MANUAL FOR ACTIVISM IN SINGAPORE

Many people have compared the recent #ReturnOurCPF protest with the Occupy Central protests in HK and some have said that ours pale in comparison while others have criticised Roy and Hui Hui for heckling the children. Whatever the misunderstandings, it is a fact that we do not have true democracy in Singapore because we cannot even hold a protest outside of a designated spot and it still requires speakers to apply for a permit, whereas in HK, the people are free to protest anywhere they like. The PAP have also made use of the police to clamp down on activists and this time it is no different as Hui Hui and other activists were made to report to Cantonment for police questioning.

In light of these, I thought it would be good to have a manual of sorts which is similar to the Occupy HK Manual of Disobedience for our activists to prepare them in case of a police arrest or questioning. I have taken the liberty to come up with this draft, which is adapted from the HK manual (read the original here http://oclp.hk/?route=occupy/eng_detail&eng_id=28 ) and also with inputs from Teo Soh Lung, Martyn See and the activists he interviewed. Special thanks to them! Please feel free to comment on it or suggest any additions or changes which I will include in the manual, as this is only my first draft!

Philosophy

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis through collective action. It is a form of non-violent resistance against the government’s tyranny where people have the moral duty to refuse to be agents of injustice by way of acquiescence.

In our activism, we will not resort to violence because it is contradictory to achieve justice and peace and through unjust and violent means. We should also exhibit civil and polite behaviour so that any antagonism from the authorities can be countered with care and love. We will proactively accept any legal ramifications for our actions in a dignified manner so that we can touch the conscience of the authorities and expose the illegitimacy of our oppressor’s institutional violent actions. More importantly, our pacifism can win over the hearts and minds of neutral bystanders and third parties who are watching from afar. Our sacrifice will hopefully be the catalyst to jolt the general public into awareness and action.

Our ultimate goal is to foster a truly democratic Singapore society that is based on truth, justice and equality for all Singaporeans regardless of race, language or religion. In our pursuit of the truth, we also seek for a reliable, accountable and transparent government that serves in the best interests of Singaporeans. Where checks and balances are needed, we seek a free and independent media to provide objective investigation and reports.

Rules for non-violent activism

1. Activists must always adhere to the principles of pacifism and never engage in any violent behaviour. We should always behave in a civil and orderly manner and deal with any incidents in a calm and rational way.

2. Always treat everyone with respect, including authorities and officials and we should never engage in any physical or verbal confrontation with them. When dealing with the authorities, always remain calm and composed so that we show ourselves to be reasonable against the unreasonable behaviour of the authorities.

3. Always treat our environment and physical properties with respect. Do not vandalise or damage public and private property. After the protest, we should try to keep the event space clean by picking up any litter or rubbish left on the ground.

4. Activists should not carry or bring any weapons with them, or anything that can potentially be used as a dangerous weapon.

5. Should a situation arise where brute force is used against us by the authorities, we can act to protect our bodies and physical properties but we must never retaliate with violence. Move to a safe place elsewhere to seek shelter or protection from bystanders.

6. Should a situation arise where there are more than one protest going on at the same venue, activists should respect the physical boundaries allocated to each event space. This is to prevent any disruptions to both events, and more importantly, avoid any accusations of improper conduct or deliberate interruptions.

What to do when you are served a notice to attend a police interview

The police has a bad habit of serving their notice to you at night or wee hours of the morning. If they do send you a notice during these hours, do not open your doors to them. This is considered harassment and an abuse of police powers.

Instead, notify your family and friends about your situation. You may also create a group chat on Whatsapp to update them on your situation. If the police continues to knock or shout loudly at your door, call someone for help and take a video recording of the police harassment outside. You can use the recording as evidence if you want to lodge a report for police harassment and intimidation.

It is possible to request for interviews to be conducted at a police station in your neighbourhood or near your home. If the appointment is not suitable, you can request for a change.

What to prepare before going down for the police interview

Always inform your family or friends on the date, time and location where the police interview will be conducted. If possible, also inform them of the name of the officer-in-charge of the interview.

Never attend the interview alone. Bring along a friend or two who can look out for you or inform your family if there is any delay. Your friend cannot be in the interview room but he can wait at the reception. If this is not possible, inform reliable friends to keep track of your attendance at the police station. Your friends should call the police station or officer regularly for updates.

It will be good to seek advice from a lawyer or even get one to go along for the interview. However, it is important to note that the said lawyer may not be able to represent you during trial as he could be called to become a witness instead. As such, it is good to have 2 lawyers for different representation purpose.

It is also good to read up on the Constitution, especially the Act related to the incident that you are being called in for questioning over. If possible, bring along a copy of the Act with you so that you can refer to it or use it to challenge the interviewer.

The interview might take some time or even a few days, so be mentally and physically prepared to remain in their custody. Wear comfortable clothes and bring a jacket along because the police are known to turn down the air-conditioning as one of their scare tactics.

At the police station, the police might detain your personal belongings and physical properties, so do not bring any sensitive materials or information with you. Remember to delete any sensitive information on your mobile phone, tablets or laptops if you are bringing them along to the interview. Alternatively, you can bring along a dummy phone.

Do bring along a pen and notebook to record questions that the police asks and your answers as well. The police have no power to retain your properties as you have not committed any offence.

What to do during the interview

During the interview, you are not obligated to respond to any question unless you yourself are willing to speak voluntarily. You can also state “I have nothing to say” as a response to questioning by the police. Keep your answers short and sweet and never volunteer information that is not asked of you.

Record all questions and answers in your notebook, as well as anything that happened during the time you were in their custody.

The interrogating officers cannot use any threats to coerce you into providing statements or saying anything.

You are entitled to request for hot drinks and snacks if you are hungry. If your interview takes hours, you are also entitled to request for lunch and dinner.

The police will put the information you have provided in a statement that can be used as evidence. You will then be asked to sign the statement. However, if you find any omissions or inaccuracies, or even places without factual basis, you should immediately request for the statement to be amended and should otherwise refuse to sign. You can even request to record your own statement if you wish in order to ensure that the information within is exactly how you want it to be.

Request for a copy of your signed statement if you sign any statements. Often, the police will refuse to give this to you. In that case, you can again refuse to sign the statement. There is no rule to say that statements given to the police must be signed.

Sumiko Huang

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