‘Sticker Lady’ vs Amy Cheong: Who got it worse?

Sam Lo, 26, turns up in court on Tuesday. She faces 15 counts of mischief (Yahoo! photo)
Sam Lo, 26, turns up in court on Tuesday. She faces 15 counts of mischief (Yahoo! photo)

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt and parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about how Sticker Lady's crime is more severe than Amy Cheong's social media faux pas.

It's come as a great surprise that ex-NTUC assistant director Amy Cheong has been left off with a stern warning by the Singapore police.

Apparently, her Facebook comments last October berating an ethnic minority group has been deemed not serious enough to warrant her arrest and no charges were filed against her.

But what's more shocking to Singaporeans -- in particular, those residing on the Internet -- is that one day after this news broke, the Sticker Lady, a.k.a. Samantha Lo, was also charged in court for her role in creating cheeky art works using stickers and spray paint that the authorities deemed to be outright vandalism. She now faces a fine or jail term of up to two years if she is convicted of 15 charges of mischief.

Without further ado, let's consider why the Sticker Lady's offence of creating fringe art is more serious than Amy Cheong's online rant.

'Revolutionary art'

The first and most important reason why Sticker Lady is hauled to court to face the music is because what she did could lead to a revolution.

It's plain and simple to see how.

By spray painting "My Grandfather Road" on the ground, she is claiming ownership of it. And as we all know, Singaporeans are not allowed to claim ownership of anything in Singapore.

Because once this sentiment gets cultivated, it might lead to Singaporeans claiming ownership of their HDB flats on a freehold basis, for example.

And that would cause a lot of problems. And could lead to a revolution. Therefore, it's important to nip the problem in the bud.

Easier to convict

Next, the reason Amy Cheong got away with nothing but a stern police warning -- via email nonetheless -- is because she is an Australian and a Singapore permanent resident.

And since she left for Australia after the fiasco, there's pretty much nothing we can do about it.

You see, it's very troublesome for the Singapore police to liaise with the Australian authorities if she was required to come back to Singapore to face charges. This would mean our police force needs to work overtime.

Furthermore, it's very difficult to force Australia to extradite Amy Cheong without causing a scene.

Anyone here still remembers Michael Faye, the American who was sentenced to caning in Singapore as an 18-year-old in 1994 for vandalism?

Putting a foreigner on trial is always problematic. It causes bilateral tensions.

Remember, Australia is an important ally. Singaporeans don't want to wake up one morning to find that they have stopped exporting milk to us.

Plenty of racists

Last but not least, Amy Cheong's remarks can be considered to be very similar to what Young People's Action Party's Jason Neo did online.

For the uninitiated, Jason Neo quit the YPAP after causing an uproar online when he posted a Facebook photo of children on a school bus with an offensive caption in late 2011.

Therefore, if Amy Cheong were to get charged formally in court, it will set a precedent. Jason Neo would be hauled to court too.

But don't be mistaken. It's not so much about protecting Jason Neo and the YPAP.

Neither is it about protecting NTUC.

It is the simple reality these days that plenty of Singaporeans, regardless if they are young or old, professional or a member of the ruling party, can be racist, stupid and immature the moment they get online.

Give anyone an Internet connection and they'll mess it up by putting their foot in the mouth.

And if the police set out to arrest one, they will have a field day arresting plenty of people.

The courts will be too busy processing these cases.

And there will be too little time left for sex-for-contract trials.

Belmont Lay is the editor of New Nation, an online publication that will publicly raise money for the Sticker Lady in the event she is ordered to pay a fine.

Related links:
NTUC fires assistant director over racist comments
How is the National Conversation going?
Why are Singapore's single undergrads not dating?
Why you cannot put a price on National Service
Why Singaporeans don't want kids