29 January 2011
MARUAH’s View of the Police Investigations into SFD Members’ Sale of Death Penalty Book
MARUAH notes the statement by NGO Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD) and various media reports about the recent initiation of police investigations into three SFD members over their alleged sale of copies of the book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock at a film screening held on 14 November 2010 at the Substation. The SFD members are being investigated under Section 502 of the Penal Code, for the knowing “sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter”.
Although the police commenced investigations against Mr Alan Shadrake, the author of the book, for criminal defamation in 2010, no formal charges have been instituted. It is thus troubling how an investigation can begin into the sale of printed substance containing defamatory matter if the book in question has not been found by a court of law to be defamatory. Indeed, charges have not even been brought.
MARUAH therefore calls upon the Singapore Police Force to explain why it is initiating these criminal investigations on the three SFD members in relation to the sale of the book, when the author himself has not been charged.
Furthermore, if the Government’s position is that the sale of the book would be unlawful, then the proper course of action is to ban the book outright, which is a transparent action that is accountable and subject to judicial review of the courts where appropriate, and also conforms with the rule of law.
MARUAH President Braema Mathi says: “These criminal investigations by the police carry a much heavier ‘footprint’ than contempt proceedings. In this case it is bewildering why the police are investigating sellers of the book when there is no criminal defamation charge against the author or contempt proceedings against the three members.
”MARUAH is opposed to investigations without any reasonable basis, as these will only serve to significantly chill public debate on the death penalty and detract from Singaporeans’ constitutional right to free expression. ”