Petition calling for Jolovan Wham's charges to be dropped attracts nearly 5,000 signatures

Mr Jolovan Wham was hauled to court to face seven charges in November 2017, including one count of vandalism, and three counts each of organising a public assembly without a permit and refusing to sign police statements.
Mr Jolovan Wham was hauled to court to face seven charges in November 2017, including one count of vandalism, and three counts each of organising a public assembly without a permit and refusing to sign police statements.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Nearly 5,000 people have signed an online petition calling for charges against civil rights activist Jolovan Wham to be dropped.

The signatories include members of the arts community, politicians and activists.

Arts educator T. Sasitharan, playwright Alfian Sa'at and comic artist Sonny Liew are among prominent names on the list, seen by The Straits Times.

Others include Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah and former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say.

The petition was started by civil society group Young Catalysts.

An accompanying letter urged the authorities to "drop all charges against Jolovan Wham, and to uphold our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly by amending the laws that prevent peaceful citizens from doing so, such as Section 7 of the Public Order Act".

Mr Wham, the former executive director of migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, was hauled to court to face seven charges last November.

These include one count of vandalism, and three counts each of organising a public assembly without a permit and refusing to sign police statements.

The public assemblies included a vigil held outside Changi Prison Complex last July, ahead of the execution of a drug offender.

The petition has been delivered to the Prime Minister's Office and Attorney-General's Chambers, said Mr Kenneth Lin of Young Catalysts.

It stated that the prosecution of Mr Wham "has a chilling effect on free speech where the law is used as a tool of intimidation against peaceful and non-violent activists".

The petition added that the charges violated the universal rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

There have been previous shows of support for Mr Wham. More than 80 people turned up to do so at Hong Lim Park on Dec 10 last year, on International Human Rights Day.

That same month, a group of Malaysian non-governmental organisations and individuals released a joint statement expressing solidarity with him, and urging that charges against him to be dropped.