Activist Jolovan Wham faces multiple charges under draconian Laws

Singapore authorities should drop the case against activist Jolovan Wham for holding three public gatherings in the city-state, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today. Authorities have charged Wham on Wednesday (29 Nov) with seven charges which include three counts of organizing a public assembly without a police permit and one count of vandalism for sticking two A-4 paper on a MRT train.

“Prosecuting Jolovan Wham for holding peaceful gatherings demonstrates the absurdity of Singapore’s laws on public assemblies and the government’s willingness to penalize those who speak out,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Singapore government should start listening to criticism, stop treating peaceful assemblies as crimes, and cease prosecuting their organizers.”

HRW highlights that Singapore’s draconian Public Order Act requires a police permit for any “cause-related” assembly that is held in a public place, or to which the public is invited. Organizing or participating in a protest without a permit is a criminal offense, even if the protest was peaceful and did not disrupt public order. The law covers not just outdoor gatherings, but also those held indoors if they are in a place open to the public, or if the public is invited.

The only exceptions are events held wholly inside a building or other enclosed premise where the organizers and all the speakers are citizens of Singapore and the event does not deal “with any matter which relates (directly or indirectly) to any religious belief or religion, or any matter which may cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will, or hostility between different racial or religious groups in Singapore,” or events held at Speakers’ Corner, a designated section of Hong Lim Park.

Anyone found guilty of organizing a public assembly without a police permit can be fined up to S$5,000, while repeat offenders can be fined up to S$10,000 and jailed for up to six months.

The expected charges against Wham, 37, stem from three peaceful gatherings. The first, at an indoor venue on 26 Nov 2016, was a forum to discuss civil disobedience and social movements. As Joshua Wong, who is not a citizen of Singapore, called into the forum from Hong Kong via Skype without a police permit, Wham faces charges for violating the Public Order Act’s requirement to apply for and receive a police permit for an event featuring a foreign speaker.

Wham also faces charges for organizing a “silent protest” on 3 June 2017, without obtaining a police permit. The event, held to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the arrest and detention of 22 social activists and volunteers under the Internal Security Act in 1987, featured nine people who stood silently on board a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train, each blindfolded and holding up a book, “1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On.” The nine protesters then sat in empty seats in the train car and proceeded to read the book together. Authorities leveled the vandalism charge, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, against Wham because he temporarily pasted two sheets of paper calling for justice for the 1987 ISA detainees and opposing detention without trial to the inside of the train.

The final gathering was a candlelight vigil outside Changi Prison on July 13 to support the family of a Malaysian national, S. Prabagaran, who was slated to be executed for drug trafficking. Singapore authorities refused numerous entreaties from the family, lawyers, nongovernmental organizations, diplomatic missions, and the United Nations to stop the execution and commute the sentence to life in prison. Prabagaran was executed the following morning.

Wham also faces charges for refusing to sign his statements to the police.

Under international law, freedom of assembly is a right and not a privilege and should not be subject to prior authorization by the authorities. It is widely accepted that no one should be subject to criminal penalties simply for organizing or participating in a peaceful assembly.

The Singapore Police Force, in a 28 Nov news release announcing that Wham would be charged, highlighted the fact that Singapore citizens can organize public assemblies without a permit “in accordance with the rules” at Speakers’ Corner. International standards provide that the government has an obligation to facilitate peaceful assemblies “within sight and sound” of their intended target. Restricting protests to a venue far from the target of the protests cannot be justified as a reasonable restriction on freedom of assembly, and the creation of Speakers’ Corner in no way justifies or balances the excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly in the rest of the city-state.

“By charging Jolovan Wham with criminal offenses for these peaceful gatherings, the Singapore government is signaling its complete intolerance for even the mildest forms of public dissent,” Robertson said. “The case against him should be dropped, and urgent action taken to amend the Public Order Act to fully respect the right of all persons in Singapore to peacefully assemble.”


Human Rights Watch




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10 Responses to “Activist Jolovan Wham faces multiple charges under draconian Laws”

  • oxygen:

    TWO PERSONS WALKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION in LEE-jiapore is assembly. Cause-related means attributable to any cause. Walking to a MRT station to is also one of CAUSE-RELATED – ALL IN THE COMMON CAUSE of seeking transportation to get to the workplace or to hospital or supermarket or visiting relatives.

    Everyone walking to and assembling on the train platform is, by definition, must be cause-related of assembly – HOW COME THE LAW ENFORCEMENT DO NOT ARREST ALL AND CHARGE THEM FOR CRIMINAL OFFENCE OF ILLEGAL ASSEMBLY LAW VIOLATION?

    I have compelling apprehension that the PAPpys are determine to silent activists – by sending them a message in no uncertain terms that they and PEASANTS (the activists are seeking to inform and educate of law justices) MUST ALL STOP LEARNING TO THINK. They are bound by dictatorial law to think and behave as stupid or at least pretend ignorance of reality.

    PAPpys wants to rule without challenge, never mind if the peasants and society collapse in stupidity of STOPPED THINKING OF LEARNING. And 70% of those peasants are too stupid to begin discovering they are stupid to impossibility. They get what they voted for. IT IS FAIR.

    GD Star Rating
  • Tatman:

    AWARE spoke up for Jolovan Wham already.

    Why all those Pink Dot people are so quiet?

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  • PAP has the mandate:

    So much for progression for Stinkapore…LOL…”first world” my freaking ass.

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  • rukidding:

    Own Brother, Sister In Law ( Lawyer some more)…and nephew all “dare mot come back”……so what do you expect ?

    This kind of thing can only change after :

    a) Death or demise of some “figure head”
    b) An “awakening of existing dafts ” ( at least 40% more to add to current 30%
    c ) A bad recession affecting the economy seriously
    d ) Kenna “kar cheow” by “terror” group.

    GD Star Rating
  • Boh Kia See:

    He is as good as being convicted already. It is a forgone conclusion as far as I know. The PAP has never lost a case in their own Courts. However, the situation is not the same when the PAP takes a case overseas. You can draw your own conclusion as to why that is the case.

    He is sacrificing his freedom and financial welfare for the good of the country. In the old days, during the war years, people are considered heroes by the local population when they fight against the oppressors. Under current circumstances, these people are our heroes when they sacrifice themselves for the people. They are our modern day heroes.

    I think there should be a strategy to deal with such heavy oppression. There should be a fund set up to look after these people after they have been incarcerated. Legal services should also be provided pro bono. As these people are not fighting for their own rights but ours as well.

    Another arm of this strategy is the outreach activities to ensure that everyone in the neighbourhood knows about what the PAP is doing and how it affects each citizen. It should be an on-going activity throughout the year–evey year and not just during election time.

    This PAP governmenr should be tossed out before the hardwork of cleaning out the public service, the military, police and PA etc can take place.

    With such oppression of citizens–the conditions under British colonial rule provided more freedom.


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  • oxygen:

    HOW COME FAMILIES OF THE DEPARTED not arrested and charged for vandalism for pasting notices of family member GONE TO TERN SUA on the void deck lobby wall outside the lift entrance?

    This happens very often, right or wrong?

    So anyone posting warning notices on the void deck of serial molester loitering around can also be charged for vandalism? Or must he/she buy front page advertisement in the PAPpyanus Times to warn the neighborhood of loitering serial molester lurking?

    Human Rights Watch: Authorities leveled the vandalism charge, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, against Wham because he temporarily pasted two sheets of paper calling for justice for the 1987 ISA detainees and opposing detention without trial to the inside of the train.

    GD Star Rating
  • pap selected INDIAN president:

    … and one count of vandalism for sticking two A-4 paper on a MRT train.

    one of us lives in HDB. on ground floor letter boxes, on unit water meters, gas meters, there are stickers everywhere, stickers from locksmith to swimming lessons. WHY no vandalism charge for such irritating and unsightly sticking of hard to remove advertising stickers?

    these HDB stickers all come with phone numbers and such. easy to catch surely compared with 2 pieces of removable A4 sized paper?

    pap why so afraid? if truly good no need to fear. if truly bad all kinds of abuse of power also no use since sooner or later will kaput.

    pap looks at a pig and calls it a goat. pap all Ljs and Cbs agree. so much so pap all Ljs and Cbs looking at an INDIAN they all agree is malay. WTF.

    GD Star Rating
  • Maxchewy:

    What a fcuked-up Govt led by a fcuked-up PM we have here in our supposedly first-world nation! So malu!
    First-world? My bladey balls! May be worst than 3rd world. I’ll deft emigrate if I were younger. But I worry for my kids and grandkids. God help us all.

    GD Star Rating
  • LIONS:

    cant even take a bit of non-violent protest,what kind of MERITOCRACY N ARISTOCRAPS are they???

    oh come on,be a gentleman.

    our generals are sisssy!

    GD Star Rating
  • ShengWu was Right All Along!:

    Many Singaporeans are now shaking their heads in disbelief!

    Civil Servants will be placated for a while (fat bonus) but will it last?

    If GDP is so good, why is there an increase in workers being laid off?

    Ever wonder?

    GD Star Rating

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