Amendments to Singapore’s Public Order Act gave authorities greater powers to restrict or ban public assemblies. Freedom of expression and assembly suffered another blow as charges were brought against those who participated in peaceful protests.
Freedom of assembly
In April, amendments to the Public Order Act to impose more regulations on organizers of public events passed into law. The amended law stipulated that organizers must apply for a permit at least 28 days in advance of an event and inform the police of the estimated size of the gathering. Punishments laid down for breaches of the regulations included a fine of up to S$20,000 (USD14,297), imprisonment for up to a year, or both. Permit applications could be rejected if the gathering was for a political purpose or was attended, organized or funded by foreign nationals.1
Human rights defenders were investigated by police for participating in peaceful public assemblies. In June, nine activists who held a silent protest were investigated for assembly without a permit under the Public Order Act. In September, 10 activists were investigated for holding a peaceful vigil for Prabagaran Srivijayan on the eve of his execution in July.2 In November, activist Jolovan Wham faced seven charges for his role in several peaceful assemblies over a one year period, including the silent protest and vigil for Prabagaran Srivijayan.3
Freedom of expression
In August, lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was fined S$7,000 (USD5,122) for contempt of court after posting a poem about the execution of his client, Muhammed Ridzuan Mohd Ali. Contempt of court proceedings were initiated against US-based academic Li Shengwu for a Facebook post suggesting Singapore’s courts were not independent. In September, artist and activist Seelan Palay was arrested under the Public Order Act for performing a political art piece outside Parliament.
Execution by hanging continued to be carried out for murder and drug trafficking. On 14 July, Malaysian national Prabagaran Srivijayan was executed despite an appeal pending on his case in Malaysia.4
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
LGBTI people continued to suffer discrimination. In July, organizers were required by authorities to conduct identity checks at the annual Pink Dot LGBTI event. Foreigners were officially banned from taking part.5
Workers’ rights – migrant workers
Housing conditions for foreign workers were criticized by NGOs and at least one construction firm was fined for housing workers in unhygienic conditions.
Counter-terrorism and security
Arrests continued under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention without charge or trial for indefinitely renewable two-year periods.
- Singapore: Authorities given broad new powers to police protests (News story, 4 April)
- Singapore: Investigation into peaceful assembly is the latest effort to intimidate human rights defenders (ASA 36/7076/2017)
- Singapore: Activist faces seven charges for peaceful protest (ASA 36/7516/2017)
- Singapore: Malaysian man hanged in hurried, secretive manner (ASA 36/6740/2017)
- Singapore: Restrictions to LGBT gathering another attempt to suppress activism (ASA 36/6386/2017)