Race Koh Jun Xian, 37, was alleged to have committed the offences at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The police received a report of the incident at about 10.50 am on Nov 12, according to channelnewsasia.com.
A parish statement uploaded on the church’s Facebook page said: “The statue of Our Lady at the church’s courtyard had been found to be defaced on Thursday, Nov 12, at around 8.30 am. The church has reported the issue to the authorities and investigations are ongoing.”
The post added: “We urge parishioners and members of the faithful not to speculate nor spread unofficial information. Please check the Church’s Facebook page for official updates.”
Koh is said to have used blue tack to attach marbles to the eyes of the statue, according to an asiaone.com report. Officers from the Ang Mo Kio Police Division identified the alleged culprit through ground investigations and closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage. He had allegedly climbed over a fence to enter the church premises as it was closed to the public due to ongoing renovation work. Koh was arrested on Wednesday (Nov 18).
“The police do not condone acts that insult the religious harmony at the places of worship of any class in Singapore and perpetrators will be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law,” said the police.
In a follow-up Facebook post on Tuesday (Nov 17), the church announced that the statue had been restored. “Many have heard about Our Lady’s statue, and we have received many well-wishes and enquiries. We would like to thank everyone for your prayers and considerations. We would also like to remind everyone that as investigations are still ongoing, do exercise discretion in your comments and please refrain from speculation and spreading any unofficial information. Let’s continue to keep each other in prayer.”
Koh told the court on Friday (Nov 20) that his actions were not intentional. “I was sincere in wanting to pray to Mother Mary. I wanted to beautify her; I did not know this was an offence,” he said, according to the asiaone.com report. He was charged with one count of criminal trespass and one count of defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion.
Koh will be transferred to the Institute of Mental Health and his case adjourned to Dec 4.
The sentence for criminal trespass is up to three months in jail, a fine of up to S$1,500 or both. Anyone convicted of defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion can be jailed for up to five years, fined or both. /TISG