Illegal procession: Activist refuses to pay fine, gets jail

Seelan Palay had obtained a National Parks Board permit for his performance last October, but this restricted the event to Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. Instead, he walked from the park to the National Gallery and then to Parliament House.
Seelan Palay had obtained a National Parks Board permit for his performance last October, but this restricted the event to Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. Instead, he walked from the park to the National Gallery and then to Parliament House.ST FILE PHOTO

Two weeks' jail for artist who does not want to pay $2,500 fine over event held last year

Artist and activist Seelan Palay was jailed for two weeks yesterday after refusing to pay a fine imposed for being part of a public procession without a permit.

Seelan was arrested last October when he walked from Hong Lim Park to the National Gallery and then to Parliament House as part of a performance art piece but he did not have a permit, a court was told.

He was convicted and fined $2,500 under the Public Order Act yesterday but he refused to pay. This triggered a default sentence of a two-week jail term.

Seelan, 33, was handcuffed and taken from the court once the session ended.

His court appearance came after his arrest following the public procession between 2.23pm and 3.15pm on Oct 1 last year.

He had obtained a National Parks Board permit for his performance, but this restricted the event to Speakers' Corner in the park.

The court heard that Seelan had left the park and walked to the National Gallery, where he used a marker to draw on a mirror he was holding.

 
 

He then walked to Parliament House and stood in the middle of an entrance to a driveway with the mirror in front of him.

Police arrested him when he refused to budge.

"The accused had set out to deliberately break the law that day," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum yesterday.

Mr Lum called for the maximum sentence of a $3,000 fine, saying that Seelan had been charged with the same offence three times in 2010.

DELIBERATE ACTIONS

The accused had set out to deliberately break the law that day.

DEPUTY PUBLIC PROSECUTOR DWAYNE LUM, on activist Seelan Palay.

Seelan, who represented himself, told the court: "I would like to reiterate that I did not threaten Singapore's public order, national security, relations with other countries or commit an immoral act."

He had testified that the title of his performance, 32 Years: The Interrogation Of A Mirror, referred to his age at the time and not the 32-year detention of long-time political detainee Chia Thye Poh.

District Judge Salina Ishak rejected his excuse for the "32 years" in the title of his performance, calling it an attempt to evade the consequences of his actions.

She agreed with the prosecution that Seelan had publicised the event prior to the date, showing that it was planned and that he had deliberately set out to break the law.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'Illegal procession: Activist refuses to pay fine, gets jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe