Man who burnt Singapore flag at mosque jailed six months

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
Singapore state courts (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

A day after he was released from prison, Maidin Buang went to a mosque, lowered the Singapore flag from the flag pole there and burnt it with a lighter.

On Thursday (9 September), the 63-year-old unemployed Singaporean was jailed six months on one count of committing mischief by fire. Maidin was sentenced to an additional 420 days of jail for reoffending while on remission for his previous jail sentence.

Maidin, who suffers from schizophrenia and has a history of substance abuse, is homeless and estranged from family members, the court was told.

He committed the offence on 17 June this year at Darul Aman Mosque, along Jalan Eunos.

The caretaker of the mosque noticed Maidin standing beside the flagpole at around 11.30am. He saw Maidin lowering the Singapore national flag before using a red lighter to set fire to the flag, burning holes in it.

The caretaker stopped Maidin, who said that God had told him to burn the flag. Maidin fled the scene shortly after.

At around 3pm on the same day, Maidin returned to the mosque for prayers and the caretaker recognised him. The caretaker called the police, who arrested Maidin.

Maidin, who had previously been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health, claimed to have dreamt of an Indonesian man who directed him to burn the flag. A red lighter, an exercise book and a rolled up paper sticker with the words “P.A.P OUR TEMASEK INDONESIA” were found on him.

At the time of the flag-burning incident, Maidin’s schizophrenia relapsed and contributed to him committing the offence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wu Yu Jie told the court.

However, Maidin was not of unsound mind then despite his relapse as he still knew what he was doing and that it was wrong, said the DPP. Maidin was certified fit to plead guilty.

Maidin has a history of past offences dating back to 1971 including mischief, theft, mutilating currency notes, and drug offences. He was jailed three years and six months in 2016 and was released on remission on 16 June this year, a day before he committed the latest offence.

While DPP Wu did not propose a specific sentence, he noted that Maidin had deliberately set the flag on fire and had been sentenced in the past for mischief and vandalism.

Maidin’s pro-bono lawyer, Nur Mohd Marican, who was appointed under the State Courts’ Enhanced Guidance for Plea Scheme, told the court that his client was a single, homeless man who was estranged from his family. Maidin had not taken his medicine at the time of the offence when his psychiatric condition relapsed, the lawyer added.

District Judge May Mesenas stressed that Maidin needed to continue his treatment regardless of the sentence. The DJ arranged for Maidin to see a court counsellor to make arrangements for him when he is released from prison. She suggested that Maidin go to a halfway house after he is released.

For his offence, Maidin could have been jailed up to seven years and fined.