Could all those lawyers out there explain how a demonstration of less than 5 people can be broken up by 12 police officers in full riot gear, for causing a 'public nuisance'. Is the offence of causing a public nuisance an arbitrary, catch all offence? Who decides when something is a public nuisance?
Thursday August 11, 06:50 PM
SINGAPORE, (AFP) - Riot police broke up a rare demonstration by four people demanding greater transparency and accountability in Singapore's state-managed pension fund and other government-linked agencies.
A dozen anti-riot police wearing helmets and knee-high protective gear and carrying shields and batons formed a phalanx outside the offices of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) as a commanding officer approached the demonstrators.
"You are committing an offence of public nuisance. If you don't disperse you will be arrested," the officer told the protesters as business people and employees watched in the central business district.
The four protesters, among them an office administrator and the sister of an opposition leader, Chee Soon Juan, voluntarily dispersed. They denied being part of any political group.
Police later asked them to hand over their protest materials -- T-shirts and placards -- as part of an investigation to determine whether they had violated any laws.
The two men and two women assembled at lunchtime outside the CPF building in the business district. They said they did not need a permit and staged their protest for about an hour.
Under the law, any public protest of at least five people without a police permit is deemed illegal. The protest took place as Singapore was in the midst of official celebrations of its 40th anniversary of independence.
The protesters hoisted placards calling for greater openness in how the government handles public funds used for retirement pensions, overseas investments and the building of subsidized high-rise apartments.
A police officer said they had received a telephone call from a "member of the public" about the protest, prompting them to send in the riot police.
Monica Kumar, 45, one of the protesters, said they had been insipired by public outrage that followed revelations last month that the chief executive of Singapore's biggest charity, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), was being paid 350,000 US dollars annually.
The scandal sparked an online petition signed by more than 40,000 people and forced the NKF chief executive, T.T. Durai, and the entire board to resign.
"In reality, the NKF is reflective of the entire system in Singapore where public matters are run in a non-transparent and non-accountable manner," the protesters said in a statement.
The statement called on the Housing Development Board and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) to open their books for public scrutiny.
GIC manages more than 100 billion US dollars in funds and invests globally.
"We call on the government to make Singapore more transparent and accountable, starting with the state organisations mentioned above," the protesters said.
For more pictures of the protesters click here. Pictures were first seen at Majulah Singapura's Journal.
To read a break down of the laws surrounding the legality of the demonstration I suggest you go to Mr Wang Says So of Commentary Singapore for a truly enlightening experience. In order to get your attention I have included a very short extract below...
My intuitive sense told me that four people standing peacefully at a public place without obstructing human traffic and with their clothes on are unlikely to fall within any legal definition of "public nuisance". Essentially, the situation is very similar to four young students standing together in a public place selling flags for charity (except that the hypothetical four young students, if over-enthusiastic, are even more likely to be a literal nuisance to the public).
To verify my intuition, I decided to investigate further. I checked the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act. As I suspected, the facts of our 4-man case at the CPF Building do not seem to fit into the definition of "nuisance", which is as follows:
11. —(1) Any person who commits any of the following offences shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000:
(a) without authority in the case of public property, or without the consent of the owner or occupier in the case of private property, affixes or causes to be affixed any advertisement, bill or notice, or any paper against or upon any building, wall or fence, or writes upon, defaces or marks any such building, wall or fence with chalk or paint, or in any other way;
(b) bathes or washes himself, or any other person, animal or thing on any public road, or in, upon or by the side of any public tank, reservoir, watercourse or stream;
(c) obstructs or causes trouble or inconvenience to a person bathing at any place set apart as a bathing place by wilful intrusion, or by washing any animal at or near that place, or in any other way;
(d) being the owner or person in charge of any animal does not, if the animal dies, dispose of its carcase in such a way as not to be a common nuisance;
(e) places any dead animal on or near any public road;
(f) spits in any coffee shop, market, eating house, school house, theatre or public building, or in any omnibus, railway carriage or other public conveyance, or on any wharf or jetty, or in any public road, or on any five-foot way or sidewalk of any public road, or in any other place to which the public has or may have access;
(g) suffers to be at large any unmuzzled ferocious dog or other animal, or sets on or urges any dog or other animal to attack, worry or put in fear any person or animal.
To continue the enlightenment at Commentary Singaporeread here.