Man who spread racially charged GE2020-related comments jailed, fined

·Senior Reporter
·5-min read
People queueing to vote at the Dunearn Secondary School polling centre on 10 July. (PHOTO: Joseph Nair for Yahoo News Singapore)
People queueing to vote at the Dunearn Secondary School polling centre on 10 July 2020. (PHOTO: Joseph Nair for Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — After receiving false figures regarding the ethnicities of voters in a constituency during last year’s General Election (GE), a man forwarded them with comments including that the government wanted to “make the Malay community a sub-minority”.

Months later, Sirajudeen Abdul Majeed made racist remarks against Malays in an emergency call to a police officer, who identified as Malay, knowing that the call was being recorded.

On Monday (8 February), Sirajudeen, 52, became the first person to be prosecuted for promoting ill-will between different racial groups on grounds of race, a charge which he which he pleaded guilty to.

He also admitted to one count of uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the racial feelings of a person. Two similar charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

For his charges, Sirajudeen, was jailed for two weeks and fined $7,000 by District Judge Salina Ishak, who noted that his comments were made in an “especially sensitive” time period and “could have led to a significant uproar in the domestic context”.

On 12 June last year, Sirajudeen was a member of a WhatsApp chat group named “PSP MM Ground Group”, which shared information on the activities and strategies for the then upcoming GE.

While in the chat group, he received an image, which purportedly depicted Marymount constituency with information on the racial profile of voters.

Sirajudeen studied the population profiles of the constituency as shown in the image without verifying the data with any official sources.

Investigations revealed that the polling district boundaries in the image were inaccurate, and that actual figures for the certified registers of electors were different.

The Elections Department does not publish the breakdown of electors by racial groups for elections.

The next day, Sirajudeen sent the image along with several messages to three persons, including two with whom he had worked with before.

His texts claimed, “It seems the PAP (People’s Action Party) wants to make the Malay community a sub-minority. But the Malays were the original residents of Singapore,” and “By adding more new China, Indian, Filipino n (sic) others to, just dilute the original race of malay (sic)?”.

Sirajudeen then added “please share” to his messages.

In his police statement, Sirajudeen claimed that he sent the messages to “create awareness of what he perceived to be a strategy used by the PAP in the GE 2020”, said the prosecution.

One of the recipients reported the incident to the police. None of those who received the messages disseminated them.

Said DPP Tessa Tan, “The accused’s messages...when read collectively, convey his intent to stoke fears that the PAP government was seeking to marginalise the Malays in the country by allowing more immigrants into the country.”

“These messages would promote ill-will between different racial groups, a fact that the accused must have objectively known when he sent the said messages to (the three persons), and indicated ‘Please share’.”

On 5 August last year, two police officers were dispatched to Sirajudeen’s location to attend to a neighbourly dispute involving him.

Sirajudeen complained to them about his neighbour’s behaviour. He was unhappy with how the two police officers, a Boyanese and an Indian, handled the issue.

Sirajudeen then made two “999” phone calls to provide feedback on the police officers. In his second phone call, handled by a Boyanese civilian officer, Sirajudeen said that the officers, especially the “Malay officer” were of “unprofessional conduct”.

He also made several racist remarks impugning the officers’ competencies.

After the officer attending the call sought to verify his contact number, Sirajudeen then asked the officer if he was of “Malay origin” before stating, “I know ‘lah’! Usually, that’s the case ‘ah’...No worries, no worries. I wouldn’t blame you, sir”. The officer felt offended by his words.

During the call, which was played out in court, Sirajudeen said that he was aware that the call was being recorded but said he stood by his words.

While under investigation, Sirajudeen said in his police statement that most of the police officers whom he had encountered, and which were of “this denomination”, tend to exhibit bad attitude. He made several other racist remarks in his statement against Malays.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Yiwen sought the penalties that were imposed on Sirajudeen, noting that the accused had intended to stoke fears that the ruling PAP was trying to marginalise Malays and that the fear-mongering could have affected the “foundation of multi-racial Singapore”.

In mitigation, Sirajudeen said, “It was during the emotionally charged, during the election period as well as I was in drunken stupor, which I regret. I plead for the court’s mercy and leniency. Because I am a parent of a special needs kid and I am the sole breadwinner, a jail sentence will be devastating.”

Sentencing him, DJ Salina said that there was a “strong need to educate and deter other like minded offenders of general public by making an example of a particular offender.”

She said that Sirajudeen’s comments could create “friction and conflict between different racial groups”, which Singapore could ill-afford.

“(The) present offence under Section 298A(a) touches on the especial sensitivities of racial issues in our multi cultural society, which cannot be lightly taken in the current domestic and national security climate.”

For each charge of promoting enmity between different racial groups, or for uttering words to wound racial feelings, Sirajudeen may have been jailed up to three years, or fined, or both.

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