Judge refuses to consider ban on protests unconstitutional
Thursday, 04 December 2008
In the ongoing trial of four activists charged for attempting to participate in a procession, Dr Chee Soon Juan asked District Judge Toh Yong Joo to allow the defendants to question the police on why it rejected the application for a permit to conduct a rally and march. The Judge refused.
Dr Chee also asked the Judge to determine that the policy to ban all demonstrations and processions in Singapore is unconstitutional. The Judge also refused.
Dr Chee is charged together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr Teoh Tian Jing for protesting during the WB-IMF meeting in Sep 06.
In his submissions Dr Chee cited a decision made by former Chief Justice Yong Pung How who had relied on Lord Justice Woolf’s judgment in an English case.
Woolf LJ had ruled that where it is pointed that there has been an abuse of power and bad faith on the policy maker a criminal court should allow cross-examination of the prosecution witness to determine the issue.
The issue stemmed from prosecution witness Deputy Superintendent Marc E Kwan Szer’s testimony that the “policy position of the police regarding outdoor processions and demonstrations is one of disallowance.”
Dr Chee asked Judge Toh to rule that this policy contravenes the constitution that guaranteed Singaporeans the right to freedom of speech and assembly.
“No person, able to reason, would conclude that the policy is not substantially out of line and patently unreasonable with the Constitution, both in spirit and in the letter,” the SDP leader pointed out.
He added that the police are playing the fool with the Constitution which according to Article 4 “is the supreme law of the Republic of Singapore and any law enacted by the Legislature after the commencement of this Constitution which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall…be void.”
He cited Lord Justice Woolf’s judgement on this issue: “No citizen is required to comply with a law which is bad on its face. If the citizen is satisfied that that is the situation, he is entitled to ignore the law.”
The Prosecutor insisted that the only thing that mattered was whether or not the defendants had a permit to conduct their activity. But didn’t DSP Marc E testify that all applications for demonstrations and processions would be disallowed?
“The illogic of the charge jars the reasonable mind. Can the police accuse anyone of not having a permit when it makes clear that it will not give that permit?” Dr Chee posed the question to the Judge.
“If the Constitution clearly tells me that I have the right to freedom of speech and assembly,” the SDP leader continued, “but the police tell me that it will not grant me a permit for it, then the police policy is clearly [unconstitutional].
“This being the case, LJ Woolf, to which Yong CJ attached much importance, tells me that I am not required to comply with such a policy.”
Judge Toh dismissed Dr Chee’s arguments and insisted that the only thing that was important was the “existence or non-existence of a permit.”
The hearing continues at Subordinate Court 19 at 9:30 am tomorrow.