Jolovan’s latest problem shows Sylvia Lim’s and my prescience

In Political governance, Public Administration on 04/03/2019 at 10:01 am


And that Terry Xu has a good point on the police and constructive, nation-building media.”

Many moons ago, I asked:

“Jogging alone can be illegal?

‘If wearing the wrong tee-shirt or singlet?”

Well something like it has happened here.

Social worker and activist Jolovan Wham is being investigated for protesting outside State Courts without a valid permit, police said on Saturday (Mar 2)*.

Seriously, Auntie Sylvia was absolutely right in 2007 and 2009 when she spoke out publicly:

The change in definition of “assembly” and “procession” is more disturbing. As the Explanatory Statement to the Bill says, these words are no longer restricted to gatherings of 5 persons or more. This means even ONE person alone can constitute illegal assembly, thus giving the State complete control over an individual citizen’s freedoms.

‘First, to say that 1 person constitutes an assembly is certainly an abuse of the word. Secondly, is the government making the change because there had been incidents involving less than 5 persons which had disrupted public life? Unless there is compelling evidence to prove to us that expanding the definition of assembly and procession is needed, this expansion does not deserve our support,”  Sylvia Lim in parly in 2009.

Earlier, in 2007, she had said:

“This refers to clauses 29 and 30 of the Bill. By clause 29 of the Bill, we are removing the heading “Offences Against Public Tranquility” and replacing it with “Offences relating to Unlawful Assembly”. By Clause 30, we will be deleting “mischief or trespass or other offence” and replacing it with “to commit any offence”.

S 141 has been amended to bring it in line with a recent Court of Appeal case: PP v Tan Meng Khin [1995] 2 SLR 505. Now, an assembly will be unlawful if people intend to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment of 6 mths or more, even if it is peaceful and does not disturb public tranquillity. Under our law, a person who organizes a procession or assembly after the police rejection of a permit can be punished with max 6 months jail under the Miscellaneous Offences Act. Hence 5 or more people who gather to do so will become members of an unlawful assembly.

As our society continues to evolve, the time is surely ripe for us to allow peaceful outdoor protests as a form of expression. By all means, we can have rules about how, where and when such processions may be held, but wider law reform is needed. S 141 should be restricted to offences which threaten the public peace, and other laws such as the Miscellaneous Offences Act which require permits for peaceful assemblies should be modified.”

Jogging alone can be illegal?

Terry Xu wrote on FB yesterday

[T]he shocking part for me, is that the Police had provided information to the media to create an impression that Wham willfully committed an offence on 13 Dec despite being warned.

This is even before any charge is being made against Wham and established that a protest was being held in front of the state court. What is factually established is Wham took a photo in front of the state court with a piece of paper that had some wordings. He was not being approached by any officers nor arrested for his act, which would imply it was either too insignificant or too short of a time period to be noticed by the guards.

Also, the act of taking a photo should not be considered an offence as photographers from the media take photos of suspects on a regular basis. Unless there is a blatant double standard by the Police.

Yet the Police and the media frame it up as an act which justifies the investigation launched upon Wham.

It’s not shocking to me, or I’m sure, Auntie.

As I wrote many moons ago, try walking or jogging alone wearing a “Free our CPF” singlet: remember that any public assembly of more than one person needs police permission.

But what about wearing a tee shirt with a Oppo party logo, drinking teh tarik as social media celebrities Ravi and Jeannette Chong used to do when they were NSP tua kees? Nothing happened to them.

Seems anything the PAP administration or the SPF doesn’t like can be an illegal assembly.

Sad. Because discretionary, or vaguely worded powers can one day be turned against you, the upright, civic, PAP-voting S’porean; not juz against the usual suspects like Jolovan Wham.

Vote wisely.

Related posts:

PAP uses Lawfare against its opponents?

Seelan Palay: Sylvia Lim was right

Jolovan Wham: Nothing wrong in asking Tun M to intervene in S’porean affairs

Why Jolovan Wham’s vigil singled out?

*CNA report goes on

Wham had posted a photo on Dec 13 on social media channels, which showed him standing outside the court complex while holding up a piece of paper that read: “Drop the charges against Terry Xu and Daniel De Costa.”

The protest happened the same day Terry Xu, the editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen, and Daniel De Costa were charged for publishing an article that alleged corruption among the Singapore Government’s highest officers.

In response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, police said that Wham had written to the police earlier in November to apply for a permit to stage a protest outside the State Courts. His application was not approved.

“The State Courts is gazetted as a Prohibited Area under the Public Order Act, with stricter security protocols,” police said.

“He was well aware that a police permit was required for such an event. Still, he went ahead to protest outside the State Courts on Dec 13, 2018.”





  1. It was certainly a protest, quick one originally – then u put ur protest photo on the web so it is public and long lasting. So authorities act against it. Whether it becomes an “assembly” is a matter of legal definition

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