On November 29, Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham was charged by the police for “organizing public assemblies without a permit under the Public Order Act, an offense of vandalism under the Vandalism Act, and for refusing to sign his statements under the Penal Code.”
Wham is an activist known for his campaigns promoting the rights of migrant workers, free speech in Singapore, and reform of the country’s laws on detention and death penalty.
Wham’s seven offences listed by the police are in connection several protest events: 1. July 14 candle lighting vigil in solidarity with the family of a person facing the death penalty 2. June 13 ‘silent protest’ inside a train about the arrest of “Marxist conspirators’ in 1987 and 3. November 26, 2016 indoor forum whose speaker included Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaking via Skype.
The police accused Wham of organizing these activities without securing the approval of authorities and described Wham as a ‘recalcitrant’:
Wham was briefly detained on November 29 but released after posting bail.
His case alarmed many activist groups which warned about the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Singapore.
An online petition signed by more than 3,900 people (as of this writing) urged the government to drop the charges against Wham:
Another online petition addressed to the country’s prime minister highlighted the importance of Wham’s activism:
Function 8, a non-government organization (NGO), praised Wham as “the voice of the voiceless.”
Community Action Network, another local NGO, appealed to the government to reconsider its policies restricting free speech:
Aware Singapore, a human rights group, thinks it’s time to review regulations that undermine the people’s civil liberties:
MARUAH, another human rights group, insisted that Wham’s activism should not be treated by the police as a criminal act.
Wham’s supporters organized a solidarity event on December 10 in time for International Human Rights Day celebrations. Some of his friends also shared stories of how Wham inspired many people through his activism.
Wham also got the support of 52 Malaysian NGOs which signed a statement urging the Singapore government to withdraw the charges filed against him.
This ironic tweet featuring reflects the determination of Wham and his colleagues to question the legitimacy of being labeled ‘recalcitrant’:
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