Activist Jolovan Wham to be charged today

Mr Jolovan Wham will be charged with organising public assemblies without a police permit.
Mr Jolovan Wham will be charged with organising public assemblies without a police permit.

Civil rights activist Jolovan Wham will be charged today with organising public assemblies without a police permit and refusing to sign his statements on multiple occasions.

Mr Wham, the former executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), is known for championing the rights of foreign workers.

The police said in a statement yesterday that Mr Wham, 37, had created a Facebook event asking the public to participate in a vigil outside Changi Prison Complex on July 13.

He went on to hold the event despite stating on the social media platform that a permit had not been sought, the police said. Mr Wham and 16 others were investigated for their various roles in organising and taking part in an illegal assembly outside the prison. The vigil was for Malaysian Prabagaran Srivijayan, 29, who was convicted of importing 22.24g of heroin into Singapore. He was hanged at dawn on July 14.

Investigations into the 16 others are ongoing. They include Mr Terry Xu, chief editor of sociopolitical website The Online Citizen, and freelance journalist Kirsten Han, who founded and writes for New Naratif.

Mr Wham will be charged with organising a public assembly without a permit, the police said, adding that it was not the first time he had done so.

He is also accused of organising a "silent protest" on an MRT train with eight others without a permit on June 3, and of pasting two A4 sheets on a train panel, committing a vandalism offence. They were protesting against the detentions of 22 people accused of a Marxist conspiracy under the Internal Security Act 30 years ago. Mr Wham then posted pictures of the protest on Facebook.

Police investigations into the other eight people are ongoing.

On Nov 26 last year, Mr Wham organised an indoor public assembly featuring a foreign speaker, said the police, adding he was told before the event that he had to obtain a permit. Mr Wham still held the event, committing an offence of organising a public assembly without a permit under the Public Order Act, the police said. The foreign speaker was Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who took part via Skype.

Mr Wham said in a Facebook post last December that although a permit was not granted, he and his co-organiser "went ahead anyway because it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements".

During investigations into these cases, Mr Wham refused to sign his statement on multiple occasions when required to, the police added.

"Wham is recalcitrant and has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for the law, especially with regard to organising or participating in illegal public assemblies," the police said.

It is a criminal offence to organise or participate in a public assembly without a police permit.

"The Speakers' Corner, on the other hand, is an established space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues with which they are concerned. Singapore citizens can organise public assemblies at the Speakers' Corner in accordance with the rules," the police said.

Those convicted of organising a public assembly without a police permit can be fined up to $5,000. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or face a combination of these.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Activist Jolovan Wham to be charged today'. Print Edition | Subscribe