Wednesday, November 4, 2009

POA Showcase

Let the showcase begin....

APEC meeting first event to be gazetted under new Public Order Act
03 November 2009 1805 hrs (SST)

SINGAPORE : The APEC meeting in Singapore is the first major event to be gazetted as a "Special Event" under the amended Public Order Act introduced earlier this year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told local and international media that he does not expect disruptions from civil society groups. He said that unlike the IMF World Bank meeting, APEC does not engage such groups.

Still, security is a concern.

Mr Lee said the new Public Order Act was passed in time for APEC so that Singapore will have "adequate powers to ensure law, order and security".

Police have the power to stop and search, request reasons for entry and deny entry to the gazetted areas.

"We can gazette certain areas and within that area, we can instruct people to move along and not dawdle and attempt to do something which is disruptive. And if they don't, we can take action against them," said Mr Lee.

"When we had a meeting in Sydney two years ago, (the Australians) spent $300 million building a fence surrounding the whole of the centre of Sydney and declared a public holiday, so all Sydney-ans could leave the town and leave us in solitary splendour. We're not going to do quite that but we hope to have a smooth and peaceful meeting," he added.

Three years ago, when Singapore hosted the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting, the authorities objected to 28 foreigners - all of whom had a history of taking part in violent protests or disruptive activities at previous meetings - from being allowed into the country.

During that period, civil society organisations were allowed to protest in a space provided within the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. - CNA /ls

Copyright © 2008 MediaCorp Pte Ltd

A recall of the key features of the Public Order Act

Consolidated Permit Regime

5 Currently, cause-related activities are regulated together with recreational, social and commercial activities under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (PEMA) and Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (MOA). Under the POA, the relevant portions of these two regulatory regimes will be consolidated for cause-related assemblies and processions. Specifically, this will mean that cause-related activities will be regulated by permit regardless of the number of persons involved or the format they are conducted in. This rationalises the current approach of regulating groups of five or more under the MOA and groups of four or less under the PEMA, (where there is public entertainment).

6 Under the POA, there will be different penalties to distinguish between first-time and repeat or recalcitrant offenders. The jail term for first time offender in the present penalty schedule has been removed. Penalties for repeat offenders on the other hand have been enhanced.

Enhancing Security during Major Events

7 Major international events are trophy targets for terrorists. As Singapore increasingly plays host to major international events and continues to promote the business of Singapore as an international meeting and convention hub, our priority must be to ensure the safety and security of the delegates and our people during such events.

8 To do so, our security forces cannot afford to be distracted from their security deployment or allow the level of security measures in place on site to be diminished by the disruption of political activists, militants or mischief-makers seeking to exploit the media and political attention attending the event. The POA comprises provisions to enhance security during such major events. Under the POA, Minister will be able to declare via gazette a certain event as a special event which will then allow Police to exercise powers to preserve public order and safety of the individuals involved in the event. Within the special event area where typically the security-threat level is higher if not highest, Police can exercise enhanced powers such as prohibition of items, stop and search, arrests, security screening, request reasons for entry from suspicious persons, and denial of entry. Persons who refuse to comply with Police orders or interfere with the conduct of the event will be committing an offence. This is the result of careful study of Australia’s APEC 2007 laws and the Australia Capital Territory’s Major Events laws.

Move-On Powers

9 The POA will broaden the repertoire of Police powers in dealing with public order incidents. Currently, in the face of an illegal assembly or march, Police will have to either prosecute after the offending action is over or arrest to prevent an escalation of the incident. A move-on order, gives the Police an additional intervening instrument to engage the offender and give him a chance to stop his unlawful activity without involving arrest. It allows Police to de-escalate an activity which can potentially cause significant law and order threats by ordering the person to leave. If the person complies, there will be no arrest and the threat will be removed.

10 To enhance internal accountabilities, the move-on orders will be issued by a police officer of or above the rank of sergeant on the explicit authorization of a senior Police officer. It will be in the form of a written notice that will state the area, and the time period (up to 24 hours) within which the subject is prohibited from re-entering. Unlike the Australian model, we have scoped the application of our move-on orders narrower so that our move-on powers can be used only in cases where the Police assess that the person’s behaviour fits within certain specified criteria as appended below:

a) interferes with trade or business at the place by obstructing, hindering or impeding someone entering, at or leaving the place;
b) is or has been disorderly, indecent, offensive, or threatening to someone entering, at or leaving the place;
c) is or has been disrupting the peaceable and orderly conduct of any event, entertainment or gathering at the place; or
d) shows that he is just about to commit an offence or has just committed or is committing an offence.

Order on Filming

11 There are specific practical situations where the recording of an on-going incident can potentially jeopardise the success of security operations or the safety of the officers. For instance, in a counter-terrorism operation, real time coverage of the storming operation can expose the special forces and the hostages to great risks as it can undermine the element of surprise critical to such missions. There are also other instances whereby the identities of an officer carrying out such sensitive covert operations can be compromised by the dissemination of video-recording of the operation.

12 The POA empowers law enforcement officers to prohibit persons from filming, communicating and exhibiting films of law enforcement activities which if exhibited will either endanger the safety of officers or prejudice the effective conduct of an operation. It will be an offence if a person willfully disobeys the prohibition order given to him. [3]

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