Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Open letter to Police Commissioner on Public Order Act

Emailed to Commissioner Ng Joo Hee and police feedback unit on 6 Aug 2013.


Dear Commissioner Ng,

Criteria for approval of permits for cause-related events

I write to enquire about the criteria by which the Singapore Police Force approves public assemblies which publicise a cause.

On 2nd August, a platoon of actors dressed up in SAF attire had assembled in Raffles Place at lunchtime to perform army drills at the command of the public.

On 6th July, organised a Race Against Racism at the outdoor area of the Marina Bay Sands.

In recent years, the Embassy of the Philippines has held their Independence Day celebrations at Hong Lim Park, the last of which on June 16, 2013.

Under the Public Order Act (2009), an assembly (or procession) which require a permit is defined as follows:

A gathering or meeting (whether or not comprising any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion) of persons the purpose (or one of the purposes) of which is —

(a)to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government;

(b)to publicise a cause or campaign; or

(c)to mark or commemorate any event,
and includes a demonstration (or march) by a person alone for any such purpose referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c);

My questions are as follows :

1. The army drill event at Raffles Place had involved the use of actors portraying SAF personnel for a commercial cause. Did the organiser National Geographic Channel apply for a police permit? Does the unauthorised use of SAF uniforms also amounts to a possible violation of section 6 of the Official Secrets Act (Chapter 213)?

2. The Race Against Racism event had promoted a religious and racial cause. Did the organisers apply for a police permit?

3. Does the commemoration of Philippines' Independence Day fall within the above definition of assembly? And if so, did the Embassy apply for a police permit to hold their annual events at Hong Lim Park?

4. Why did the police ALLOW these events while having REJECTED the following:

May 2010: Application by Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) to hold a solidarity walk to raise awareness of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Domestic Workers' Convention.

Dec 2010 : Application by political association Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) for a march for 30 persons from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House to mark International Human Rights Day.

Dec 2010: Application by HOME for a single lorry vehicle procession to raise awareness of foreign workers who were killed in lorry accidents.

Dec 2010: Application by HOME to distribute flyers to raise awareness of the United Nations' International Migrants' Day.

Mar 2011 : Application by Ms Rachel Zeng for a one-woman march from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House to mark International Women's Day

Jan 2009 : Application by a group which included Ms Rachel Zeng and Mr Seelan Palay for a "Gather For Gaza" peace vigil in Speakers' Corner was denied by NParks and was referred to the police. Would the police grant such applications?

Dec 2011 : Application by Mr Martyn See for an anti-racism rally in Speakers' Corner to mark International Human Rights Day.

May 2012: Application for 'solidarity walk' by HOME to commemorate Labour Day at East Coast Park.

May 2013 : Application by Mr Alfian Sa'at for a one-man demonstration to show "Support for the PAP" on Orchard Road.

May 2013: Mr Jolovan Wham's application to distribute flyers along Orchard Road to raise awareness for issues affecting low wage workers in Singapore.

4. Can you state precisely the security risks involved in each of the above denial of applications, and what steps can applicants take to minimise or eliminate those risks?

This is an open letter as your interpretation and application of the Public Order Act is of concern to the public, especially since Section 14 of the Singapore Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably.

See Tong Ming, Martyn


Received on 7 Aug.

Dear Sir,

I refer to your email of 6 August 2013 to the Commissioner of Police.

2 The Police have taken cognizance of your feedback and your feedback has been forwarded to our relevant department.

3 Thank you for writing in to us.

Yours faithfully,

Vivien LIM (Ms)
Manager Feedback Unit | Service Feedback Division
Service Delivery Department | Singapore Police Force
Hotline: 1800-358 0000 | E-mail: