LETTER | We are a group of concerned Malaysian citizens who are alarmed and disappointed by Singapore’s prosecution of the renowned social worker and activist Jolovan Wham.
Jolovan was charged with seven offences under the Public Order Act, Vandalism Act, and the Penal Code for his peaceful and non-violent acts.
He was alleged to have organised three unlawful assemblies, which involves holding a vigil outside Changi Prison for Malaysian death row inmate Prabagaran Srivijayan, who was to be executed at dawn, organising an assembly without permit in a train, and a forum involving Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong through skype.
In the alleged silent protest on an MRT train, Jolovan and eight others held the book “1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On” to commemorate “Operation Spectrum,” a security operation initiated by Singapore government in 1987.
Jolovan faces a vandalism charge for sticking two A4 size posters on the train during the event. He also faces three counts of refusal to sign his recorded statement under the Penal Code.
He is a renowned social worker and activist. He bravely speaks up for the voiceless, the weak and the oppressed – no matter what race, class or gender.
Jolovan was recognised for his excellent social work, for he received the “Promising Social Worker Award” in 2011, which was conferred by the president of Singapore.
When he was serving as the executive director of Home (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics), he fought for the rights of migrant workers in Singapore who suffered abuse and ill-treatment by employers.
At the same time, he has been a staunch advocate of free speech and a human rights champion who speaks out against the death penalty and detention without trial.
Jolovan also initiated solidarity activities in Singapore to support social movements in other parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Besides his support of Prabagaran, Jolovan organised after the Malaysian 13th General Election cross-border solidarity activities to support fair and clean elections in the country, not to mention his support for its largest rally in recent years, Bersih.
We believe that Jolovan is the conscience of Singapore, who bravely speaks up for the voiceless, who opposes unjust treatment and policies towards the marginalised.
What is even more admirable of Jolovan is that, while fighting for minority rights in Singapore, he always goes beyond national borders and boundaries. His solidarity activities show that Singapore’s civic movement not only fights for Singaporeans, but also speaks for worldwide democracies and marginalised foreigners in Singapore.
He demonstrates how Singaporeans and Singapore civil society can join forces and unite with democratic movements around the world.
The prosecution of Jolovan is a scare tactic to silence dissidents in Singapore. Non-violent and peaceful assembly is meant to raise awareness among the public to achieve a democratic society, and thus it is not reasonable for Singapore government to charge him with these criminal laws.
Recently, we have found that Singapore government is acting more actively to suppress dissidents. Besides Jolovan, other individuals are facing arrests and investigation, including editor of The Online Citizen Terry Xu and journalist Kirsten Han, who were investigated for participating the vigil activity for Prabagaran Srivijayan; activist Rachel Zeng also faces investigation for organising the skype forum with Joshua Wong; and artist Seelan Palay, who was arrested for his performance outside parliament to commemorate the 32-year detention of Chia Thye Poh.
Singapore ranks number one in the world in many sectors, but its disregard of freedom of speech and assembly and its harsh actions towards dissidents are utterly disappointing.
We support Jolovan and other human rights advocates in Singapore, and condemn the use of draconian laws against dissidents. We urge the attorney-general of Singapore to drop the charges against Jolovan and cease all proceedings against him.
We also call for Singapore to review its law to protect freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, to show the world that Singapore government is committed to democracy and the protection of the rights of its citizens.
We refuse to keep silent when confronted with injustice. As issues of human rights and humanitarian ideals transcend national boundaries, we urge citizens of Singapore and Malaysia to stand in solidarity with Jolovan Wham.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.