Distribution flyers trial: Truth battered

August 3, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

A police officer testified that he and his teammates were performing foot-patrol when they spotted SDP leaders distributing flyers at the Raffles City Shopping Centre outside the City Hall MRT Station, and proceeded to stop the act.

But his teammate said that they did no such thing. They were assigned directly to the area to “keep observation” and did not do any foot-patrol. This clash of testimony happened in the trial involving Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Dr Chee Soon Juan

In an earlier tranche of the trial, Station Inspector Kelvin Bong (far right in photo) had testified that he was in-charge of a team of three other officers who were assigned to perform anti-crime rounds that morning in the vicinity of Raffles City. As a result, he led his men on foot-patrol inside the shopping centre from a little after 10 am.

A couple of hours later at around 12:30 pm, he received a call from the police Command Post instructing him to proceed to the entrance of the mall at the City Hall MRT Station because of an illegal assembly.

The team, who was inside the building at that time, then walked to the location and it was there that they saw Dr Chee and the others distributing flyers.

One of SI Bong’s teammates was Sgt Bokhari (red shirt in photo) who has since quit the police force and joined SingTel. When he took the stand the week before, Mr Bokhari said there were no instructions to do any foot-patrol.

Instead, the instructions from the top was to go directly to the area at the entrance of the MRT station to “keep observation”. As a result, the team proceeded to the area and took up positions there. No one, the sergeant said, did any foot-patrols that morning.

Sgt Bokhari also testified that at about noon, SI Bong gave instructions for the men to take a lunch break whereupon Mr Bokhari then found a seat outside Starbucks Coffee. Several minutes later at around 12:40 pm, he saw the SDP leaders appearing at the location.

Why were the testimonies of the two officers so contradictory? Only one can be telling the truth.

In addition, Mr Bokhari said that there were a total of 6-7 police officers under Mr Bong’s charge. Mr Bong, however, repeatedly told the court that there were only three other officers in his team.

In addition Mr Bokhari said that after engaging Dr Chee and the rest, he and his fellow officers met with two other senior officers at the “exterior of the building” for a few minutes. Mr Bong, however, said that the group immediately went back into Raffles City to resume their foot patrol after engaging the group.

Why are these discrepancies important?

The defendants are alleging that there was a concerted effort by the police to target the group. After all, how many Singaporeans are charged with assembly without a permit for merely distributing flyers? In fact, every officer who came on the stand admitted that distributing flyers is a normal and common activity that many groups of Singaporeans carry out.

It seems obvious that the only reason why the police took action against Dr Chee and colleagues is because they were from the SDP and because of the content of the flyer. Indeed, investigating officer DSP William Goh admitted that it was the content of the flyer that led him to proceed with the charge.

He also revealed that there were at least three teams of more than 15 officers that day at the location to stop the group from distributing flyers.

Under the Constitution such discrimination is illegal as all are equal under the law and have to be treated accordingly. The group cannot be singled for prosecution just because they are Singapore Democrats or because of the content of the flyer.

The defence applied for Mr Bong to be recalled to the stand as new (and contradictory) evidence was revealed. District Judge however dismissed the application.

The hearing will continue in October.

Read the whole series of contradictory evidence given by police witnesses here.