SINGAPORE: A 41-year-old man was fined S$9,000 for wrongfully confining three of his workers for a total of 42 days between May and June this year.
Shaun Pang Tong Heng, the general manager of manufacturing company Ad-Meth Mech-Field, pleaded guilty in the State Courts on Thursday (Sep 17) to three charges of wrongful confinement.
On May 12, Pang was informed that two of the men - 23-year-old Pandiyan Jayakanthan and 24-year-old Ganesan Pandi - had been harassing another employee, while the third man, 39-year-old Muthuraj Thangaraj, was under police investigation for a separate matter.
Deciding that the three Indian nationals were “troublemakers”, Pang decided to lock them up in a confined space, which included a 3.4m by 4.3m room and a bathroom, on the first floor of the company’s Tuas South premises, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu.
The three were released on May 15 after complaining that the room was warm and had mosquitoes, and were placed in another room, which was air-conditioned and not locked.
On May 18, Pang saw video footage of Pandiyan and Ganesan leaving the premises without permission, and decided to lock them up again.
They were restricted to the confined area - which was now surrounded with metal fencing secured by a padlock - for another 39 days, between May 19 and Jun 26.
One of the men called the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Jun 25 and the authorities deployed a group of officers to the company the next day.
Pang was told to release the three men and he complied.
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Mr Hu had asked for a S$3,000 fine for each of the three charges of wrongful confinement.
However, Pang’s lawyer, Md Noor E Adnaan from TSMP Law Corporation, argued that his client should be fined S$1,500 per charge.
Mr Noor noted that Pang had no prior criminal record and was well-regarded by his managing director as well as workers, some of whom had signed testimonials for him.
After being released the first time, Pandiyan and Ganesan had scaled the walls of the premises to go buy alcohol before returning to their factory-converted dormitory.
This act had to be seen against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mr Noor.
Pang was concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, and by his actions had intended to protect the health and well-being of others on-site.
Mr Noor pointed to MOM’s restrictions on the movement of foreign workers at the time, as well as the fact that Ad-Meth’s facility was located just 200m from the site of a confirmed COVID-19 cluster.
He added that the workers were not abused during the confinement, and had three clean beds and fans as well as mobile phones and access to wifi. They were also provided with three meals a day.
Pang had even bought a router when they complained of poor wireless connection within the room, said Mr Noor.
When asked by District Judge Prem Raj why his client did not call the police, Mr Noor said Pang had thought MOM was the correct agency to contact and had emailed them regarding the issue.
For each count of wrongful confinement, Pang could have been jailed for up to three years, fined or both.