Activist faces multiple charges for organizing public assemblies without permit

Activist Jolovan Wham was charged in court for multiple offenses on 29 November 2017, according to a news release.

On November 27, journalist Kirsten Han posted on Facebook that the Singapore Police Force is charging the 37-year-old “for organising public assemblies without a police permit under the Public Order Act, an offence of vandalism under the Vandalism Act, and for refusing to sign his statements under the Penal Code.”

Wham is known for his advocacy campaigns on the rights of migrant workers and against human trafficking.

At the Singapore Changi Prison: “Execute justice, not people.” Photo from Wham’s Twitter.
Protest at the MRT. Photo from Wham’s Facebook.

Police cited his charges relate to a 13 July 2017 “vigil” outside the Changi Prison Complex for the execution of an unsuspecting drug mule, 3 June 2017 “silent protest” on an MRT train to remember the 22 people who were imprisoned without trial in 1987, and 26 November 2016 indoor public assembly with Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong.

If found guilty under the Public Order Act, Wham faces a fine of S$5,000 to 10,000 (~USD 3,700 to 7,400) or imprisonment for up to six months or both. Meanwhile, the punishment for vandalism is a fine not exceeding S$2,000 (~USD 1,500) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years and caning with not less than three strokes and not more than eight strokes subject to the sections of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Singapore remains a restricted country for free expression, press freedom, and peaceful assembly as cited by human rights indices.

Community Action Network, a non-government organization based in Singapore, said in a statement: “The Singapore police should not proceed with charges against Wham. The government must reconsider its position on free speech and freedom of assembly. It is time for Singapore to recognise that peaceful protest is not a crime.”

“It is quite disappointing that Singapore continues to be intolerant of peaceful expressions of political beliefs,” said Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) executive director Edgardo Legaspi. “Ironically such actions like those against Jolovan Wham merely draw attention to the harsh laws restricting free speech in the country, instead of tolerating different forms of arguing against government policies and action,” he added.

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