Activist gets stern warning from police

Civil rights activist Jolovan Wham has received a stern warning from police for the use of the Singapore and Malaysian flags at an event at Hong Lim Park.

He had organised the event on Nov 13, last year in support of the Bersih 5 rally in Malaysia. On that day, some 15 participants laid a Singapore flag and a Malaysian flag on mats. They also held the flags up and took photos with them.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mr Wham, the former executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), uploaded photos of a warning letter he received from the police, dated Nov 28 this year.

The letter said investigations into three offences against him - allowing the national flag to touch the ground, displaying national emblems in public, and refusing to sign a statement - were completed.

While the police had assessed that Mr Wham did commit the offences, a decision had not been taken to prosecute him in court. "If you commit any offence in future, the same leniency may not be shown towards you," the letter added.

In his post, Mr Wham noted a new element in warning letters - they now come with a clarification on the back page stating, among other things, that the warning does not result in a criminal record. Neither does it affect the legal rights, interests or liabilities of the person being warned. It is not clear when such clarifications were introduced. When asked, police confirmed that changes have been made to the letter of warning but did not elaborate.

Mr Wham believes the clarifications were added as a result of a High Court case he mounted in late 2015 to quash a warning he received in March 2015. He was concerned it would cause severe prejudice against him as it remained on record. The High Court dismissed his bid, saying such warnings have no legal effect on the recipients.

Separately, Mr Wham was charged in court on Nov 29 for other alleged offences of organising public assemblies without a police permit, vandalism and refusing to sign police statements.

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'Activist gets stern warning from police'. Print Edition | Subscribe