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In the latest sign of the PAP’s unease over the push for political rights in Singapore, the Government has now resorted to using the police to harass the SDP over the “cause of promoting democracy.”
Dr Chee Soon Juan went to the Toa Payoh Central police station yesterday to answer questions about an offence of “participation in an Assembly without Permit under Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.”
He is one of several Singapore Democrats being called up for police investigations involving the sale of books at Orchard Road on 31 Mar 07.
“I would like to know what specifically you are investigating,” Dr Chee asked the Investigating Officer, Inspector Daniel Ong.
“I am investigating an alleged offence of assembly without a permit on 31 March 2007…” the Inspector replied.
“I know that,” the SDP leader interjected. “What I’d like to know is exactly what action of ours prompted this investigation. If it was nothing more than five or more people coming together, then the whole of Singapore would be under investigation.”
Under the law, any five or more persons gathered in a public place with a common objective is illegal.
“I can’t get into the evidence,” Inspector Ong said.
“I’m not asking for the evidence, I’m asking for you to tell me specifically what caused this investigation,” Dr Chee continued. “Was it because we were shaking hands, or was it our talking with members of the public, or distributing flyers?”
“It was an assembly to promote the cause of democracy,” came the shocking reply.
This was the second time the police have said that this was the cause of the investigation. The first was when they questioned SDP chairman Gandhi Ambalam (see here).
When Dr Chee pressed further, the Inspector revealed that the investigation was over the:
1. article Let’s not get mad, let’s get busy posted on this website,
2. call to the public to support democracy,
3. and handing out of flyers and balloons.
Dr Chee then asked the Inspector if he was aware that the SDP was not the only one committing this “offence”?
“It has not come to my attention,” said the Inspector.
“Then I will provide you the information,” Dr Chee said, handing the officer photographs of other political parties conducting similar activities in public in groups of five and more persons.
If there is a law stipulating that promoting the cause of democracy is an offence, then Parliament should first pass it.
“The person” and his salary
In another incident, Mr Francis Yong, was called up again by the police over the matter of his bringing in a banner of Mr Lee Hsien Loong and his salary (see here) in Sep 06.
At the session, the SDP vice-chairman was warned for bringing in “banned material.” The officer told him that “bringing in or displaying the photo of the person with his salary is against the law.”
So who is this mysterious person and his salary that is coming under so much protection?
And since when did the police have the power to decide what constitutes “banned material”? Unless the authorities agree that the salary of “the person”, like pornography, is vulgar and obscene, the SDP sees no reason why it would be illegal to display banners of the PM and the public money he lavishes on himself.
These actions by the police are highly questionable in terms of their legality. What is clear is that they continue to reveal the fear and insecurity of the PAP over the campaign for democracy in this country.
As with all authoritarian regimes, what it cannot defend with reason and from public scrutiny, it bans by resorting to police action.