Singapore’s ‘smiley face’ activist Jolovan Wham released from jail over train demonstration

At left, Wham holding a cardboard sign with a smiley face last year and another public assembly in 2017, at right. Photos: Jolovan Wham/Facebook
At left, Wham holding a cardboard sign with a smiley face last year and another public assembly in 2017, at right. Photos: Jolovan Wham/Facebook

Civil rights advocate Jolovan Wham was freed from jail earlier than expected today after spending over two weeks in jail over a demonstration he led on public transit. 

The former executive director of nonprofit HOME said today he was released several days early due to good behavior. He was supposed to serve 22 days in prison in lieu of paying a S$8,000 fine for vandalism and staging the peaceful demonstration on a train in June 2017. Wham, who was supposed to be released Monday, has yet to be tried in a separate matter for posing in public with a smiley face last year. 

“Good morning! I had an early release cos of good behaviour. Been settling in and am slowly catching up on news and messages,” he wrote today.

Good morning! I had an early release cos of good behaviour. Been settling in and am slowly catching up on news and messages. If I haven’t replied to you yet, I will soon. Thanks for your support and concern.

Posted by Jolovan Wham on Thursday, 4 March 2021

The 41-year-old activist and eight others rode on the North-South trains for two hours wearing blindfolds and holding books and printed messages commemorating the 30th anniversary of Operation Spectrum, also known as the “Marxist conspiracy,” in which police detained 22 activists in a 1987 security operation. The vandalism charge relates stems from two pieces of A4-sized paper he stuck on the train’s window using blue tack. 

Posted by Jolovan Wham on Saturday, 3 June 2017


Wham was fined S$4,500 for organizing the assembly without a police permit, S$1,000 for vandalism by pasting papers with printed messages on the trains and S$2,500 for refusing to sign a police statement. He chose to pay S$2,500 and checked himself into jail immediately for 22 days on Feb. 15. The papers had messages that read: “Justice for operation spectrum survivors” and “Marxist conspiracy? #notodetentionwithouttrial.”

Wham was also charged in November for an infamous shot of him posing in public with a smiley face drawn on a cardboard sign to support young climate activists under investigation for holding signs calling attention to their issue.

Wham’s release comes days after it was revealed that MP Louis Ng was being investigated for holding up signs of support for local hawkers, reigniting backlash over the illegal public assembly law’s application.

Under the Public Order Act, taking part in a public assembly that involves demonstrating an act of support or opposition of a matter in public is an offense that carries a penalty of S$5,000 (USD$3,800).

Other stories you should check out:

Singaporean MP Louis Ng investigated for holding smiley face sign

Police summon Jolovan Wham for posing in public with smiley face

READ MORE

CITY: SINGAPORECATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: CRIME

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