Singapore: Human rights activist Seelan Palay jailed over art performance
October 10, 2018, 10:16 am

According to the information received, on October 3, 2018, Singapore’s State Court convicted Mr. Seelan Palay for “staging an unlawful performance without a permit” under Section 7 of the 2009 Public Order Act and sentenced him to pay a S$2,5000 fine (around 1,570 Euros). Following Mr. Seelan Palay’s refusal to pay the fine, he was ordered to serve a two-week prison term.

Mr. Seelan Palay was arrested on October 1, 2017 outside Parliament House, where he briefly staged a solo performance by holding an art piece that was meant as a tribute to former political prisoner and elected Member of Parliament (MP) Mr. Chia Thye Poh. The performance, titled “32 years: The interrogation of a mirror”, aimed at commemorating the 32 years Mr. Chia Thye Poh spent either in detention without trial or under travel restrictions[1]. Mr. Seelan Palay started the performance at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park before continuing on to the National Gallery and then Parliament House. Mr. Seelan Palay had obtained a National Parks Board (NParks) permit that allowed him to conduct his performance only at Speakers’ Corner. On October 2, 2017, Mr. Seelan Palay was released on a S$5,000 (around 3,145 Euros) bail, pending investigation.

On May 18, 2018, Singapore’s State Court heard the case of Mr. Seelan Palay. During the hearing, the Deputy Public Prosecutor requested the court to sentence Mr. Seelan Palay to a fine of S$3,000 (around 1,890 Euros) – the maximum penalty under the 2009 Public Order Act. The Deputy Public Prosecutor justified the request by arguing that Mr. Seelan Palay had previously been convicted and fined on charges of participating in an assembly without permit on two separate occasions in 2010.

The Observatory condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Seelan Palay, which are only aimed at punishing the legitimate exercise of his rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression. The Observatory calls on the authorities of Singapore to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Seelan Palay and end all acts of judicial harassment against him and all human rights defenders in the country.