In Singapore, one single person may be counted as a crowd

Singapore activist in court over one-man ‘smiley face’ protest

Jolovan Wham is facing charges under Public Order Act after posing for a photo with his placard in March.

Jolovan Wham is being charged for an offence under the Public Order Act for holding a placard with a smiley face outside a police station on March 28 [Jolovan Wham/Handout via Reuters]
Jolovan Wham is being charged for an offence under the Public Order Act for holding a placard with a smiley face outside a police station on March 28 [Jolovan Wham/Handout via Reuters]

23 Nov 2020 Al Jazeera

Social worker and activist Jolovan Wham appeared in a Singapore court on Monday morning accused of illegal assembly after standing alone outside a police station holding a placard with a hand-drawn smiley face in March.

Wham, who has had a number of run-ins with the authorities in the tightly controlled country, wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with a smiley face and matching mask on his way to court.KEEP READINGSingapore’s governing PAP returns to power but faces setbackMalaysian man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom callClimate change activists test strict Singapore protest lawsSingapore faces first legal challenge over ‘fake news’ law

“My guilt is plain for all to see,” he joked in a Twitter post.

The charges stem from an incident in March when Wham stood outside a police station to show his support for young climate change activists who had been questioned by police over similar single-person protests. Singapore has strict laws on public assembly – even though the freedoms are enshrined in its constitution – and tightly controls the media and freedom of speech and expression.

If found guilty, Wham faces a maximum fine of 5,000 Singapore dollars ($3,725).https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1330687098563686400&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.aljazeera.com%2Fnews%2F2020%2F11%2F23%2Fsingapore-activist-charged-over-one-man-smiley-face-protest&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

Under Singapore law, there is only one park on the island where residents are allowed to participate in public assemblies without a permit and even a solo protest is outlawed without police permission.

In 2018, performance artist Seelan Palay spent two weeks in prison after one of his performances, during which he walked with a mirror out of the park to Singapore’s parliament building, was deemed an illegal procession.

Wham began a smileinsolidarity social media campaign after the charges were announced on Friday, asking others to post pictures of themselves with smileys to show their support.

In August, Wham spent two weeks in jail after he was found guilty under the Public Order Act of illegal assembly after organising a private forum in 2016 at which Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong spoke over Skype. Wham went to jail rather than pay the 2,000 Singapore dollar ($1,490) fine.SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

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