'We are having an illegal what?': Man who posted gathering online fined

Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Two men were sentenced on Wednesday (20 May) for violating COVID-19 circuit breaker measures – for attending a social gathering and for sitting to drink at a HDB void deck. Both men are the first to be prosecuted for their respective breaches.

Francis Soh Seng Chye had attended a social gathering a day after circuit breaker measures came into effect, and posted photos of the event on social media, while Shake Mohammed Abdul Samad Haji Abduraheem sat at a HDB void deck to drink and failed to wear a mask.

Francis Soh Seng Chye

Soh, a 38-year-old Singaporean, was fined $4,500 for attending a social gathering during the circuit breaker period.

The part-time private-hire car driver had a car-sharing arrangement with his cousin-in-law, Lye Bao Ru, in which they took shifts to drive the car. Soh would regularly meet Lye in the evenings to hand over the keys to the car.

On 8 April, at about 7pm, Soh met Lye for the same purpose. At the meeting, Lye invited Soh to dinner at her residence and Soh agreed. Both knew that social gatherings were prohibited at the time, with the circuit breaker period having started on 7 April.

Soh attended the hour-long dinner gathering at Circuit Road with six others - Lye, two of her Malaysian who shared the same residence, Lye’s two children, and her maid.

Soh took photos of the gathering and posted them on social media with the caption, “After a long long long long super long day... we are having a (sic) illegal gathering... so what? Enjoy the food to the max.”

Friends who saw Soh’s post questioned him, and one reported his actions to the Stomp website. Soh’s social media post was also reported on various media platforms.

Soh removed his social media post after Lye requested him to do so.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said that Soh “mischievously went further to broadcast his defiance” on social media, mocking and belittling those who were law-abiding. The DPP sought at least a $5,000 fine.

Addressing Soh, the prosecutor then added, “What happens is that you get charged. What happens is that, while the rest of the nation is staying home, you are here today to face the consequences of your actions. I hope that sufficiently answers your question, Mr Soh.”

Soh, who was unrepresented, admitted his wrongdoing and said the prosecutor was right. He told the court that the dinner arrangement had been ongoing for “at least two years” and that it was his daily routine.

“It was a very childish thing to post... I don’t challenge the law and but anyway I’m sorry,” said the father of two, who asked for a lower fine.

Shake Mohammed Abdul Samad Haji Abduraheem

Shake, a 44-year-old Singaporean, was jailed for four weeks’ jail and fined $1,500 after pleading guilty to using criminal force on an National Environment Agency (NEA) enforcement officer, for refusing to provide his particulars and for failing to wear a mask over his nose and mouth while outside his residence.

On 22 April, the NEA officer was performing enforcement duties at Block 99 Aljunied Crescent when he spotted Shake sitting at the void deck drinking alcohol. Shake was not wearing a mask at the time.

When the officer asked him to wear a mask and return home, Shake retrieved the mask from his back pocket and wore it over his chin instead of his nose and mouth.

As Shake refused to wear his mask properly repeatedly, the officer then asked Shake to provide his particulars to issue him a Notice of Composition, but Shake refused to comply. The officer then called the police and began recording Shake on his mobile phone.

Upset, Shake came close to the officer and pushed the officer’s hand away. He then spat on the ground and fled. His identity was later traced by the police, and investigations found that he had acted out of anger.

Appearing via video-link, Shake told the court that his mother had passed away recently, and advised him to stop drinking.

Shake added that he promised to stop drinking and that he was currently under monthly medication at the Institute of Mental Health.

DPP Sanjiv noted that Shake was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

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