Police harassment at non-violence book launch

July 11, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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A police officer videotaping the proceedings.Police seized a CD and demanded the particulars of two young activists who spoke at Dr Chee Soon Juan’s launching of his latest book The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore through Nonviolence.

Several police officers in plainclothes had attended the event and filmed the proceedings (see photos). At the end of the presentation, they demanded to know whether the organizers had a permit for a video clip that had run. They then seized a CD and said that it would be used for further investigation.

There was one officer in particular who seemed intent on offending as many people as he could. Incredibly at one point, after rudely demanding to see the CD, he wanted to borrow Dr Chee’s laptop computer to view the CD he had seized whereupon Dr Chee replied: “The next thing you’ll want is to borrow some money from me to take a taxi back to the police station.”The rude officer.

Another police officer then filled out a form and wanted Dr Chee to sign it to acknowledge that they were seizing the CD. At this point lawyer Mr M Ravi who was also present took a look at the form and said that it was ridiculous for the police to seize someone’s property and then ask that person acknowledge it. Dr Chee then said to the officers: “If you want to take it, take it. Do whatever you want to do with it but return it when you’re finished with it.”

Another officer recording the audience.Upon hearing this, the rude officer barged in and threatened, “So I take it that you are refusing to sign the acknowledgment?”

“It doesn’t make sense for the police to seize something and then ask its owner to acknowledge that the property was taken as if the item was gladly handed over,” Mr Ravi chipped in. “I’m trying to explain that…”

“No point wasting time, let’s go! We have more important things to do!” the officer yelled to his colleagues.

Earlier, some of the officers had demanded to see the Identity Cards of Mr Charles Tan and Mr Jonathan Siow, both in their twenties. The officers took down the particulars of the two young activists who had spoken before Dr Chee’s presentation and they said that they found non-violent action to be meaningful and an effective tool in helping to empower Singaporeans. Messrs Tan and Siow had attended workshops on non-violence in recent months.

Police officers demanding the particulars of the organisers and speakers. The officer in black was particularly rude to those present. The Singapore Government had earlier refused Nonviolence International trainer, Mr Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, entry when he at the Singapore Airport and deported him. The non-violence expert was invited to conduct a workshop for Singaporeans activists.

On a previous occasion, the police also disrupted a forum on the death penalty by demanding the particulars of the moderator, Ms Salbiah Ahmad, a lawyer from Singapore. On that occasion uniformed officers were summoned in an apparent attempt to cause alarm to those present. The authorities had earlier banned Amnesty International spokesman from speaking at the forum.