Singapore: Artist jailed over peaceful performance

3 October 2018
Artist Seelan Palay has been jailed for two weeks after being convicted and fined for 'staging an unlawful performance without a permit' in Singapore.
Seelan Palay speaking to police before his 1 October 2017 arrest / Screenshot of video from The Online Citizen Facebook


Freemuse is concerned that Singaporean artist Seelan Palay will spend the next two weeks in jail after refusing to pay a fine for ‘staging an unlawful performance without a permit’.

On 3 October 2018, Palay was convicted and fined $2,500 Singapore dollars (1,575 euros) under the Public Order Act at a District Court in Singapore, reported The Straits Times. But he refused to pay the fine and was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody to serve the default sentence of two weeks in jail.

District Judge Salina Ishak agreed with the prosecution that Seelan had deliberately set out to break the law with his publicised performance on 1 October 2017, titled ‘32 Years: The Interrogation of a Mirror’.

During his two-day trial, Palay denied his performance commemorated the 32-year detention of Singapore political activist Dr. Chia Thye Poh—the longest serving prisoner of conscience in the world. He said ’32’ referred to his age at the time of the performance.

Palay had received a permit to perform at the Speaker’s Corner in Hong Lim Park. But he later took the performance across the river to Parliament House, about a 10-minute walk away, where he was arrested by police officers. He was detained overnight.

Activist/artist Seelan Palay presented a performance on Sunday afternoon at Hong Lim Park, "32 Years: The Interrogation of a Mirror" in commemoration of the 32 years of detention without trial that former Elected Member of Parliament, Chia Thye Poh went through. During the performance, Seelan, who turns 32 this year, said that he couldn’t fathom how a person could be locked up without trial for the same number of years that he has lived.Prior to marching out of Hong Lim Park (where he obtained a permit to perform) to carry out the unannounced part of his art performance, he said to his artwork as if speaking to Chia himself, "I hope to ask you two questions. Can the liberated human mind be constrained by a state sanctioned space, and in that regard, can a liberated work of art be contained within a state sanctioned space? Do you know the answers to both of these questions? I will show you."After making his way to National Gallery Singapore and to Parliament House, Seelan was arrested by the Police at 3.20pm after about 30 minutes of standing in front of Parliament House, while holding his art piece. He was subsequently taken away in a police vehicle from Parliament House.

Posted by The Online Citizen Asia on Sunday, October 1, 2017


“Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum had called for the maximum sentence of a $3,000 fine, saying that Seelan had been charged for the same offence three times in 2010,” The Straits Times reported.

Last week Freemuse and Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) called for the Singaporean government to drop all charges against Seelan Palay, and sent letters to Judicial Commissioner and Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon and Minister for Culture Grace Fu.

Read the letters here.


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