We are deeply concerned about the ongoing police investigation into a “threatening” letter allegedly written by the Chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods at Sungei Road flea market, Mr Koh Eng Khoon. According to media reports, the letter in question was sent to Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and signed “Koh Eng Khoon (Friend)”. Police visited Mr Koh at his one room flat at around midnight on 28 April. They did not produce a warrant, but officers ransacked the apartment, took photos of Mr Koh, and confiscated his mobile phone as part of the investigation. The visit ended only at approximately one in the morning.
While we understand that all complaints from the public should be investigated, we question whether it was necessary to carry it out in such an intimidating, aggressive, and intrusive manner. This kind of action intensifies a climate of fear that deters frank discussion of public interest issues, and curbs citizens’ participation in matters which the government is not comfortable with.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced plans to close Sungei Road Market in 2014. The Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods was formed for the purpose of persuading the government to allow the 80-year-old market to continue by letting the vendors operate in an alternative location. However, in February this year, government agencies announced that the market will close on 11 July. Since then, Mr Koh, the vendors and members of the public have escalated their efforts in urging the government to reconsider.
Is the government harassing Mr Koh to intimidate others – especially the Sungei Road street vendors – from campaigning to save their livelihoods and culture? We call upon the state to ensure the immediate return of all confiscated property to Koh and to stop using intimidating investigative tactics on ordinary citizens.
Community Action Network, Singapore