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Man admits setting fire to Singapore flag, destroying it and igniting fires on 7 other flags at HDB block

Man admits setting fire to Singapore flag, destroying it and igniting fires on 7 other flags at HDB block

File photo of Singapore flags on an HDB block. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A heavily intoxicated man saw a Singapore flag hung outside his block a few days before National Day last year and decided to set fire to it.

The flag was destroyed and remnants of the burnt material dropped to the lower floors, setting alight seven other flags.

Elson Ong Yong Liang, 26, pleaded guilty on Friday (Jul 17) to one count of mischief by fire intending to cause damage to property, with another two charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Ong went for a drinking session on the night of Aug 3, 2019, and took a Grab home at around 5.30am the next day.

He was heavily intoxicated and arrived at the common corridor of the 13th floor of a block in Woodlands Crescent between 6am and 6.15am on Aug 4, 2019.

He lit a cigarette with his lighter, before noticing a Singapore flag that was hung along the outer walls of the block.

He decided to use his lighter to set fire to the flag, intending to damage it, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kor Zhen Hong.

The flag at the 13th floor was destroyed by the flames, and its remnants dropped down and ignited fires on the flags hung on the floors below.

In total, seven other Singapore flags were damaged as a result of Ong's actions.


Mr Kor sought six months' jail, saying that the potential harm was quite high as the burnt fragments were able to ignite fires on seven different flags on the lower floors.

"Another aggravating factor is that a fire was set to a Singapore flag, and this would cause some public disquiet if passers-by notice that a Singapore flag is on fire," he said.

When asked what was the degree of damage to the other flags, Mr Kor said the seven other flags were partially burnt and had been hanging "in a vertical parallel manner", not connected by any string.

Defence lawyer Gino Hardial Singh said his client's act of setting a Singapore flag on fire "is reprehensible and there's no excuse for something like that".

However, he referred the court to a report by the Institute of Mental Health, which stated that Ong had a habit of burning paper in his teenage years whenever he was stressed.

He would burn pieces of paper like fliers in an incense bin, and the IMH report said Ong has "a maladaptive coping mechanism of burning paper whenever he's stressed".

Mr Singh added that Ong had been abused by his father when he was young, and that his parents had divorced when he was only six.

Ong has no previous convictions, and has learnt his lesson and is now on the right path, said the lawyer, urging the court to temper justice with mercy.

In response, the prosecutor said the IMH report also stated that Ong does not suffer from pyromania, even though he has a tendency to set things on fire.

Instead, he was intoxicated, which is normally an aggravating factor, said Mr Kor.

The judge said he would like some time to look at the issue of sentencing and adjourned the case to Jul 27.

For mischief by fire intending to cause damage to property, Ong can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)


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