Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Singapore activist termed anti-national for protesting sans permission: "Suggestive" of what's happening in India

June 3, 2017 protest in metro train
By Our Representative
Suggestive of what has now begun happening in India, especially Gujarat, the Singaporean authorities on Tuesday charged Jovolan Wham, the country’s human rights activist, under the Vandalism Act, allegedly meant to justify all manner of authoritarian action by simply defining its opposition as ‘anti-national’, and hence a threat to the ‘nation’ and the ‘people’.
The authorities also charged Wham under the country’s Public Order Act, under which one requires a police permit for any ‘cause-related’ assembly that is held in a public place, or to which the public is invited, and organizing or participating in a protest without a permit is a criminal offense.
Wham, 37, was charged for three peaceful gatherings: The first, at an indoor venue on November 26, 2016, at a forum to discuss civil disobedience and social movements. Because Joshua Wong, who is not a citizen of Singapore, called into the forum from Hong Kong via Skype, Wham faced charges for violating the Public Order Act’s requirement to apply for and receive a police permit for an event featuring a foreign speaker.
He faced the charge under the Vandalism Act for organizing a “silent protest” on June 3, 2017, without obtaining a police permit, held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the arrest and detention of 22 social activists and volunteers under the Internal Security Act in 1987.
At the protest, nine youths stood silently on board a Mass Rapid Transit train, each blindfolded and holding up a book, “1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On.” They then sat in empty seats in the train car and proceeded to read the book together.
The third charge is for 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, NGOs, diplomatic missions, and the United Nations to stop the execution and commute the sentence to life in prison.
A Hardik Patel rally in Gujarat, which invited  cops to
register FIR for not taking police permission
Meanwhile, an analysis on the goings on around Wham, by Thum Ping Tjin, points to how the Punishment for Vandalism Act of 1966 (amended in 1970) was written “deliberately to punish political dissidents, by demarcating certain expressions of political opinion as criminal and anti-national. This not only suppressed free speech, but consolidated the power of the state to decide what constitutes the ‘nation’.”
Recalls Tjin, the Vandalism Act passed sought to “characterise legitimate political protest as illegitimate public disorder”, characterise people who practice political protest as “anti-national” and thus not only subversive but also enemies of the people, and “smear” those who questioning government motives as “outright falsehoods” against “the normal rules of law and civilization.”
Thus, says Tjin, the introducer of the Vandalism Act, Minister of State for Defence Wee Toon Boon, described vandalism as being done by ‘anti-social and anti-national elements in the name of democracy’, and even as frequently repeating the term ‘anti-national’, he emphasised that such ‘anti-national elements were ‘damaging or destroying public property which is provided for the benefit of the people.’
Even “Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew described vandalism as ‘a particularly vicious social misdemeanour, like taking a pot of paint and going to every bus stand and chalking up anti-American or anti-British or pro-Vietcong slogans’,” says Tjin.

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