Activist's permit was for Speakers' Corner, court told

Artist Seelan Palay entering the court yesterday to attend the trial in which he was accused of staging a procession without a permit.
Artist Seelan Palay entering the court yesterday to attend the trial in which he was accused of staging a procession without a permit. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Seelan said to have committed an offence in a 'public procession' from there to Parliament House

The National Parks Board had approved a permit application by artist and activist Seelan Palay for a performance art piece last October, and the permit was restricted to the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park, a district court heard yesterday .

Seelan is said to have committed an offence when he staged a ''public procession'' from the park to the National Gallery and Parliament House to commemorate the detention of long-time political detainee Chia Thye Poh. His performance art piece, titled 32 Years: The Interrogation of A Mirror, was meant as a tribute to the 32 years that Dr Chia had spent living in detention and under restriction.

On the first day of the trial, the court heard that Seelan, 33, was accused of taking part in the alleged procession without a permit between 2.23pm and 3.15pm on Oct 1 last year. According to court papers, the procession had aimed to ''demonstrate opposition'' in two areas: The actions of the Government in relation to Dr Chia's detention and its requirement of a licence for public entertainment in the form of performances outside the Speakers' Corner.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum told District Judge Salina Ishak that Seelan arrived at the Speakers' Corner at around 2pm on Oct 1 to begin the event attended by about 30 people.

He later walked out of Hong Lim Park and made his way to the National Gallery, where he used a marker to draw on a mirror that he had been holding. He then walked to the Parliament House and stood in the middle of an entrance to a driveway, with the mirror in front of him.

DPP Lum said: ''The accused was engaged by auxiliary police officers who were on duty at the Parliament House. The accused did not leave the location despite being told to do so and police assistance was called.''

The police arrested Seelan at 3.15pm. Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Lionel Lee, who was part of the team that arrested Seelan, testified. He said that according to an auxiliary police officer, a crowd that had followed Seelan from Hong Lim Park stood behind him at the Parliament House.

 
 

Seelan, who was not represented by a lawyer, cross-examined ASP Lee and asked if his performance was a threat to national security.

The officer replied it was not, but added: ''At the very least, it caused disturbance to the staff at the Parliament House, which was why police were called in.'' He also said the Parliament House is a restricted area and no permit will be issued for any assemblies or processions at restricted places.

Seelan is expected to give his testimony today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2018, with the headline 'Activist's permit was for Speakers' Corner, court told'. Print Edition | Subscribe