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A MAY Day rally led by Singapore opposition leader Chee Soon Juan outside the Istana state complex threatened “law and order”, a court was told Monday, Sept 30, at the start of the politician’s trial.
Chee, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, was arrested together with party member Ghandi Ambalam on May 1 this year after staging a rally without a license outside the complex, which houses the offices of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and President S.R. Nathan.
He had proceeded with the rally despite the rejection of his application for a license, the court heard.
Deputy Superintendent Lim Chin Tiak, who was in charge of security at the Istana on May Day, told the Subordinate Court that Chee and Ghandi were arrested because the crowd of about 30 people had swelled to 50 in two minutes and this posed a “law and order situation”.
“I cannot allow a law and order situation to mar the enjoyment of old folks and children at the Istana,” Lim said at the start of the scheduled three-day trial.
The Istana is opened to the public on May Day.
Lim said there were 5200 people inside the building and another 100 people in the compound who he said were at risk if there was a stampede.
“I cannot allow a law and order situation to arise,” he told the court.
Chee, who is not a lawyer but who was representing himself, asked the police officer: “So every time you see a crowd, you’d think there’s a problem with law and order?”
Lim replied that in Chee’s case, he had “made clear his intention to the media” that he will carry on with the rally despite not having a permit.”
Another police officer, assistant superintendent Audrey Ang, told the court that Chee had been warned against holding an illegal rally.
Singapore, which was rocked by race riots in the 1960s, has tough laws against public gatherings.
Ghandi told reporters outside the court they had intended to voice the concerns of the “unfortunate and down-trodden people” who were retrenched because of an economic recession.
He said they were speaking on behalf of the workforce who do not belong to the National Trades Union Congress.
Ghandi said it was a “peaceful demonstration”, adding “we are not violent, (we are) not terrorists.”
The prosecution presented two other witnesses on Monday. The trial will continue on Tuesday, when the defence will present their case.
Chee has paid a series of fines and served brief prison terms in his fight against the ruling People’s Action Party.
In August, he was ordered by the High Court to pay damages to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for defamation but Chee has said he will appeal the decision.
Goh and Lee had sued Chee for remarks he made in the run-up to last year’s general elections.