SEE ALSO: Changes proposed to Films Act and enhanced police powers by Ng E-Jay and Shameful piece of legislation by the Singapore Democrats.
Written by Ng E-Jay
24 March 2009
Article 14(1) of the Singapore Constitution states that every Singapore citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to assemble peaceably and without arms, and the right to form associations. Even though Article 14(2) states that those rights may be restricted by Parliament as it deems necessary in the interest of security or public order, it is understood that the spirit and meaning of this article is to enshrine in our Constitution a recognition that human beings have certain rights, and that these right should be respected.
Monday 23 March 2009 was a another sad day in our nation’s political history, as the ruling party took steps to further curtail the rights of Singapore citizens to freedom of peaceful assembly in the name of preserving national security.
As it stands, the authorities have repeatedly used the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Chapter 257) as well as the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (Chapter 184) Section 5 — Assemblies and Processions to prosecute activists and politicians who have conducted public activities or campaigns of a political nature.
For instance, in June 2006, SDP leaders Dr Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam, as well as activist Yap Keng Ho, were charged with eight counts of speaking in public without a permit during the run-up to the 2006 General Elections. They had been canvassing support from the ground for the SDP and selling the party newsletter in places like Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun — activities which all political parties carry out during election periods, including the PAP.
by Cherian George, journalism.sg
February 4th, 2009
As promised, the Films Act will be liberalised to allow certain types of political films. However, the amendments that have been tabled in Parliament aren’t only about opening up space for free expression. The Government is also taking the opportunity to tighten the noose around civil disobedience.
Under the proposed amendments, recording of live events such as rallies will be allowed as long as the event itself “is held in accordance with the law”. This change is clearly targeted at Chee Soon Juan and the small band of activists who have been trying to highlight what they regard as unjust features of the political system by deliberately disobeying various laws.
These activists have been using video to magnify the impact of their civil disobedience campaigns. They film their illegal (but non-violent) demonstrations being interrrupted by police, then post the video to expose what they hope will be seen worldwide as the brutality of the PAP regime against peaceful protesters.
By the Singapore Democrats
28 Jan 2009
Unbenownst to most Singaporeans — as well as police officers apparently — the Government quietly passed subsidiary legislation a few years ago to ban all forms of political activity.
Under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance)(Assemblies and Processions) Rules, permits are required for a group of 5 persons or more to:
(a) demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person;
(b) publicise a cause or campaign; or
(c) mark or commemorate any event.
What kind of law makes it illegal for citizens to come together just to express a view or to publicise a cause or campaign? Indeed what kind of a government passes that kind of law?
Written by Ng E-Jay
07 Jan 2009
At the opening of the legal year in the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Attorney-General Walter Woon and Law Minister K Shanmugam launched an all-out offensive against civil rights activists campaigning for democratic change in Singapore as well as foreign media which have criticized our judiciary and the rule of law here.
In particular, CJ Chan insinuated that activists in Singapore have attempted to undermine public confidence in the courts by making “false and scandalous allegations“, and AG Woon said that “that there appears to be a campaign by certain people both here and abroad to attack the integrity and independence of the Singapore courts“, that “it is not permissible to undermine the courts and judiciary for political or ideological reasons“, that these “appear to be part of a broader campaign to force a change in our laws by extra-legal means“. (ST link)
K Shanmugam, which is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs, noted that “in the last few years, there have been people who did not like certain laws and the way they showed it was to go out there and protest“, but he countered that “the way to change the law is to get elected politically and argue in Parliament why the law should be changed“. Denouncing civil rights activists who have sought to highlight the unfairness of certain laws and how the Constitution has been violated by selective application of these laws, Shanmugam remarked that “… an aggressive small group of people think they can change those laws by going out there and protesting and the courts have repeatedly emphasized they will apply the law as it is.”
The remarks and comments made by the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, and Law Minister are consistent with the way the mainstream media has portrayed civil rights activists working for democratic change in Singapore as “radicals” who prefer to break the law and attract attention to themselves rather than work within the law and effect change by winning elections and arguing their case in Parliament — see for example this ST article by Peh Shing Huei entitled “The partitioning of the opposition”, my response to Peh’s article, and Dr Chee Soon Juan’s response to Peh’s article. This time round however, the rhetoric has been notched up to a new all-time high.