Judiciary crushes free speech yet again

February 22, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

 Unsurprisng perhaps but the Judiciary has again crushed Singaporeans’ right to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly. High Court Judge Woo Bih Li this morning dismissed all the appeals of SDP activists who were convicted of three charges all involving public assemblies and processions.

After the Judge gave his verdict, Dr Chee Soon Juan said: “It is most unfortunate that basic freedoms are completely crushed in Singapore.” He said that the appellants would pursue the matter all the way to the Court of Appeals.

In ordinary circumstances, appellants are allowed one level of appeal. However, there is provision for cases of public interest to be heard by the Court of Appeals even though the case is first heard by the Subordinate Courts and the appeal heard in the Court.

The appellants had asked the Judge to look into the abuse of powers by the PAP in outlawing public assemblies and processions when the Constitution clearly guarantees Singaporeans those freedoms.

Secondly, the appeal also argued that the Government allows organisations affiliated to it to conduct assemblies whereas it bans other groups from doing the same. This one-rule-for-PAP-and-another-for-others is clearly not what rule of law is about.

The Singapore Democrats continue to fight for basic freedoms of speech and assembly because without them elections continue to be a sham and used as a facade to legitimise autocratic rule.

Despotic governments in the Middle East have long held elections designed to keep the despots in power. Whether it was Saddam Husien in Iraq or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, elections were a regular affair and every election was a foregone conclusion. For a time such shenanigans worked but in the long run they covered up much discontent in society. Over time, however, the people’s discontent and frustrations build up and eventually boil over.

In Singapore, PM Lee Hsien Loong has admitted that he will buy his support and fix the opposition. Like in other authoritarian systems, this may help prop up the PAP for a time.    

The Singapore Democrats have repeatedly appealed to the good sense of Singapore’s rulers to let the political society in Singapore evolve peacefully and avoid upheavals like those we see in other jurisdictions. But like all autocratic regimes, appeal to logic falls on deaf ears.

Nonetheless, the SDP will contunue to campaign on behalf of the people on all fronts including in court.

Obviously, we will also contest in the elections to make sure that the people’s voices are heard especially on the Internet where information flow is harder to control, and use the opportunity to educate the people on the importance of their political freedoms.

The present appeal involves Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Chee Soon Juan, Seelan Palay, John Tan, Chong Kai Xiong, Jaslyn Go, Mohd Shaff’ie and Jufrie Mahmood. The first five defendants have already served their sentences. The Judge gave Chong, Go, Shaff’ie and Jufrie two weeks to pay their fines.