Tampines woman who made religious insults seeks probation

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Marliah Jonet, 64, with a letter from the police on the outcome of investigations into her complaint. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A 66-year-old woman suffering from a mental illness who wounded the religious feelings of her Muslim neighbour in Tampines told a district court through her lawyer on Thursday (12 December) that she wanted a probation sentence.

Lee Dji Lin had pleaded guilty two similar charges last month, but has been found unsuitable for a Mandatory Treatment Order, or MTO. A third similar charge will be considered in sentencing.

At the time of the offences, she had breached an earlier 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.

At the State Courts on Thursday, Lee’s lawyer Chung Ting Fai said his client is undergoing psychiatric treatment and is “prepared to apologise to the victim”.

He added that Lee is in the process of moving out and her family has signed a new tenancy agreement, although there is no specific moving out date.

The prosecution did not object to a probation suitability report being called.

Lee is expected to be sentenced by District Judge Brenda Tan on 23 January.

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 earlier 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 earlier 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. 

The maximum punishment for each of Lee’s charges of uttering words with the intention to wound religious feelings is a jail term of up to three years along with a fine.

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