Activist Gilbert Goh convicted of taking part in public assembly without permit

Gilbert Goh also refused to sign a statement which he had given to the police. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Local activist Goh Keow Wah, better known as Gilbert Goh, held a public assembly to publicise a cause without a permit outside the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building in Kallang Road on May 1 last year.

He had carried a placard that read, "Please ban all flights from India we are not racist! Just being cautious," and later, posted pictures of his activity on Facebook.

His protest took place a week after Singapore barred all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who had been in India in the past 14 days from entering or transiting here due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in India at the time.

On Tuesday (July 26), Goh, 60, was convicted of one count each of an offence under the Public Order Act and for refusing to sign a statement which he had given to the police.

The court heard that Goh had refused to sign the statement recorded by a police officer at the Bedok Police Division on May 11 last year.

In their submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Chong and Yohanes Ng stated that by raising the placard up near the ICA building, Goh was plainly publicising a cause.

The prosecutors added: "The accused admitted that he knew that it was a requirement to apply for a police permit. He conceded that he did not bother applying for one.

"His claim that that he would not have been given one if he had applied is purely speculative, and in any event, irrelevant."

The prosecutors also said that his subsequent Facebook posts were illustrative of his motive for staging the protest.

They added: "A plain reading of the contents of his Facebook posts, which were sensationalist and provocative, shows that he intended by his actions to stir up anti-foreigner sentiment."

According to court documents, Goh's Facebook post dated May 22 last year had the caption: "Stop Singaporean genocide close the border."

It was superimposed over a photo of his protest.

The prosecutors cited another Facebook caption dated June 4 last year as "a clear attempt at stirring up anti-foreigner sentiment".

The prosecutors told the court that when confronted with the posts during the trial, Goh admitted that the placard display and his follow-up Facebook posts were intended to stir up anti-foreigner sentiment.

Goh is represented by lawyer Lim Tean.

In his defence, Goh had claimed that he was not publicising a cause and that he had "valid reasons" for not signing the statement later.

The prosecutors said his explanation for failing to sign the statement was not that he was not required to do so.

Instead, he had stated: "I do not wish to sign this statement as I am not given a copy and I do not have any defence for myself."

The prosecution said Goh's defence to the charges had no merit.

He will be sentenced on Aug 19.

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