SINGAPORE: A man repeatedly stoked ill will between races and sent messages intending to portray that the People's Action Party (PAP) wanted to "marginalise" Malays by allowing more immigrants into Singapore.
Sirajudeen Abdul Majeed, 52, was given two weeks' jail and fined S$7,000 on Monday (Feb 8) for two charges of knowingly promoting feelings of ill will between racial groups and uttering words to wound racial feelings. Another two charges were considered.
The court heard that Sirajudeen, a Singaporean of Indian ethnicity, was a member of a WhatsApp chat group called "PSP MM Ground Group", which was used to share information about the 2020 Singapore General Election.
On Jun 12 last year, Sirajudeen purportedly received an image that depicted information of the racial profile of voters in Marymount Single Member Constituency (SMC). Sirajudeen studied the population profiles in the image, without verifying the data with any official sources.
Investigations revealed that the polling district boundaries in the image were not accurate, and that the Elections Department did not publish the breakdown of electors by racial groups.
At about 1.50pm on Jun 13, Sirajudeen sent the image to three men, including two ex-colleagues. He added the following words: "...it seems the PAP wants to make the Malay community a sub-minority. But the Malays were the original residents of Singapore."
He also wrote: "By adding more new China, Indian, Filipino (and) others to just dilute the original race of Malay?"
Sirajudeen then asked the men to share the information. But one of them reported the incident to the police, while the other two did not disseminate the messages as requested.
Sirajudeen later told the police that he had sent the messages to "create awareness of what he perceived to be a strategy used by the PAP in GE 2020".
His messages conveyed his intent "to stoke fears that the PAP Government was seeking to marginalise the Malays in the country by allowing more immigrants into the country", said Deputy Public Prosecutors Ng Yiwen and Tessa Tan.
Sirajudeen repeated his racially inflammatory behaviour two months later in August, when the police were called over a dispute he had with his neighbour.
Unhappy with how the officers had handled his complaint, Sirajudeen made two 999 phone calls to complain about the officers.
During the calls, he said the officers were "totally of ... unprofessional conduct ... especially the Malay officer".
He added that a lot of Malay officers "cannot go into Air Force" and said the incident he was complaining about was "a criminal harassment".
"I don't know how (your officers) classify it as non-seizable and they just went out ... is it because of the technicity of the officers attending this ... case? Due to their ... incompetency?" said Sirajudeen.
He knew the phone calls were recorded, but stated that he stood by his words. When the police officer on the line tried to verify Sirajudeen's contact number, Sirajudeen refused and later asked if the officer was of "Malay origin".
"Usually, that's the case. No worries, no worries. I wouldn't blame you, sir," said Sirajudeen after learning that the officer is Malay.
The officer was offended by Sirajudeen's remarks, and Sirajudeen was later called up to give a statement to the police.
Asked to explain the remarks he had made, Sirajudeen said most of the police officers he encountered from "this denomination" tended to show bad attitudes.
He opined that "Malays are unable to enter the elite forces like the Air Force, Navy or Commando Unit because they are unprofessional".
In making such remarks to the police officer, he had intentionally wounded racial feelings and committed an offence while under police investigations for the June incident.
IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING RACIAL PEACE CANNOT BE UNDERSTATED
The prosecution asked for the sentence that was eventually meted out, saying that "the importance of maintaining the racial and religious peace in Singapore cannot be understated".
"A strong deterrent signal must be sent to both the accused and general public that deliberate acts of generating ill will between different racial groups and denigrating other races in Singapore will not be tolerated," they said.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Yiwen said the remarks linked to the General Election were made in an especially sensitive time and the fear-mongering could have affected the foundation of multi-racial Singapore.
Sirajudeen said he made those remarks during an emotionally charged election period and pleaded for mercy and leniency, adding that he was his family's sole breadwinner and has a child with special needs.
The judge said public interest is very strong in such cases as comments like those made by Sirajudeen could create friction and conflict between different races in Singapore, which cannot be taken lightly in the current security climate.
This was the first prosecution under Section 298A of the Penal Code for knowingly promoting ill will between racial groups, which is punishable by up to three years' jail, a fine, or both.
The maximum penalties are the same for the offence of intentionally wounding racial feelings.