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March 27, 2009

Singapore to toughen public law ahead of Apec meet

Singapore, which already has tough restrictions on freedom of assembly, plans to tighten them further ahead of a major Asia-Pacific summit in the city-state, reported Reuters.

The Public Order Bill, introduced in parliament on Monday before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, was needed to "squarely address gaps in the current framework to enhance the ability of the police to ensure security during major events", the Ministry of Home Affairs said.



It would also allow police to order a person to leave an area if they determine he is about to break the law. All outdoor activities that are cause-related will need a police permit, no matter how many people are involved. That is a change from the current law requiring a permit for gatherings of five or more people.

Opposition politicians and activists were quick to criticise the proposed law. "Even in communist China, peaceful protests are tolerated," said Chee Siok Chin of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

The bill allows police to stop people from filming law enforcement if it could put officers in danger. The bill cited live media coverage of Indian police trying to rescue hostages in the Mumbai attacks last November as posing risks to the officers.

Police could stop small peaceful protests against unpopular visiting government leaders, such as from Myanmar, if the law was introduced, activists said.

Last week, three Singaporeans tried to present a bouquet of orchids to visiting Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein for him to give to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung Sann Suu Kyi.

Thein Sein was having an orchid named after him at the Botanical Gardens, a Singapore tradition for visiting heads of government. The law is certain to pass, since the ruling People's Action Party has an overwhelming majority in parliament.


 

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