S'pore: Arrest of consumer rights protesters

Posted by Margaret John under News on 23 March 2008

Around 20 persons wearing red T-shirts that said "Tak Boleh Tahan" protested outside parliament house, holding placards and shouting slogans decrying the rising cost of living.

Singapore's annual inflation rate hit a 25-year high of 6.6 percent in January with food prices rising 5.8 percent in that month from a year earlier. Protests are rare and an assembly of five or more people requires a permit from the police.

15 March 2008, twelve people were arrested at the rally to mark World Consumer Rights Day and to protest rising prices.

(1) Dr Chee Soon Juan
(2) Mr Gandhi Ambalam
(3) Mr John Tan
(4) Mr Chia Ti Lik
(5) Ms Chee Siok Chin
(6) Mr Jeffery George
(7) Mr Sylvester Lim
(8) Mr Chong Kia Xiong
(9) Mr Seelan Palay
(10) Mr Muhammad Jufri
(11) Mr Muhammad Shafi'ie Syahmi
(12) Mr Yap Keng Ho

Eleven were released the evening of the same day on bail of S$1,000. Yap Keng Ho refused to sign for bail and remained in detention. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), which organized the rally, reports that he was charged with illegal assembly and illegal procession in court 17 March, and was then released. The SDP's application for a rally had been rejected by police on security grounds.

Rally participants, which numbered more than organizers expected, included Suraya Jufri and children. She was quoted as saying about the arrest of her husband Muhammad Jufri: "I'm very proud that my children got to see their father arrested by an undemocratic regime and when they grow up they know that their father stood up for freedom."

The SDP reported that police ignored pleas that it was a peaceful rally concerned with the welfare of all Singaporeeans. Instead, officers dealt roughly with the peaceful demonstrators, such as John Tan,a diabetic, who was dragged to a police van and handcuffed behind his back despite shoulder problems. The SDP rejected the police statement that Chee Siok Chin had tried to bite a female police officer. In a statement 19 March, the SDP reiterated its commitment to change through non-violence:

"[W]e will not fight back with violence....Instead we will fight back with non-violence and goodwill, armed with only our abiding faith in democracy and our love for our country."

Sources and Relevant Links:

Think Centre Listen to the voice of 300,000 "vulnerable poor"

Financial Times Proposed GST adds to worries over income disparity

Reuters Singapore arrests opposition members over protest15 Mar 08

IHT Singapore police round up opposition party members for protest against rising prices

Pseudonymity PHOTOS: Peaceful Protest against high cost of living

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