The Community Action Network has been denied a permit to conduct a one person public assembly because it did not make an application 14 working days in advance. Under the Public Order Act, all cause related and political assemblies, even if it involves just one person, requires a permit if they are done outside of Hong Lim Park, the only state sanctioned area for public protests. Failure to do so may result in fines or jail sentences.
As historic peace talks get underway on Sentosa island, we wanted to draw attention to the fact that Sentosa was where former political prisoner Dr Chia Thye Poh was held under house arrest after being “released” from a 23-year detention without trial.
The Public Order Act’s imposition of such onerous conditions runs counter to what is acceptable under international laws and standards. Its purpose is to severely restrict rather than to facilitate the peaceful exercise of our rights to freedom of assembly and expression. Requiring 14 working days prior notification prevents citizens from responding to important social and political issues in a timely way.
The current law should be replaced with one where prior notice with the sole purpose of facilitating a peaceful assembly is required. Permits or notices should not be condition for assemblies involving a small number of people and where major inconveniences to the public are not expected.
The Internal Security Act under which Dr Chia was jailed, continues to be in force today. It is a repressive tool that has been used to quell dissent and take down opponents of the ruling party. CAN believes it has no place in a civilised society.
Singapore cannot claim to be a promoter of peace if the government continues to use the law to oppress its own citizens.