GROWING public reaction over the authorities’ investigation into the “white elephants” episode has compelled the police to justify their ongoing actions.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said “the Police must be fair and transparent at all times and not investigate cases selectively”.
The statement went on to explain that because someone had called “999” to complain about the animal cut-outs displayed on July 28 outside the Buangkok MRT station, the police had to determine whether any offence had been committed under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act.
The placards, stuck along the road divider outside the train station operated by SBS Transit, were taken down on the very same day — after Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan visited the Punggol South constituency and caught the implicit message that residents would like to see Buangkok station open after two years of waiting.
Since then, several Singaporeans have written in to express their surprise at the police’s decision to conduct a full-fledged investigation as a result of just one caller’s complaint.
More than 10 people, including residents and grassroots leaders, have been questioned since the police started their investigations last week, sources told Today.
If the police do determine that a crime has been committed, they may refer the case to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which guides law enforcement agencies on their investigations besides prosecuting criminal matters in court.
Under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act gazetted in 2001, entertainment accessible to the public should not be carried out in a manner that is indecent, immoral, offensive, subversive or improper.
In addition, exhibits may not be put up in public without a permit. The offence carries a maximum fine of $10,000.
Punggol South MP Charles Chong feels that a feedback forum may be in order as soon as the case is closed so that residents can air their views on the issue.
Said Mr Chong: “Throughout this whole experience, there are some who feel the letter of the law should be observed. Others feel there can be some easing of rules.”
Growing sense of public-activism? Slight inclinations towards toleration of political expressions? I dunno.
What got me thinking first was how the white elephants were in any way “indecent, immoral, offensive, subversive or improper”. They were definitely not “immoral” (maybe to the government’s authoritarian mindsets). And it is debatable whether they were “indecent” and “offensive” to some since one law abiding person had decided to dial 999, signalling that it was an emergency more important than a rapist roaming the streets or a murderer brandishing his knife in the middle of Orchard Road. I would not say it was “subversive”, partly because they represent no form of political opposition; it was rather a form of public feedback on the closure of the station. So the only one which qualifies is that the white elephats were “improper”.
But how can someone be convicted on putting up the white elephants since they are purely “improper”?