Mr Wang, in an earlier post, had provided a legal analysis of this factual scenario. Mr Wang's conclusion was that the 4 protestors had carefully planned their demonstration such that they had probably broken no law in Singapore (and therefore the police should not have taken action against them) . In another post, Mr Wang even went on to talk about creative ways to legally hold a public protest in Singapore.
But what about our four little protestors - what have they been up to lately? Well, they dwindled to three (I don't know why) and are now taking legal action against the Home Affairs Minister. Check it out.
- Oct 2, 2005
Protesters seek legal action against minister, police chief
THREE people who were among four protesters told to disperse outside the Central Provident Fund Building in August have filed a motion in the High Court against the Home Affairs Minister and Commissioner of Police.
Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms N. Gogelavany and Mr Yap Keng Ho said in their affidavit that they were standing peacefully with a fourth person, Mr Tan Teck Wee, outside the CPF Building in Robinson Road on Aug 11 when police asked them to leave.
Each was wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with words and acronyms in red.
Ms Chee, 39, sister of Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, said then that their protest had nothing to do with the party.
Her T-shirt had 'National Reserves' printed on the front and 'HDB GIC' on the back. Ms Gogelavany's T-shirt had 'Be Transparent Now' on the front and 'NKF CPF' on the back.
Mr Yap was holding a placard above his head which read: 'Singaporeans spend on HDB; whole earnings on CPF; life savings - but cannot withdraw when they need.'
Police came and dispersed them, saying they were causing a 'public nuisance'. Their T-shirts and placards were seized later.
And what is it that the three protestors are now seeking in court?
- The two women and Mr Yap, who are represented by Mr M. Ravi, want a declaration that the Minister and the Commissioner of Police acted 'in an unlawful and unconstitutional manner' when they ordered them to disperse.
A motion is an application made to a judge in open court to obtain an order or rule, directing some act to be done in favour of the applicant.
The case will be heard on Oct 21.
The reason is more technical than anything else. You see, as the law stands, the courts generally do not make bare declarations. If you have suffered some losses, then you come to court and prove your case and if you succeed, the courts will say, "I order X to pay you $50,000" or something like that. However, if you cannot demonstrate any such losses, then the court generally will not declare "X was wrong", just for the sake of making you feel better.
In the present case, the police had told the protestors to end their protest, and the protestors had voluntarily obeyed. Thus it will be difficult for them to demonstrate that they had suffered any losses. If they had not obeyed the police, and had been forcibly arrested, then ironically that would actually put them in a better position to sue for wrongful confinement or false imprisonment (an action in the law of torts).
Of course, winning the battle in court may not really be the main purpose of these protestors. In fact they may be happy to lose, provided that they get publicity anyway for their cause. That's probably what this whole thing is about, isn't it?
Mr Wang also has a feeling that the three protestors deliberately picked this time to inititate this legal action. It probably has to do with certain recent mumblings from Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs Mr Raymond Lim. Apparently, Mr Lim told the media that unlike Singaporeans, foreigners are perfectly welcome to stage large protests and demonstrations in Singapore. I am rather amazed to hear such strange noises from Raymond Lim - I would really like to believe that I have misunderstood him - so perhaps it's best that you click here and read and judge for yourself.
Anyway, the Singapore government is now in a potentially embarrassing position. This is what may yet transpire -
Four little Singaporeans staging a peaceful (and legal) protest are illegally stopped by a big squad of riot police, but the Singapore courts won't declare that the police acted wrongly; meanwhile, 2nd Minister Raymond Lim makes special arrangements for dozens, perhaps hundreds of foreigners, to stage loud, noisy, traffic-obstructing protests in Singapore. Another credibility issue for the PAP government to manage.