Police questions Martyn See over forum invites

Mr Martyn See, Executive Secretary of Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD), was called up and questioned by the Singapore Police on Wednesday, 12 October, SFD says in a press release signed by its Executive Director, Dr James Gomez.

The group says Mr See “spent an hour and a half at the Cantonment Police Complex from 10am to 11.30am answering questions pertaining to an investigation under the Public Order Act 2009 for a private forum he organized on behalf of SFD on 24 September 2011.”

The forum, titled “Lee Kuan Yew: liberal democracy will do us in. Will it?”, featured Members of Parliament, Mr Tian Chua from Malaysia and Ms Mu Sochua from Cambodia, ex-ISA detainee Mr Vincent Cheng and blogger Mr Alex Au.

Among the topics raised was Singapore’s retention of the Internal Security Act (ISA). Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced that his government would abolish the Act in his country. At the forum, Mr Tian Chua said he feels the Singapore government is under “tremendous pressure” to follow in Malaysia’s footsteps and do away with the Act as well.

The SFD says Mr See received a formal notice from the police on 5 October requesting him to present himself to one Officer S. Vickneshwaran (Officer-In-Charge, General Investigation Squad 5, Centra Police Division) to answer questions for the said investigation.

Mr See says he was questioned for 90 minutes, and was asked 48 questions, “mainly nitpicking if [the] event was private or public.”

In 2004, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that indoor talks held in Singapore would no longer require permits or licenses. “[We’ve] decided we are going to exempt indoor talks from licensing requirements unless they touch on sensitive issues like race and religion,” PM Lee said then.

However, it appears that the police’s investigation of the 24 September forum is about “whether inviting participants through a Facebook events page and email was a private or public activity”, according to the SFD press release.

This is the second time Mr See has been investigated by the police. In 2005, he was placed under police probe for 15 months following the banning of his documentary ‘Singapore Rebel’ about opposition member, Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Dr Gomez, who accompained Mr See to Cantonment Police Complex said, “One of SFD’s objectives in its Constituition is to apply the use of new media tools for organizational decision making processes, information dissemination, networking, mobilization and advocacy to promote democracy. However, when our members do so, like in this instance to organise a private forum, they get called up for police investigations.”

Separately, the police is also investigating the events pertaining to another forum – this time organised by Dr Chee’s party, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which was held on 8 October. The forum, titled “Silenced No Longer”, featured video-conferencing with former ISA detainees, Mr Francis Seow and Ms Tang Fong Har.

It is understood that the police is looking into whether there was a “breach of law” in the forum having the two guests “involved in domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable”.

Mr Seow was arrested and detained in 1987 under the ISA for 72 days. Ms Tang was detained for 3 months. Both have since left Singapore and are resident in the United States and Hong Kong respectively.

As for Mr See, he is taking it all in his stride, as he did in 2005. “I was mostly bored,” he posted on his Facebook page about the police questioning. “In the meantime, it should be business as usual, folks. Don’t stop caring, engaging and speaking up.”

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SFD Media Release

12 Oct 2011

Police Investigates Private Forum Under Public Order Act

Martyn See, Executive Secretary, Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD), today spent an hour and a half at the Cantonment Police Complex from 10am to 11.30am answering questions pertaining to an investigation under the Public Order Act 2009 for a private forum he organized on behalf of SFD on 24 September 2011.

The forum was held at private function room at the Public House, after the original venue administrator, Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI), cancelled the pre-paid booking by locking its venue and preventing entry to participants.

About 30 participants then proceeded to attend the talk at an alternate venue – Public House – after they were informed of the change at the site of the original venue.

The forum featured Members of Parliament, Tian Chua from Malaysia and Mu Sochua from Cambodia, ex-ISA detainee Vincent Cheng and blogger Alex Au.

Following a phone call on 3 October 2011, Mr See received a formal notice dated 5 October 2011 requesting him to present himself to appear in front of S. Vickneshwaran (Officer-In-Charge, General Investigation Squad 5, Central Police Division) to answer questions for the said investigation.

The nub of the questioning surrounded whether inviting participants through a Facebook events page and email was a private or public activity.

This is the second time Mr See has been investigated by the police. In 2005, See was placed under police probe for 15 months following the banning of his documentary ‘Singapore Rebel’. In 2009, See had to postpone a public forum on the Internal Security Act (ISA) after the original venue, Bestway Building, was visited by CID officers after the event was publicised on See’s blog. Police then called See to apply for a permit, to which See wrote to the Law Ministry requesting an explanation. The event was subsequently held at Quality Hotel without any permit application.

SFD emphasizes that the forum was organised as a private event and urge the police to cease investigations immediately.

Dr. James Gomez

Executive Director

Singaporeans For Democracy

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