When the police become politicians…

August 25, 2008
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

You know the rule of law is trashed when our police start playing the role of politicians, and unscrupulous ones at that.

Readers may remember that in November last year, a group of about 30 Burmese nationals staged a protest along Orchard Road during the ASEAN Summit held at the Shangri-la Hotel.

The silent demonstration took place at the height of global unhappiness over the killing of peaceful protesters and Buddhist monks in Rangoon. The protest could not have been anymore peacefully conducted by a group of conscientious and disciplined Burmese who call themselves the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP).

Nonetheless under the law, which the British colonial overlords introduced and which our PAP overlords continue to exploit, what the Burmese did were illegal.

But the police at that time issued a statement that the Orchard Road protest was absolutely legal: “…in contrast to Chee’s acts of civil disobedience, Singaporeans and Myanmar nationals in Singapore have organised themselves to express their sentiments and concerns for the Myanmar situation in a lawful manner.” (emphasis added)

But, of course. In order to portray Dr Chee Soon Juan as Diablo, the police had to lie and say that the assembly was perfectly legal (even as it was taking down the names of the Burmese protesters).

The Straits Times, was of course on hand to twist the knife in a little deeper with its usual part-report-part-commentary gutter-type journalism. It wrote in the same report that carried the police statement: “Even the [OBP] demonstrators yesterday previously said they did not wish to break the law.”

And just in case anyone missed the contrast, the newspaper headlined the story In Singapore Myanmar activists keep within the law.

Almost a year later, however, and after Singapore handed over the chairmanship of ASEAN to Thailand, the authorities started to make their move. Now the Straits Times, in an about face, ran a report whose headline screamed: Myanmar activists not above the law.

The Ministry for Home Affairs said that the OBP protesters have “chosen to [conduct their activities] in open and persistent defiance of our laws.” What a difference one year makes.

Besides, the contrast with Dr Chee need no longer be maintained – it had served its purpose in 2007.

Last Friday the OBP held a news conference revealing that six of its Orchard Road protesters had their visas and entry permits either cancelled or delayed. The activists implied that the six were the victims of unfair action by the Singapore government. The Ministry of Home Affairs did nor refute the charge.

However after Friday’s media conference the authorities quickly approved the visas of two of the activists, a testament to the power of publicity.

This is how the rule of law is butchered in Singapore. The authorities have no qualms in using law enforcement either to demonise the SDP or minimise political damage for the ruling party.

The state of the rule of law in Singapore is in shambles. The worry is not whether but to what degree such a dysfunctional state will affect the future of this country.