05 Jan 2021

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Public Order Act, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Question:

Ms Raeesah Khan: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) since the Public Order Act was introduced in 2009, how many applications for permits for public assemblies outside Speaker’s Corner have been made; (b) how many have been rejected and approved; (c) what are the reasons for rejection and approval; (d) how many of these rejections and approvals have been for one-person assembly and procession; and (e) what constitutes threats to public order for one-person assembly and procession.

 

Answer:

­­­1. Police received 11,269 permit applications for public assemblies outside the Speakers’ Corner since the Public Order Act was introduced in 2009, and approved 8,545. Police do not tabulate the reasons for approving/rejecting the applications. It will require a review of each of the applications, to now tabulate the reasons for approving/rejecting.

 

2. Applications may be rejected for a number of reasons, for example, events being cancelled or postponed by the organisers. In addition, as set out under Section 7(2) of the Public Order Act, they may reject an application if the Commissioner of Police has reasonable grounds for apprehending that the proposed event may, among other reasons:

 

a. Occasion public disorder or damage to public or private property;

b. Create a public nuisance;

c. Place the safety of any person in jeopardy;

d. Cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different groups in Singapore;

e. Glorify or instigate acts of terrorism;

f. Be held at a prohibited area; or

g. Be directed toward a political end and organised by foreign entities.

 

3. The Police do not track how many one-person assemblies or processions have been approved or rejected.

 

4. As regards sub para (e) of the question, the approach taken is as follows: Public assemblies/processions in Speakers’ Corner, do not require a Police Permit. Outside of Speakers’ Corner, the question is whether any assembly, procession, may potentially breach one of the provisions of Section 7(2) of the Public Order Act. These provisions are capable of being breached by one person, and they are capable of being breached by more than one person. It will depend on the conduct of the person(s) involved. And assemblies which start with the intention of being peaceful, can also turn violent, through the actions of a very small group, which take advantage of such a situation. We have seen this happen in other jurisdictions.

 

5. Thus assemblies are not prevented per se, outside of Speakers’ Corner. But the person(s) who wish to hold such assemblies, are required to apply for a Police permit. That will allow the Police to better assess the situation. As can be seen from the figures above, the vast majority of such applications are approved, and many of them involved more than one person.

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