Malay man suspected to be behind 'Sharon Liew' racist tweets charged in court

·3-min read
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A Malay man who used the pseudonym Sharon Liew to post racially insensitive comments online, including racial slurs against Indians, was charged at the State Courts on Thursday (2 July).

Zainal Abidin Shaiful Bahari, a Singaporean, stands accused of making the unlawful comments via posts on Twitter using the handle “SharonLiew86” which bore the profile photo of a Chinese woman. Zainal was born in 1985 and will turn 35 in December.

The suspect faces four charges of promoting enmity between different racial groups by committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of racial harmony and which are likely to disturb public tranquillity.

The alleged offences were committed between October last year and April this year.

No plea was taken and Zainal will be back in court for a pre-trial conference on 30 July. He was offered bail of $5,000.

Disparaged Malays, insulted Indians

According to his charges, Zainal made a post around 11 October belittling the Malay community. Among other things, he allegedly alluded to the book Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going and allegedly said, “malay express is chinese normals academic. Malay NA is chinese normal technical Malay normal tech is ackcherly same as assumption vocation institute (sic).”

Then on 25 March, the suspect purportedly said in a tweet, “From long ago oreadi smart chinese womans do social distancing inside MRT when we die die dont want to sit next to smelly apuneneh”, using a racial slur to refer to Indians.

Zainal allegedly used the same slur on 17 April when he wrote on Twitter, “You dont know how to behave later apuneneh coronavirus catch you”.

The next day, the suspect purportedly insulted the pottu or bindi – a coloured dot worn on the center of the forehead by Hindus with religious significance. In the unlawful tweet, Zainal allegedly wrote, “I thought indian is oreadi very use to being target as they have sniper dot on forehead”.

‘Deliberate acts to stoke anger, racial tensions’

On 2 May, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam took to Facebook to comment on the Sharon Liew Twitter account, appending screenshots of racist posts.

He shared that police had found a male suspect to be behind the account.

“Done deliberately to stoke anger, unhappiness, racial tensions. Action will be taken,” said Shanmugam.

Meanwhile, in a news release on Wednesday, the police said it received a report relating to offensive content against Indian migrant workers on 18 April.

Officers established the suspect’s identity five days later. “Further investigations revealed that the man is also allegedly involved in two other cases involving other purportedly offensive tweets,” the police said.

The police also said they will not condone acts that threaten racial and religious harmony. “Any person who makes remarks that can cause ill-will and hostility between the different races and religions will be dealt with swiftly and firmly,” it added.

If found guilty of his suspected crimes, Zainal faces a jail term of up to three years and a fine per charge.

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