SINGAPORE — A commuter accused of attacking an SBS Transit bus captain after being told to put on his mask was charged in court on Thursday (17 September).
Ja’afally Abdul Rahim, 52, faces one charge each of possessing an offensive weapon and voluntarily causing hurt to bus captain Low Kok Weng on Tuesday.
The Singaporean is said to have pushed Low in the face while on bus service 21, which was had come to a stop at a bus stop along Pasir Ris Drive 1 at about 2.50pm. He is also accused of having a knife with a handle and blade, each measuring 6cm, without lawful authority or for a lawful purpose while at the same location.
Ja’afally will return to court for a further mention on 8 October. The case was adjourned for further investigations and for Low’s medical report to be submitted to court.
His case is the latest in a string of such assaults, SBS Transit said on Wednesday.
“What happened yesterday is unfortunately not an incident in isolation. Several of our bus captains have been abused in the last few months on account of enforcing the strict mask-up rule,” said SBS Transit in a Facebook post. “This is repugnant. And this must stop.”
The 12-minute assault involved a male commuter who boarded Service 21 along Pasir Ris Drive 6, according to SBS Transit. The man had boarded without a mask and only put it on after.
Ja’afally allegedly hurled vulgarities at Low for the duration it took to travel two bus stops.
The 39-year-old male bus captain later stopped at a bus stop in front of Block 210 Pasir Ris Drive 1 while waiting for the police, who had been alerted to the incident, to arrive.
While the vehicle remained stationary, the man “grabbed the bus captain’s neck and collar, holding on for more than a minute” and refused to let go despite pleas from the latter.
Ja’afally allegedly then punched the bus captain repeatedly on the head while the latter cowered with his arms shielding his face.
At this point, three young men at the bus stop rushed up the bus and tackled the assailant, dragging him out of the bus to the bus stop, SBS Transit added in its the Facebook post.
The men pinned the assailant to the ground shortly before the police arrived to arrest him, said SBS Transit.
The company added that the bus captain had sought medical treatment at Changi General Hospital and has been given three days of medical leave.
“We are thankful that he did not sustain any serious injuries. He is shaken but remains in good spirits,” said SBS Transit.
“We are especially grateful to the three Good Samaritans who gallantly stepped forward to help our bus captain. We would like to get in touch with them and would be grateful if they can contact us through our hotline at 1800-2872727 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
In response to queries from Yahoo News Singapore, Tammy Tan, SBS Transit’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, said, “"This year alone, we have had close to 40 cases of public bus transport workers being assaulted – more than the 33 we had in the whole of 2019. Of the numbers to date, mask-related assaults accounted for about half.”
If convicted on voluntarily causing hurt, Ja’afally may be jailed up to two years, fined up to $5,000, or both. If convicted on possessing an offensive weapon, he faces a term of up to three years jail. He cannot be caned as he is over 50 years old.
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