16 Oct 2005

Govt runs away from legal action by protesters

From SgReview
14 Oct 05

For all its bravado, the PAP Government never ceases to run away from a fight it knows it cannot come away looking good. The latest example is the Attorney-General (AG) asking the courts to have the legal action taken by Ms Chee Siok Chin, Ms Monica Kumar, and Mr Yap Keng Ho against the Government dismissed.

What's more the AG is applying for the dismissal to be heard in chambers where the public cannot attend.

Ms Chee, Ms Kumar, and Mr Yap had filed an Originating Motion in September 2005 and named Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng and Commissioner of Police Khoo Boon Hui as respondents.

The three activists had asked the courts to declare that the police had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it ordered the four protesters (including Charles Tan who is away presently) to disperse during a silent protest outside the CPF Building on 11 August 2005. Under the Constitution, only five or more people gathered in a public area is deemed an unlawful assembly.

In its application, the AG has said that the Originating Motion should be "struck out or dismissed" because it is "irregular, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious and/or that it is an abuse of the process of the Court."

In addition, the AG wants the costs of its application be paid by the protesters.

The hearing for the protesters' Originating Motion is set for 21 October at 10 am. The AG's application is set for 19 October 2005, two days earlier, at 2:30 pm.

Question: Why can't the AG make his argument that the Originating Motion is irregular, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious at the hearing itself on 21 October and ask the judge to dismiss it? Why go through the trouble of asking the courts to do this at another session in chambers?

Answer: Because the Government doesn't want the matter to be debated in an open court where the public has access.

There you have it, Singaporeans. The PAP says that citizens have no right to protest. If the courts go along and dismiss the protesters' Originating Motion, it would be further confirmation that we effectively live in a one-party dictatorship.

The government has once again demonstrated its flair for skirting around possibly intractable issues-the Attorney-General, who would have been representing the Home Affairs minister and the Commissioner for the Police in the suit brought forward by the CPF building protesters, has applied for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that it is 'irregular, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious and/or that it is an abuse of the process of the Court'. But as always they are making their own call as to the legitimacy of the people's concerns; who is to say that the issue brought up by then protesters-the transparency and accountability of government bodies that handle public funds-is not an important one? why denounce the plaintiffs before they have even had a chance to explain themselves?

In reality the respondents would probably have easily won the case regardless of whatever argument the protesters put up. So why resort to this tactic? The difference is that the public would have access to the court hearing; they could hear for themselves the protesters' side of the case; the news might report on court proceedings, which might include what the protesters have to say. And that would not be so good for the image of the authorities, would it?

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