Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) vice-chairman John Mr Tan Liang Joo, announced that he is seeking a declaration of his eligibility to contest in the next General Election (GE) from the High Court on Tuesday (July 19).
For questioning the independence of judges in Singapore, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) gave the senior opposition party member Mr Tan a custodial jail term of 15 days.
Mr Tan and activist Jolovan Wham were found guilty of scandalising the judiciary last year, making them the first to be convicted under new contempt of court laws that came into effect in October 2017.
On April 27 last year, Wham wrote on his Facebook page that Malaysia’s judges were more independent than Singapore’s when it came to cases with political implications.
The AGC initiated contempt of court action against Wham over the post.
About a week after, on May 6, Mr Tan posted on Facebook that the AGC’s move to prosecute Wham confirmed the truth of what Wham had written.
The prosecution had called for Mr Tan to be sentenced to at least 15 days in jail. Mr Tan submitted that he should be jailed for three days.
In asking for a custodial sentence for Mr Tan, the prosecution pointed to his previous conviction in 2008 where he was convicted of contempt of court for turning up at a defamation hearing in a T-shirt with a kangaroo dressed in a judge’s gown.
International human rights lawyer M Ravi served Mr Tan’s application to the Attorney-General’s Chambers “to seek a declaration from the Court that he be allowed to stand for elections and that he is qualified to do so under Article 44 of the Constitution of Singapore”.
Yesterday, I served on the Attorney-General’s Chambers an application on behalf of SDP's vice chairman,John Tan,to seek…
In a social media post, M Ravi wrote, “John wishes to run for election and a real controversy has arisen about whether he can do so or not”.
In 1988, SDP executive committee member Jufrie Mahmood was fined S$3,000 for contempt of court, which is the same offence as the one Mr Tan was convicted for.
However, Ong Kian Min, the Returning Officer for the General Elections held that year, said that Mahmood’s nomination paper would not be rejected, as Article 45(1)(e) of the Constitution only relates to criminal offences, and that Mahmood’s contempt of court was not a criminal offence.
When asked for comment, Mr Tan said, “I hope the court will speedily clarify this issue once and for all. There are enough uncertainties surrounding the General Election already such as the polling date and the mind-blowing gerrymandering.”