Tampines woman admits hurling religious insults at neighbour, offender plans to move out

Marliah Jonet, 64, with a letter from the police on the outcome of investigations into her complaint. (Photo: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)
The victim, Marliah Jonet, 64, with a letter from the police on the outcome of investigations into her complaint. (Photo: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A 66-year-old woman suffering from a mental illness pleaded guilty at the State Courts on Wednesday (6 November) to two charges of wounding the religious feelings of her Muslim neighbour in Tampines.

Lee Dji Lin is expected to be sentenced next month, pending an assessment of her suitability for a Mandatory Treatment Order, or MTO.

At the time of the offence, she had breached an MTO, which was given for a separate but similar offence against the same neighbour.

Offenders given an MTO, a community-based sentencing option, will have to undergo psychiatric treatment at the Institute of Mental Health for a period of up to three years instead of serving jail time.

Lee was charged on 9 July following a Yahoo News Singapore story in June on the nine-year long dispute between the neighbours.

Religious insults

On 24 April, the victim, Marliah Jonet, 64, who lives directly above Lee’s HDB unit in Tampines Street 21, called the police as Lee had been cursing at her from her own home.

Marliah’s daughter had been helping her clean her home earlier that day, but Lee was unhappy with the noise caused by the vacuuming and shouted at the mother and daughter from her home, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Vincent Ong.

“The accused shouted the words ‘Anak babi’ in Malay, which means ‘Baby pig’ in English in the hearing of the victim,” said DPP Ong.

“The accused had shouted the words, intending for the victim to hear them, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of the victim.”

Two months later, on 11 June, Marliah called the police again at about 12 noon as Lee had been cursing at her since the morning.

While the victim was cleaning her home, she heard Lee shouting the words, “Bodoh punya Melayu, cari pasal sama orang Cina, Melayu pergi makan babi” in Malay, which means “Stupid Malay, looking for trouble with Chinese people, Malay go eat pig” in English.

Lee intended for Maliah to hear the words and wanted to wound her religious feelings, said DPP Ong.

Less than a week later, on 17 June, Lee again wounded the religious feelings of her Muslim neighbour. This third charge will be taken into consideration in sentencing.

Delusional disorder

DPP Ong told the court that the main sentencing consideration for the offence of wounding racial or religious feelings ought to be deterrence, as there is a need to protect Singapore’s social fabric and maintain harmony.

But he noted that Lee was assessed by a government psychiatrist to suffer from chronic delusional disorder and that there was some contributory link between the illness and the commission of the offences.

At the time of the offence, Lee was under a two-year MTO imposed in June 2017 after she had reportedly thrown pork at the victim’s flat the previous year. The prosecutor said Lee will be dealt with for breaching the MTO separately.

Lee’s lawyer Chung Ting Fai did not object to an MTO suitability report being called. He said Lee’s family was renting the Tampines unit, but have recently obtained a fresh lease from HDB at another unit elsewhere.

Chung said his client did not have a good and cordial relationship with her neighbours over the years, but added that and that her impending relocation may remove the trigger point and help in her future conduct. Yahoo News Singapore understands that Lee and her family plan to move out within a month.

District Judge Brenda Tan adjourned sentencing to 12 December so that an MTO suitability report could be prepared.

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