Nee Soon’s MP is being suspected of violating public assembly law by urging Singaporeans to support vendors with a sign he held without obtaining government permission.

Louis Ng, 42, said today that he has provided a statement to the police over the June incident, when he posed for photographs in Yishun with an A4-sized paper printed with the words “Support them” and a smiley face. 

Such public calls to action have, in the past, been deemed a form of public demonstration which requires a police permit and are usually limited to Hong Lim Park. In fact, an activist was charged late last year for holding a placard with the same innocuous emoji.

Ng said on Facebook today that he was on a neighborhood walkabout and encouraging the public to buy from hawker vendors hit by the pandemic.

“I was at the Yishun Park Hawker Centre in June last year, doing my regular walkabout. This was an especially important walkabout as we had just emerged from the circuit breaker. I also wanted to urge our residents to support our hawkers and held a sign indicating this and took photos together with the hawkers,” he wrote today. “I had also been asked by the Police to provide a statement on this matter, and have done so.”

Ng also filmed himself holding up placards in a January video creating awareness on climate change. He said in today’s statement that those signs were actually blank and the text was digitally added during editing. 

[ Supporting our hawkers ]

I was at the Yishun Park Hawker Centre in June last year, doing my regular walkabout. This…

Posted by Louis Ng Kok Kwang on Tuesday, 2 March 2021

That video went up in the same month three people advocating for LGBT rights were arrested for peacefully protesting with placards outside the education ministry. 

Where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable forms of public communication seems tricky, but the authorities certainly have decided that signs used for noncommercial appeals may cross it.

Civil rights activist Jolovan Wham was formally charged in November for posing in public with a cardboard sign with a smiley face in a show of solidarity with young climate activists under investigation for – that’s right – holding signs.

Under the Public Order Act, taking part in a public assembly that involves demonstrating an act of support or opposition of a matter in public is an offense that carries a penalty of S$5,000 (USD$3,800).

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