THE Workers’ Party will not be granted a licence to raise public funds to pay the more than $500,000 it owes in defamatory damages and legal costs.
Licences to collect donations from house-to-house visits, in the streets and other public places are issued only for charitable causes or worthy community projects.
These include collections by registered charities such as The Salvation Army.
Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, the Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs, said that for these reasons, the police will not grant the Workers’ Party a licence to raise donations.
He told the party chief, Mr J. B. Jeyaretnam, in Parliament: “The Workers’ Party’s intention to collect funds to pay damages incurred for defaming others can neither be considered a charitable cause nor a worthy community project.
“Public charity should not be exploited to underwrite criminal or civil penalties arising from one’s wrongdoing.”
Mr Jeyaretnam had tabled a motion on the funding of political parties and criticised the Government for making it difficult for opposition parties to raise money from the public.
The Workers’ Party has been found guilty of defaming 10 members of the committee that organised the Tamil Language Week in 1995 and owes $511,643 in defamatory damages and legal costs.
The 10 people have filed a petition to wind up the party and Mr Jeyaretnam had wanted to know if the party needs a licence to raise funds under the House to House and Street Collections Act.
He said that he was fined in 1983 for an offence under this Act. The authorities, he complained, also stopped another attempt by his party to receive public donations through a bank account.
In his reply, Prof Ho said that the licence requirement is to prevent a proliferation of people and organisations soliciting for funds in public places for a host of causes.
Police do not want to see, for example, a situation in which pedestrians, including tourists, being harassed by fund raisers along Orchard Road.
Public disorder can be created when people of different political persuasions are approached by different parties and they start quarrelling with one another in public places, he added.
He said that political parties can raise funds by holding dinners or through private collections from members, well-wishers, supporters and their friends.
They can make public appeals for donations without soliciting from house to house and on the streets.
He noted that someone had posted an appeal for funds for the WP on the Internet, giving an account number and an address.