Han Hui Hui convicted, fined for illegal protest
by Wan Ting Koh
SO HAN Hui Hui and her two co-accused were found guilty of their public nuisance charges. Han was also convicted for organising a demonstration without the approval of the Commissioner of Parks. In the same breath, the judge dished out sentences for the three, who appeared in the docks of the state courts this afternoon (June 27).
Han, a 24-year-old blogger, was fined $600 for her public nuisance charge and fined $2,500 for organising a demonstration without approval. Her two co-defendants, 61-year-old Koh Yew Beng and 56-year-old Low Wai Choo were fined $450 each for public nuisance.
Han, Low and Koh were thrust into the spotlight after a CPF protest event they held in Hong Lim Park on Sept 27, 2014 clashed with a charity carnival held by Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Proms @ The Park 2014.
The trio were charged with disrupting a community event by shouting loudly, chanting slogans, waving flags, holding placards, blowing whistles loudly, and beating drums. Eight others were charged in court but were let off with conditional warnings while two others, fellow blogger Roy Ngerng, 35, and Chua Siew Leng, 43, pleaded guilty ahead of Han’s trial in October last year. They were fined $1,900 and a $300 respectively.
When the judge asked the three if they had anything to say, Han said that the trial already had a “foregone conclusion” hence she had prepared a letter of appeal. Low attempted to protest the verdict, saying she didn’t feel that it was “a fair trial”.
“I feel we should be discharged,” said Low. “We are just like a little bird in your hand… We are at your mercy.”
“We are just like a little bird in your hand… We are at your mercy.”
– Low Wai Choo, one of Han Hui Hui’s co-defendants
“It is not that we are public nuisance at all,” added Low, appealing to Judge Chay’s conscience, “We shouldn’t be charged.”
In considering the sentence, the prosecution took into account the previous sentences of Ngerng and Chua and noted that had “pleaded guilty at an early stage of the proceedings” hence they received a discount of their fines. The prosecution said that in the case of Han, which mounted to a total of $3,100, would hence be “appropriate”.
During the #ReturnOurCPF protest, Han and Ngerng had led a few hundred people in a march around the park and disrupted the carnival when children who have Down’s syndrome were performing on stage. The court heard that the heckling grew more intense with the arrival of the guest of honour, Minister for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, to the point that the mother of one of the performers had described later in the trial that “it’s just like a wedding function, and someone brings a coffin around.”
Throughout the seven days of the trial, which were over two tranches – one in October last year and the later one this February – a total of 14 prosecution witnesses were called, including the organiser for the YMCA event, the emcee for the day, two mothers of the performers, representatives of National Parks Board (NParks) and the police. The three accused, who represented themselves, frequently had to be directed back to relevant lines of questioning by Judge Chay.
The trial also hit some high notes when Low and Koh both became emotional in the process of cross-examining the prosecution witnesses. A tearful Low had charged NParks officials who appeared on the witness stand as the cause of her predicament, claiming that “because of your negligence, I am here in court today being tried as a criminal”. Koh accused YMCA’s event emcee, one of the witnesses, of lying, claiming that he had heard clearly the emcee shouting “We love CPF” to antagonise the protestors.
In his grounds of decision, judge Chay Yuan Fatt found that the demonstrators had “disrupted the performances of the YMCA event”. “The height of the disruption occurred during a performance by a group of special needs children who were visibly affected and distraught,” he added.
He rejected Han’s defence that she was not the organiser of the demonstration or that she had no control over the demonstrators, adding that she was “at the very least one of the organisers”.
As to the trio’s defence that their acts did not amount to public nuisance since they were committed at the Speakers’ Corner, the Judge rejected, saying that the argument was “fallacious” as they had “marched beyond the boundaries of the Speakers’ Corner”.
Added the Judge Chay: “This is a case where, ironically and regrettably, the accused persons while ostensibly championing the rights of a class of persons, did so by blithely trampling on the rights of another group of persons.”
Han said that she had filed her appeal and added that she “appealed for both conviction and sentencing”.
Featured image by Najeer Yusof.
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