Police guilty of political bias, opposition leader tells court

October 3, 2002
Singapore Democrats

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South China Morning Post
October 3, 2002

By Jake Lloyd-Smith.

AN OPPOSITION leader has accused the Singapore police of bias in favour of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) as he defends himself in court on charges of holding a meeting without a licence and trespass.

Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), is fighting the two charges in the Subordinate Court following his arrest on May 1 as he attempted to hold a workers’ rights rally outside the presidential palace.

The showdown has thrown the spotlight on Singapore’s strict laws, which require a permit for all gatherings.

The police had denied Chee the May Day licence, citing “potential law and order problems”. They suggested he hold an indoor gathering instead.

Ignoring the advice, Chee tried to hold the rally but was dragged off the street by several police officers before he had started his speech.

Testifying on the third day of the trial yesterday before District Judge Roy Neighbour, Chee said the police applied the law selectively, allowing PAP meetings but cracking down on those organised by the opposition.

“It is my contention that the police were acting under orders from their political masters,” Chee told the court. “We are the opposition, and therefore the laws are always applied in a biased manner.”

Chee attempted to submit as evidence photos of PAP rallies featured in the pro-government Straits Times newspaper, but District Judge Neighbour ruled that the images were “irrelevant”.

Fellow SDP leader Gandhi Ambalam is facing the same charges as Chee in connection with the abortive May Day meeting. Ambalam also faces a charge of disorderly behaviour.

In his testimony Chee said: “The police do not exercise their duty and discharge their responsibility to uphold the law in an even-handed manner.”

He said he was arrested before the rally had started while he was talking to journalists and played the court a video recording that showed him being hustled into a police van.

There was a strong police presence that morning at the gates of the palace, which was open for viewing by the public on what was a national holiday