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Two days after the Singapore Democrats commemorated our 30th anniversary dinner, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Ms Chee Siok Chin are being imprisoned again.
They are serving a one-week imprisonment after they were found guilty by District Judge Toh Yung Cheong for attempting to participate in a procession during the WB-IMF meeting in September 2006. The three SDP leaders recently served a one-week jail term for distributing flyers that were critical of the PAP Government.
The Defendants pointed out in their closing submissions that it was illgeal discrimination by the police to prosecute them for illegal procession when the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) had conducted a similar activity involving hundreds of people.
During the trial, the Licensing Officer testified that the police will not issue permits for all outdoor political activities. He added that this was because potential law and order problems might arise from outsiders even if the organisers did not intend to cause trouble.
Going by that logic, then why did he allow CASE to hold its activity because CASE organisers would also not be able to foresee any potential law and order problems that may arise.
In fact, the defence pointed out that the PAP MPs were the source of law and order problems, an example being Mr Seng Han Thong who was attacked on two separate occasions by members of the public. Yet, the PAP continues to organise public assemblies with impunity whereas the SDP is prosecuted.
In fact, the Investigating Officer on the present trial told the court that he was also present at CASE’s event in March 2008 but he did nothing to stop them. In fact he was there not to prevent any breach of the peace that might break out but to see if any of the SDP members showed up.
Judge Toh, having heard all these arguments, didn’t care and found the three Defendants guilty. All three have appealed the conviction.
Mr Teoh, a member of the SDP’s Young Democrats and a co-defendant in the case, was also found guilty. His sentence is held in abeyance pending appeal.
After Judge Toh gave the verdict, Mr Teoh stood up and told the court: “I strongly disagree with the outcome of the court’s ruling and I continue to maintain that what I did on the morning of September 16, 2006 was nothing illegal and nothing wrong.” (Tian Jing wrote about his experience in a moving piece here.)
The Young Democrat said that the matter could be “summed up in two words: selective prosecution.”
He pointed out to the Judge the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) protest.
“This is wholly ridiculous by any comparison, let alone in a (self proclaimed) democratic society,” Mr Teoh said. “The charge is politically motivated and would have been thrown out of court in any democratic society”.
Judge Toh is the same Judge who had issued a warrant of arrest for Dr Chee not appearing in court even when told that Dr Chee had to attend his father-in-law’s funeral in Taiwan. He subsequently rescinded his decision and canceled the warrant.
As mentioned earlier, another District Judge (Ch’ng Lye Beng) had similarly convicted the SDP leaders in December 2009 for distributing flyers and demonstrating “opposition to the actions of the Government” and also sentenced them to a $1,000 fine or one-week jail in default.
The appeal for Judge Chng’s case is pending. In the meantime the three who were convicted Mr Ambalam, Dr Chee and Ms Chee have already served their one-week jail sentences.
Read also Again by Chee Siok Chin on her blog.