Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the most recent protest on March 15, 2008 by Singaporeans who seek an end to dictatorial rule in Singapore, here are important things you need to know about Constitutional Law. You are not breaking any law at all in engaging in peaceful protests.
It is high time that you become aware of your rights now, with peaceful protests becoming almost a common occurrence in Singapore. Since it is impossible to seek change through Parliament, Singaporeans have now realized that only through protests can they ever hope to see real change.
These courageous protesters are mainly educated middle class Singaporeans, mostly upwardly and geographically mobile and aware of their legal right to protest. However there are some who are still are unaware, and it is these people that this blog is intended to educate and enlighten.
Please be clear in your minds about one thing. It is not illegal in Singapore to engage in peaceful demonstration or to give public speeches; no matter what the Singapore Police Force or Mr. Wong Kan Seng, the Minister for Home Affairs say.
The law specifically permits you to engage in such activity; in fact all democracies encourage people to participate in them, since collective political participation and the robust exchange of ideas and debate can only benefit society, not damage it.
Singapore is a constitutional democracy. If it is not one under Lee Kuan Yew's dictatorship, it is at least supposed to be one in which the primary or most important legal document or law is the Constitution.
You can consider the Constitution as the backdrop that supports or defines every aspect of life in Singapore. You can also treat it as a template by which every law has to pass muster by. If a law fails to live up to the terms of the Constitution, such a law is struck down and declared illegal and null and void; as it violates the very supreme authority upon which all laws depend; the Constitution.
To put it very simply, every citizen, including Lee Kuan Yew and his son, and the government of Singapore are supposed to obey and submit to the Constitution. The problem is that Lee Kuan Yew and his son believe that they are too good for the Constitution, and they disobey by passing laws which are clearly ultra vires or contrary to the Constitution. This activity by Lee and his son is illegal and should be resisted.
What does the Constitution say? It lays down the people’s rights. The fundamental human rights. The right to free speech and expression without fear from government action. The right to assemble freely. The right to be treated equally. The right to elections. The right to change governments.
These rights are so important that in most countries governments are prevented from ever denying these rights. It is there to stay in perpetuity regardless of which government comes to power.
The Constitution exists so that men and women can hope to live as free men and women and be safeguarded against the excesses of a tyrants and bullies such as Lee Kuan Yew and his son.
Other than the Constitution, there is Parliament. Parliament makes laws. But laws made by Parliament are subordinate, secondary and subject to the Constitution.
Therefore Parliament has to ensure that the laws they pass at all times comport and comply with the intent and meaning of the Constitution. If it violates any Constitutional provision, the law itself becomes illegal and of no effect. It can be disobeyed at will and any government that arrests people for violating that illegal law, themselves are acting illegally.
The Constitution specifically gives the right of peaceful assembly to citizens. Please read the Constitution of Singapore for the exact wording of the law. So, when Dr. Chee and 50 other Singaporeans assembled in front of Parliament House Singapore on March 15, 2008 at 2 pm, they were engaging in an activity which is entirely lawful and permitted by the Constitution of Singapore.
There is an illegal law in Singapore, deliberately intended to prevent Singaporeans from engaging in their constitutional right. I believe it is the Public Order Act but correct me if I am wrong.
Under this law, the government requires any public assembly of more than 4 people to have a permit. As I said, any law which clearly violates a Constitutional provision is null and void without more. Therefore since this law requiring a permit is in direct violation of a Constitutional provision, it is therefore without any legal force. That alone gives one the right to ignore it and protest in any number.
There are rare instances, such as serious national issues, where a constitutional provision can be temporarily amended. But such instances, as I said, are very rare.
For instance the constitution does prohibit the government from carrying out random searches and seizures against the person or property. Ordinarily the police need a magistrate’s warrant for this. They cannot just barge in. But this rule can be changed in emergencies, for instance during the unrest in Northern Ireland, where the rule against searches and seizures was relaxed to permit searches merely upon suspicion. But as I said, these challenges to the Constitution are rare and only in emergencies.
In Singapore Lee Kuan Yew government's law that requires permits for a peaceful assembly for 4 or more people is clearly unjustified and illegal. There is no compelling or urgent need based on national security reasons or otherwise for a law requiring these permits. Singapore is a peaceful place and peaceful protests pose not danger to anyone, not even to Lee Kuan Yew or his son.
Therefore this law is illegal and ultra vires the Constitution.
Second, even if this law is permissible; which it is not; it again becomes illegal when the government does not exercise it fairly, justly, legally or in a judicious manner.
You will recall that Dr. Chee did apply for a permit; even though he did not have to; to hold the assembly on March 15, 2008. Even though there was no danger to anyone for Dr. Chee to hold the assembly; Mr. Wong Kan Seng, the Minister for Home Affairs flatly refuses it without any reasons.
Furthermore the law requires the striking out of legal provisions that clearly violate the provisions of the Constitution, unless the government can show a compelling reason to justify it. Here, the government could show no such compelling reason based on national security or otherwise. There was clearly no danger to anyone by Dr. Chee and 50 others holding a peaceful assembly in front of Parliament House, Singapore. Therefore the denial of Dr. Chee's application for a permit was clearly illegal and without any basis. Again, this denial of a permit alone is sufficient for the protesters to break this law.
The other reason why these peaceful protesters were arrested was because the government claims the area outside Parliament House was a gazetted security area and no one is allowed to protest there. A whole load of humbug. Very convenient for Lee Kuan Yew, his son and his family but not so convenient to the citizens of Singapore.
This practice of gazetting places as security areas is merely a ploy to prevent ordinary citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. This law is invalid and illegal. There can be no justification for such a law in any part of Singapore unless a legitimate and compelling reason based on national security is shown. No such reason exists for the space in front of Parliament. Members of the public are there all the time. In fact, you can see busloads of Japanese tourists in the hundreds there with cameras at hand. Why were the Japanese tourists not told to leave because the spot was gazetted?
Parliament of Singapore is a mere rubber stamp, as you know. There are 82 as well as 2 opposition MPs in Parliament who attend at its sittings ready at any moment to say that Lee Kuan Yew is Jesus Christ! So the laws these so called Members of Parliament pass are actually those of Lee Kuan Yew and his son. These two rule by dictate. The 84 MPs are stooges employed merely to say "Yes Sir."
Therefore it is you who has to decide what rights you have and what you have not. As far as Lee and Son are concerned, you don't have any at all.
Finally you are within your right in these circumstances to protest. You can realize by now that contesting elections every 4 years has not done you any good. I hope you realize that by now. If you do, then you must know that your only salvation lies in deliberately opposing this regime in protests.
There are many books in Constitutional Law but the book that I read at University was Stanley A De Smith's “Constitutional and Administrative Law.” I understand it is available through Amazon but I am sure the regular bookshops will carry other books on Constitutional Law. It will tell you your rights.
Lastly remember that police officers such as Deep Singh, DSP, Tanglin Police Station, who misused his police powers dispersing and harassing peaceful citizens at the Burmese protests; and on this occasion ASP William Goh who arrested Dr. Chee and 10 others at Parliament House, were not being entirely honest when they kept repeating that the protesters were engaged in an illegally assembly. It was not illegal at all. If anything was illegal, it was the actions of such dishonest officers such as Deep Singh, DSP and William Goh, ASP.
As for further information on Constitutional Law, I am sure Mr. Chia Ti Lik, Lawyer, one of the protesters will be pleased to enlighten you. His phone number is 6225 9983. You can also Email me at email@example.com or call me at United States (510) 657 6107. Remember Pacific Daylight Time here is 15 hours behind Singapore time.
Don’t let up in protesting against this regime. You are already winning, as all the signs indicate. This government is finding it increasingly difficult to function, despite the propaganda being put out daily by its state owned and controlled media such as the Straits Times.
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Tel: 510 657 6107
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And if you like what I write, please tell your friends. This blog not only gives information, it dispels the government propaganda put out by this dictatorial regime.