You are charged that you, on the 16th day of September 2007 at about 3.40pm, in the vincinity of Funan DigitaLife Mall located at 109 North Bridge Road, Singapore, which is a public place, together with the 5 persons…did participate in a procession intended to commemorate an event, to wit, the “first anniversary of the WB-IMF protest held on 16 September 2006”, which procession you ought reasonably to have known was held without a permit under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies and Processions) Rules, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Rule 5 of the said Rules.

Sukhdev Singh, ASP
Investigating Officer
Central Police Division

23 January 2009

Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offence (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Processions) Rules:-

Any person who participates in any assembly or procession 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 procession is held without a permit, or in contravention of any term or condition of a permit, be guilty of an offence and should be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.