11 Jul 05
Police seized a CD and demanded the particulars of two young activists who spoke at Dr Chee Soon Juan's launching of his latest book The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore through Nonviolence.
Several police officers in plainclothes had attended the event and filmed the proceedings (see photos). At the end of the presentation, they demanded to know whether the organizers had a permit for a video clip that had run. They then seized a CD and said that it would be used for further investigation.
There was one officer in particular who seemed intent on offending as many people as he could. Incredibly at one point, after rudely demanding to see the CD, he wanted to borrow Dr Chee's laptop computer to view the CD he had seized whereupon Dr Chee replied: "The next thing you'll want is to borrow some money from me to take a taxi back to the police station."
Another police officer then filled out a form and wanted Dr Chee to sign it to acknowledge that they were seizing the CD. At this point lawyer Mr M Ravi who was also present took a look at the form and said that it was ridiculous for the police to seize someone's property and then ask that person acknowledge it. Dr Chee then said to the officers: "If you want to take it, take it. Do whatever you want to do with it but return it when you're finished with it."
Upon hearing this, the rude officer barged in and threatened, "So I take it that you are refusing to sign the acknowledgment?"
"It doesn't make sense for the police to seize something and then ask its owner to acknowledge that the property was taken as if the item was gladly handed over," Mr Ravi chipped in. "I'm trying to explain that..."
"No point wasting time, let's go! We have more important things to do!" the officer yelled to his colleagues.
Earlier, some of the officers had demanded to see the Identity Cards of Mr Charles Tan and Mr Jonathan Siow, both in their twenties. The officers took down the particulars of the two young activists who had spoken before Dr Chee's presentation and they said that they found non-violent action to be meaningful and an effective tool in helping to empower Singaporeans. Messrs Tan and Siow had attended workshops on non-violence in recent months.
The Singapore Government had earlier refused Nonviolence International trainer, Mr Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, entry when he at the Singapore Airport and deported him. The non-violence expert was invited to conduct a workshop for Singaporeans activists.
On a previous occasion, the police also disrupted a forum on the death penalty by demanding the particulars of the moderator, Ms Salbiah Ahmad, a lawyer from Singapore. On that occasion uniformed officers were summoned in an apparent attempt to cause alarm to those present. The authorities had earlier banned Amnesty International spokesman from speaking at the forum.
Singapore News // Monday, July 11, 2005
Police seize video at Chee's book launch
THE police made a late guest appearance at Saturday's launch of the latest book by opposition leader Chee Soon Juan. Held at the Grand Plaza Parkroyal Hotel, the indoor public talk, attended by about 50 people, had ended, and the few who remained were having refreshments when the police arrived — after receiving word that video images had been screened.
The 2003 footage of Hong Kong residents protesting peaceably against a proposed anti-subversion law had been projected onto a screen as Dr Chee autographed copies of his book, The Power of Courage, after a Q&A session.
Police spokesperson ASP Victor Keong told Today: "During the event, a video disc was screened to the public. As the disc did not possess a certificate for public exhibition, it was seized under the Films Act for investigation."
The police questioned Dr Chee and will take statements later for their investigation.
During his presentation, Dr Chee cited the "unjust" introduction of laws, as well as their selective application and interpretation, as reasons to effect political change in Singapore through non-violent campaigns.
In his book, he cited the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act as "perhaps the most damaging to the development of democracy in Singapore".
Although licensing rules for indoor public talks were eased last year when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally, encouraged greater freedom of expression, restrictions remain for public assemblies.
Asked why he chose the topic of non-violent civil disobedience for his sixth book, Dr Chee said there needed to be a rethink of strategy because, after 40 years, "it real1y didn't matter what civil society or political society did, because nothing changes".
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief referred to electoral reform in particular, likening the Opposition's predicament to that of a high-jumper training to clear a certain height for a competition, only to have officials raise the bar just before he is about to jump.
The SDP has helped organise two workshops this year to train people on the principles of non-violent campaigns, with a third coming up this month. — Derrick A Paulo