Govt applies law equally? You must be joking

October 14, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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The Government’s response to the call for civil disobedience has thrown up some real propaganda gems. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng tried: “We cannot apply the law to some and turn a blind eye to others. If we do, then the law becomes the real white elephant.”

More recently the Prime Minister, through his press secretary, reiterated: “The Government must act when the law is broken, whether by opposition politicians or government supporters.”

Nothing mocks the truth more boldly than these assertions. Consider the following examples:

Example 1. The Government had given its blessings to a few hundred NTUC demonstrators to protest against the US Embassy over the Francis Seow matter (the PAP had accused the US of supporting Seow’s bid to enter opposition politics). The traffic police were even on hand to ensure that the demonstrators were not inconvenienced by ensuring that the protest proceeded without undue interruption. But when six protesters decided to do the same over the Iraq war in 2003, they were arrested even before they could begin. More recently, the PAP Government sent the riot police to order four protesters demonstrating outside the CPF Building in August this year to disperse.

Example 2. Earlier this year, PAP women MPs held a walkathon to commemorate International Women’s Day. But when the Open Singapore Centre applied to have a marathon to mark International Human Rights Day in 2000, the police turned it down. Every application for a march or protest that has come from parties unrelated to the PAP has been denied, including several from the Singapore Democrats, Think Centre, J. B. Jeyaretnam and others.

Example 3. In 1997, PAP ministers were caught red-handed entering polling stations when they were not supposed to. When the opposition lodged police complaints, the Attorney-General said that the ministers were in the polling station as opposed to loitering outside them and therefore not in breach of any law.

Internet activist Robert Ho then reasoned, and not incorrectly, that if what the PAP ministers did was not illegal, then Singaporeans should also enter polling stations in the same manner. Mr Ho was quickly charged with attempting to incite public disorder and hauled off to the Institute of Mental Health.

Example 4. Perhaps the best demonstration of the PAP’s selective application of laws is the case of Martyn See. While it deems the film Singapore Rebel illegal, the Government allowed MediaCorp to screen documentaries about PAP leaders, including Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong in documentaries like Success Story and Up Close.

Example 5. In 1997, PAP ministers obtained a copy of the police report that Mr Tang Liang Hong had made about them. Mr Lee Kuan Yew then distributed the report and claimed that Mr Tang had defamed him and 10 other of his colleagues. The whole gang then sued Mr Tang for defamation. In the first instance, the ministers had no right to get their subordinates, in this case the police, to hand over the complaint and then use it to sue Mr Tang in their personal capacities. This is clearly an abuse of power and the law.

Example 6. Mr Boon Suan Ban remains incarcerated “at the President’s pleasure” because he has been accused of defaming Chief Justice Yong Pung How. He has not been given a trial and the right to defend himself.

Example 7. In August 1996 the SDP had hung some bunting with salutary messages and celebrating the National Day at the Bukit Gombak constituency which was then under the SDP. The Government quickly sent PWD workers to pull down and confiscate the flags. It the meantime in a neighbouring constituency, PAP flags, without any reference to National Day, fluttered freely in the wind.

Example 8. Likewise, while permits are denied for opposition parties to hold public speeches, PAP members and supporters freely conduct public talks. In 1995, Ling How Doong, the former member of parliament (MP) for Bukit Gombak was not allowed to give a speech during a National Day dinner in his own constituency. A few days later, a PAP minister and another official of the Residents’ Committee came to the constituency and gave public speeches during National Day dinner celebrations.

The PAP Government tries to portray itself as the champion of the rule of law and that it treats everyone equally under the law. But in truth it abuses the law to entrench its own power and interests at the expense of the opposition and the people.