Government continues to rain down charges against human rights defenders

August 21, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Attorney-General Walter Woon continued his assault on human rights as he preferred charges against the activists who took part in the Hong Lim Park protest almost two years ago on 16 Sep 06.

Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr Teoh Tian Jing, Mr Charles Tan, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Jeffrey George were charged in the Subordinate Courts for taking part in an illegal procession during the WB-IMF meeting in Singapore.

The police were on hand in great numbers to stop the protesters which resulted in a 72-hour stand off. The events of the protest are captured in Speakers’ Cornered, a video produced by Mr Martyn See.

In addition, Mr Ambalam, Ms Chee, Mr George, Dr Chee and another helper Ms Kirat Kaur were charged with assembly without a permit when they were distributing flyers outside the City Hall MRT station on 10 Sep 06. Ms kaur pleaded guilty.

A third charge was preferred on Mr Ambalam, Mr George, Mr Tan and Mr Teoh for unlawful assembly outside Parliament House. The law stipulates that no more than one person was allowed to assemble outside high security areas such as the Istana, Supreme Court and Parliament House. (Question: How do you have an assembly of one?)

The law was hastily introduced after Dr Chee Soon Juan was arrested with Mr Gandhi Ambalam for attempting to hold a PAP rally (People Against Poverty) outside the Istana on May Day In 2002.

When asked this morning by the judge how he pleaded to the charge, Mr Ambalam said to a hushed courtroom filled with persons arraigned for various offences:

“I am the Chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party. My colleagues and I are citizens of this country and not slaves without any rights to be dragged before you. The charges that we face are in complete violation of our basic rights to freedoms of speech, assembly and expression that are enshrined in our Constitution.

“The so-called offences were supposed to have been committed some two years ago. It’s strange that in our uniquely Singapore it has taken the authorities such a long time to bring us before you. This is absurd! If we are considered to have committed the offences then the very existence of our country’s Constitution and the national pledge make no sense.”

Dr Chee echoed Mr Ambalam’s sentiments: “How can I plead guilty to something that our Constitution tells me is my right?”

Several other activists have been charged, or are under investigations, for various offences. This website will publish a list of these charges. Clearly a campaign is being waged to intimidate and wear down human rights defenders in Singapore.

Did someone say that Mr Lee Hsien Loong was liberalising politics in Singapore in his recent National Day Rally speech? Even distributing flyers are now not allowed!