Mr Michael Hwang SC
Law Society of Singapore
A group of activists, in which I am one, visited the Law Society of Singapore (LSS) last Wednesday, 14 July 2008. You probably know that we have been charged with taking part in an assembly and procession om 15 March 2008.
You may also know that I am presently in the midst of a trial in which I and another activist have been charged for speaking in public without a permit.
Mr Chia Ti Lik presented a letter to you (below) for and on our behalf in which we asserted our rights as citizens of Singapore in the exercise of our freedoms of speech and assembly as guaranteed in our Constitution.
Mr Shawn Toh was present to receive the letter whereupon he assured us that he would hand the letter to you. I also requested Mr Toh to convey our wish to meet with you over this and other related matters.
I note that in various publications, both in print and on the Internet, that you have spoken cogently on the matter of civil and political rights in Singapore, and the need for Singaporean lawyers to pay more attention to such cases.
I further note that under your leadership, the LSS has established the Public and International Law Committee to study human rights in Singapore and how they are applied.
Needless to say, such a view and initiative are most welcome for those of us advocating and working for greater political freedom in Singapore.
With these charges that my associates and I are facing, we hope to discuss with you how the LSS can assist in our matters as well as for the Society to play a more constructive and forward looking role in the matter of civil liberties of Singaporeans.
To date we have not heard from you regarding our request to meet with you but we are hopeful that you will reply soon.
As this matter is of great interest to Singaporeans, I hope you will understand if I make it available to the general public.
Thank you and best wishes.
Chee Soon Juan
Letter to the Law Society:
16th July 2008
Mr. Michael Hwang
President, Law Society of Singapore
APPEAL FOR PRO BONO LEGAL REPRESENTATION
We are the 18 Singaporeans charged for allegedly participating in an assembly and procession without permit near Parliament House on 15th March 2008.
We had as citizens claimed our right to peaceful assembly and presented ourselves before Parliament House to speak out against the multitude of ill-timed price hikes initiated by the Government, which have exacerbated the inflationary situation and cost of living for Singaporeans.
On 11th July 2008, we were all charged each with one count of assembly without a permit and one count of procession without a permit.
In light of the price hikes further initiated from the 15th March 2008 till today, it is clear that this Government remains unwilling to take active steps to make life less unbearable for all Singaporeans.
In the light of the decision to charge us for speaking up as citizens, it is clear that this Government will not hesitate to silence citizens by discouraging citizens from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Any stifling of civil and political expression by citizens is unhealthy for Singapore and it breeds contempt of the citizenry by the Executive which in turn leads to brazen disregard of citizens’ welfare in the policies practiced.
A government must be subservient to the People. This government cannot act unchallenged when it tries to restrict the fundamental liberties of Singaporeans.
The Laws of a country should be enacted to further the interests of the People and cannot be used to throttle civil and political expression.
Citizens have rights only slaves have no rights. Singapore Citizens are entitled by citizenship to fundamental liberties guaranteed by our constitution.
In view of the above, the Law Society of Singapore, being the body that represents our defenders of justice must assist citizens who are prosecuted by the State for exercising their fundamental liberties and cannot just stand idly by and be content to do nothing.
We hereby urge the Law Society of Singapore to step forth to arrange for legal representation for the 18 of us.
Chia Ti Lik
For and on behalf of:
Chee Soon Juan
Chee Siok Chin
John Tan Liang Joo
Ghandhi s/o Karrupiah Ambalam
Seelan s/o Palay
Muhammad Jufri Bin Mohd Salim
Lim Teck Hee Sylvester
Chong Kai Xiong
Surayah Binte Akbar
Lang Chin Kah Carl Coca
Francis Yong Chu Leong
Chia Ti Lik
Go Hui Leng
Mohamed Jufrie Bin Mahmood
Govinda Rajan s/o Surian
Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi Bin Sariman