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The trial for the 18 activists charged for protesting outside Parliament House in March this year will begin this Thursday in the Subordinate Courts in Court No. 5. It is scheduled to last till 7 Nov 08.
The hearing is the first in the history of Singapore where a group of activists defied the law prohibiting the gathering of 5 or more persons in public. The protest was part of the Tak Boleh Tahan! campaign to highlight poverty in Singapore and the Government’s greed in continuing to raise fees and prices even as wages of the people shrink.
The protesters had gathered outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08 which is also World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD). They were confronted by the police outside the Funan Centre on South Bridge Road whereupon 12 persons were arrested. They and six other were subsequently charged on two counts:
i. under Section 5(4)(b) Chapter 184 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public and Nuisance Act) for participating in an assembly outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08,
ii. under Section 5(4)(b) Chapter 184 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public and Nuisance Act) for participating in a procession outside Funan Centre on 15 Mar 08.
The activists are not only challenging the constitutionality of the law but also the selective enforcement of it. The Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) also conducted protests on the same occasion in 2007 and 2008 outside Parliament House. CASE is headed by PAP MPs Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Aljunied GRC) and Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang).
CASE is a member of the Consumers International which celebrates WCRD every year. This year the CASE held a march, which involved thousands of people, to protest against the marketing of junk food.
But while the police cracks down on TBT protesters, it turns a blind eye to CASE’s protest.
Below are the 18 who will stand trial this Thursday:
1. Gandhi Ambalam
2. Chia Ti Lik
3. Chong Kai Xiong
4. Jeffrey George
5. Jaslyn Go
7. Govindan Rajan
8. Chee Soon Juan
9. Jufrie Mahmood
10. Jufri Salim
11. Surayah Akbar
12. Ng E-Jay
13. Seelan Palay
15. Carl Lang
16. John Tan
17. Francis Yong
18. Sylvester Lim
“In every era, there are always those who will struggle for freedom.
These people play a difficult role, their paths are paved with pain and loneliness. Their own generation will not accept them. In fact, they will be rejected, bullied, humiliated, imprisoned and even killed.
These freedom fighters plod along a narrow path. But in the end, those who follow will widen the path into a broad avenue.
Freedom fighters may suffer physically, financially and even psychologically, but their courage and commitment will enhance human civilization and last forever. Freedom fighters don’t belong to today, but they will live on tomorrow.”
— Shih Ming-teh, former Taiwanese political prisoner who was imprisoned without trial for 25 years and eventually led Taiwan to democracy