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The Tak Boleh Tahan activists who stood outside Parliament House on 15 Mar 08 to protest against escalating food prices were found guilty of taking part in an assembly and procession without a permit.
The defendants, however, remained defiant – “unremorseful” in the DPP’s words – even as the verdict was read. Remorseful? Why should anyone be remorseful when they have done what is right? “One day, it will be shown that we are right and the court is wrong,” Dr Chee Soon Juan said to the Judge.
District Judge Chia Wee Kiat announced the verdict this morning and convicted the defendantss of two charges each.
Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin, and Dr Chee were fined the maximum amount of $2,000 ($1,000 for each charged) and sentenced to 2 weeks’ jail in default.
Mr Chong Kai Xiong, Ms Go Hui Leng, Mr Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi, Mr Carl Lang Chin Kah, Mr Mohamed Jufrie, Mr Seelan Palay, and Mr John Tan Liang Joo were each fined a total of $1,800 for the two charges and 12 days’ imprisonment in default convicted of two charges for assembly and procession. Some of the other defendants had to plead guilty during various stages of the trial due to work commitments.
During the entire trial the defendants were prevented from asking questions of the police about their allowing the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) who had also conducted its protest outside Parliament on two occasions: 18 Mar 07 and 16 Mar 08. CASE is, of course, headed by PAP MPs.
The defence indicated vehemently that the discrimination of the police to target the TBT protesters while allowing the CASE protest to take place was illegal because Article 12 of the Singapore Constitution states that citizens are to be treated equally under the law.
The Judge refused to allow this line of defence.
The defendants had also sought to question the licensing officer on why the police banned outright outdoor poiltical activities. Such a policy contravenes the Constitution which guarantees the freedom of assembly and speech unless dire national circumstances are at hand.
Again the Judge refused to let the defence pursue this line of questioning.
In their closing submissions, the defendants maintained that the police policy (which was derived from Home Affair’s Minister Wong Kan Seng’s declaration to outlaw public protests) is unconstitutional.
They also argued that the courts, by doing what they are doing, would aid the PAP in abusing its power and help the ruling party entrench is rule through undemocratic means.
The defendants are appealing the decision. The execution of the sentences have been stayed pending appeal.