Distributing flyers trial: Police making up law

April 27, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

In yesterday’s post, this website reported how police witnesses were unclear of the offence that was committed when they stopped SDP activists from distributing flyers outside Raffles City Shopping Centre on 10 Sep 06.

The flyers announced the Empower Singaporeans March and Rally that was to be held the following week on 16 Sep 06 during the WB-IMF meeting.

As shocking as the revelation was yesterday, it is nothing compared to what Station Inspector Yeo Kok Leong told the court when he took the stand last week. SI Yeo is the officer-in-charge of the police’s Compliance Management Unit (CMU).

The CMU processes applications for licences including those for rallies, assemblies and processions. It is entrusted with considerable powers to approve or reject applications.

SI Yeo testified that under the subsidiary legislation of the Miscellaneous Offences Rules a group of 5 or more persons intending to demonstrate support or opposition to the views of the Government would require a permit:

2. —(1) Subject to paragraph (2), these Rules shall apply to any assembly or procession of 5 or more persons in any public road, public place or place of public resort intended —

(a) to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person;
(b) to publicise a cause or campaign; or
(c) to mark or commemorate any event.

This was where things got interesting. Deputy Public Prosecutor Mr Anandan Bala posed a scenario where a group wanted to distribute flyers advertising a tuition centre and asked whether such a group needed to apply for a permit.

“No,” answered SI Yeo, “because it is a commercial cause.”

“So what’s the difference between promoting a tuition centre and a march and rally?” Mr Bala further enquired.

“The march and rally,” the officer explained, “falls under Section 2(1)(a) as the flyers state the opposition to Government policy.”

He went on: “For a tuition centre, distributing pamphlets is a commercial event that promotes the centre or invites students for tuition.”

Dr Chee followed up on the subject during cross-examination: “Witness, you said earlier that a group advertising for tuition need not submit an application because it was for a commercial cause, is that correct?”

SI Yeo: “Yes.”

“Where does it say in Rule 2 that any group wishing to distribute pamphlets for a commercial cause is exempt from applying for a permit?”

“The rule does not say,” the officer conceded.

“Then why do you say that such groups need not apply for permits just because they are promoting a commercial event?”

“Based on the scenario, I accept that it is a commercial event and that is why I said the event did not require a permit,” Mr Yeo evaded.

Dr Chee tried again from another angle: “When you make your decision it has to be based on certain rules, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Again, looking at the subsections under Rule 2, where does it say that groups distributing flyers for commercial events need not apply for permits?”

“The police will assess the applications,” SI Yeo continued with his prevarication.

Dr Chee asked the question a third time, speaking deliberately, hoping for an honest answer: “Where does it say in this Rule that commercial events need not apply for a permit?”

“I’ve already mentioned the police will assess when the application is received. When an organiser fails to apply and when the police discover when a police permit is required, action will be taken against the organiser. If the event does not require a permit, the police will advise the organisers for future events …”

The witness, knowing that he was caught out, could only offer gibberish. He was saved by the DPP who stood up to object to the relevance of Dr Chee’s question.

The SDP leader explained the obvious: If SI Yeo makes decisions based on laws that are non-existent, doesn’t this go to the problem of arbitrary administration of the law and abuse of power by the police? Is such unlawful discrimination constitutional? If it is not, then the Judge has the power to dismiss the charges.

But District Judge Chng Lai Beng ruled with the DPP and disallowed Dr Chee’s question.

Such is the sad state of affairs within our police force. As the licensing officer, it is clear that SI Yeo is making up the law and then applying it as he personally sees fit with scant regard for the Miscellaneous Offences Rules.

Article 12 of the Constitution, which stipulates that citizens must be treated equally under the law, was written specifically to prevent such discrimination. The unconstitutional acts by the police is a blatant abuse of power and casts a very long shadow over the rule of law in Singapore.

The next instalment will show how unreliable the testimony of the officers are as they contradict each other.