ATTENDING VIGIL CONSIDERED PUBLIC ASSEMBLY WITHOUT PERMIT.

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I’ve been staying off FB but circumstances has now forced me back on.

On 13 July, I was at a candlelight vigil for Prabagaran Srivijayan, on the night before he was executed by hanging at Changi prison. Almost 2 months after, on the Sunday morning of 3rd September, I received a hand-delivered notice for a police interview, in relation to the “offence of Taking Part in a Public Assembly without a Permit”.

Yesterday, when I called to reschedule the interview to Friday 2 pm (tomorrow), Insp asked if I would be traveling overseas. I said I would be going to Perth on 15 Sept for work before returning to Singapore on 17 Sept. Insp told me that I would not be allowed to travel overseas since the investigation was ongoing. I was appalled. This sounded not only extremely unreasonable, but was it even legal? Since I have not been charged or put under arrest, can the police take away my right to travel without any court order?

So anyway, I asked to clarify the matter and was transferred to the Chief Investigating Officer. He reiterated that travel would not be allowed as long as investigation is ongoing. I told him that if the investigation took one year, then it would be most extreme if my right to travel was suspended for that whole period. Chief IO then added that the first period of investigation would be taken as until the scheduled interview. After that, an assessment would be made as to whether I was allowed to travel. I then asked what law or what procedure allowed the police to take such a course of action. Chief IO told me it was the Criminal Procedure Code, Chapter 68, Section 112.

As you can see, Section 112 relates to the surrender of travel documents for persons suspected of any offence. But since I have not been ordered to surrender my passport, how can the police unilaterally suspend my right to travel?

It may seem a trivial thing, this suspension of the right to travel. But there’s a bigger issue about proper procedure, and about the rights of citizens and the boundaries of police power. It’s also an example of how civil rights in this country are being gradually stripped away, inch by inch, little by little, until one day, we realize that the only rights we have left is the right to obey. You have been warned.

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