Activist Jolovan Wham picks 16-day jail over S$3,200 fine for organising public assembly without permit

The event featured Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong.

Matthias Ang | February 21, 2019, 05:39 PM

Activist Jolovan Wham has opted to spend 16 days in jail for organising a public assembly without a permit in 2016, along with refusing to sign a police statement.

According to Channel NewsAsia (CNA), Wham was ordered to pay a fine of S$3,200 when he was first sentenced on Feb. 21.

Wham, however, decided not to pay the fine and was sentenced to jail in default.

The public assembly was held on on Nov. 26, 2016.

Called "Civil Disobedience and Social Movements", it was held at The AGORA along Sin Ming Lane and featured Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-Fung, via a video call.

An issue of discussion vs. public assembly

Wham's lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam, argued during the trial that the event was a discussion and that the permit requirement was a breach of Wham's constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

However, the prosecution argued that Wham's event was a public assembly given that thousands had been invited and that 366 people had indicated their interest in attending, CNA reported.

Additionally, Wham had also been informed by the police that a permit would be needed due to Wong's status as a foreigner. Despite that, Wham proceeded with the event.

Personal practice vs. procedures

Thuraisingam further stated that Wham's refusal to sign the police statement was due to his personal practice arising from the advice he gave migrant workers -- to only sign things that they would have a copy of.

The police officer involved in taking Wham's statement testified during the trial that Wham had been informed that his refusal to sign the statement could constitute an offence.

According to the Information Booklet on Police Procedures, a person will not be given a copy of his police statement, unless provided for by the law.

Sentence could have been heavier

Wham could have been fined up to the maximum of S$5,000 for organising a public assembly without a permit.

He could also have been jailed for up to three months and fined up to S$2,500, or both for refusing to sign a police statement.

Here's what happened in 2016 in greater detail:

[Edit: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Wham received a 16-week jail sentence. He received a 16-day jail sentence.]

Top photo from MARUAH Facebook