Artist charged over 'public procession' from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House

SINGAPORE - Artist and activist Seelan Palay has been charged with taking part in a public procession without a permit, for a performance art piece last year meant as a tribute to longtime political detainee Chia Thye Poh.

Mr Seelan, 33, who appeared in court on Friday (May 18), was performing a piece titled 32 Years: The Interrogation Of A Mirror, when he was arrested on Oct 1 last year. Dr Chia, a former Barisan Sosialis member, spent 32 years living in detention and under restriction.

Carrying a mirror that he would draw on, Mr Seelan started the performance in Hong Lim Park before making his way to the National Gallery Singapore, and then Parliament House, where he was arrested.

Court documents said the procession took place from around 2.20pm to 3.10pm, and was carried out for three reasons.

Apart from marking Dr Chia's detention, the procession was also to "demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Singapore Government in relation to that detention", said the documents.

Another aim was to "demonstrate opposition to the Singapore Government's actions of designating the Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park as an area for public entertainment in the form of performances".

Mr Seelan has previously spoken out on a range of issues, from the death penalty to detention without trial.

If found guilty, Mr Seelan, who is out on bail of $5,000, may be fined up to $3,000.

Dr Chia, who is 77 this year, was arrested in October 1966 for organising and leading an illegal street procession to demand the release of all political detainees and the abolishment of laws he deemed undemocratic, among other things.

After being detained for 23 years, Dr Chia was released in 1989 and allowed to live on Sentosa island. Since 1992, he has been allowed to live on mainland Singapore.

Restrictions imposed on his travel, public speeches and political activities were fully lifted by the Government in 1998.