Police to charge activist Jolovan Wham in court; charges include organising public assemblies without permit

Police investigated 17 people, including civil activist Jolovan Wham, for their various roles in organising and participating in an illegal public assembly outside the prison. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Civil rights activist Jolovan Wham will be charged in court on Wednesday (Nov 29), the police said. He is accused of organising public assemblies without a police permit and refusing to sign his statements on multiple occasions.

Mr Wham, the former executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), is known for championing the rights of foreign workers.

In a statement on Tuesday, the police said Mr Wham, 37, had created a Facebook event asking the public to participate in a vigil outside Changi Prison Complex on July 13. He went on to hold the event despite stating on the social media platform that a permit had not been sought for the event, the police said.

The police said 17 people, including Mr Wham, were investigated for their various roles in organising and participating in an illegal public assembly outside the prison.

The vigil was for 29-year-old Malaysian Prabagaran Srivijayan, who was convicted of importing 22.24g of heroin into Singapore and hung at dawn on July 14. Investigations into the other 16 people - which include sociopolitical website editor Terry Xu and freelance journalist Kirsten Han - are ongoing.

Mr Wham will be charged for organising a public assembly without a permit, the police said, adding that it was not the first time he had organised or participated in illegal public assemblies.

It cited how on June 3, Mr Wham organised a "silent protest" on an MRT train with eight other people without a police permit. Mr Wham also pasted two A4-sheets on an MRT train panel, committing an offence of vandalism, the police said.

The group was protesting against the detention of 22 people, accused of a Marxist Conspiracy, under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 30 years ago. Mr Wham then posted pictures of it on Facebook. Police investigations into the other eight people are ongoing.

On Nov 26, 2016, Mr Wham organised an indoor public assembly featuring a foreign speaker, the police said. It added that Mr Wham was told before the event that he had to obtain a police permit. However, he held the event without one, committing an offence of organising a public assembly without a police permit under the Public Order Act, the police said.

The foreign speaker was Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who took part in the forum via Skype.

In a Facebook post last December, Mr Wham said that although a permit was not granted, he and his co-organiser "went ahead anyway because it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements".

During investigations into these cases, he refused to sign his statement on multiple occasions when required to, the police added.

"Wham is recalcitrant and has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for the law, especially with regard to organising or participating in illegal public assemblies," the police said.

The police reiterated it is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to organise or participate in a public assembly without a police permit in Singapore.

"The Speakers' Corner, on the other hand, is an established space for Singaporeans to express their views on issues with which they are concerned. Singapore citizens can organise public assemblies at the Speaker's Corner in accordance with the rules," the police said.

Those found guilty of organising a public assembly without a police permit can be fined up to $5,000.

Repeat offenders can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to six months, or face a combination of the punishments.

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