Activist in unauthorised protest near ICA building gets 3 days' jail for refusing to pay full fine

Gilbert Goh was fined $2,000 for taking part in a protest without a permit, and fined $1,200 for refusing to sign a police statement. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Local activist Goh Keow Wah, better known as Gilbert Goh, who was fined $3,200 on Friday (Aug 19) for offences including taking part in a protest without a permit, will spend three days behind bars after the court heard that he will not be paying the full sum.

Goh, 61, was earlier convicted of one count each of refusing to sign a police statement, as well as an offence under the Public Order Act.

He was fined $2,000 on Friday for taking part in 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 was also fined $1,200 for refusing to sign a statement which he later gave to the police. 

But, following the sentencing, defence lawyer Lim Tean told Deputy Principal District Judge Luke Tan that his client would only pay the $2,000 fine.

Goh opted to serve the default jail term of three days for his other offence.

During last year's assembly, he 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.

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 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 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.

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."

On Friday, DPP Chong urged the court to sentence Goh to a total fine of between $3,700 and $4,200.

He said that Goh's conduct was aimed at unravelling Singapore's social fabric and that the activist had shown a complete lack of remorse.

Pleading for his client to be given a total fine of not more than $1,500, Mr Lim said that the prosecution had unfairly tried to paint Goh as somebody who was out to create resentment against foreigners.

The lawyer told the court that Goh was not a person who would create divisiveness, stressing that the activist had performed charitable work and brought relief to the homeless.

Goh later addressed the court, stating that he is neither anti-foreigner nor xenophobic.

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