In a clear message to the world that racial harmony is a priority for Singapore and no one is allowed to use social media to foment racial tensions, a 35-year-old man who made racially offensive tweets was jailed for three weeks on Tuesday.
According to Channel News Asia, the accused used to post tweets under the pseudonym “Sharon Liew”.
Senior Director of a computer firm, Zainal Abidin Shaiful Bahari, pleaded guilty to two charges each of committing acts he knew was prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different racial groups. Another two similar charges were considered in sentencing, CNA reported.
🇸🇬 has zero tolerance on racism. Anyone who attempts to break the fabric of racial harmony will be met with the full force of the law. https://t.co/tywA7l9p4w
— Singapore in India (@SGinIndia) June 8, 2021
Zainal’s lawyers contended that he was “not a racist” and was taking over a “parody account” and “overstepped the mark” while “trying to be funny”.
Observing that careless remarks have the potential to lead to social disorder, District Judge S Jennifer Marie observed that race and religion are sensitive issues.
— Attorney-General’s Chambers Singapore (@agcsingapore) June 8, 2021
“Further, when such remarks are published with the medium of the Internet, they have the ubiquitous reach and therefore amplify the potential and irreversible harm that could be caused to … peace and racial harmony,” CNA quoted the judge as saying.
She also remarked that that the raging pandemic has heightened racial tensions and a strong deterrent signal must be sent.
A police complaint was lodged against Zainal in April 2020 when someone called the police after seeing a tweet by the user sharonliew86 condemning Indian immigrants in relation to COVID-19. He had also reportedly made an offensive tweet against Malays in October 2019 and commented on their educational standards.
According to CNA, Zainal was identified and police investigations revealed that he had set up the Twitter account in July 2018 with two other friends.
CNA reported that “the prosecutor in the case called for four weeks’ jail, saying there was a clear need for general deterrence, especially in the current climate where tensions in the community have been heightened and strained by exceptional pandemic circumstances”.
Zainal had also made an offensive tweet in October 2019 about the educational standard of Malays.
Judge Jennifer Marie told Zainal that the language used in his tweets were in bad taste.
“If you had really valued racial and cultural diversity, you should have appreciated all the more the need to preserve … sensitivities given the multi-cultural fabric of Singapore,” she said.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers said in a statement after the hearing that it takes “a serious view of words or conduct which wound the racial feelings of any person or prejudices our racial harmony and community relations”.
“Offenders who commit such acts will be dealt with firmly,” they said.
(With inputs from Channel News Asia)