Singapore—A man has been fined for defacing a People’s Action Party (PAP) campaign poster in last July’s General Election in the first such case.
Lim Song Huat, 48, was fined $1000 for the offence on Thursday (Feb 4).
He could also have been jailed up to one year.
Lim said in mitigation that he had not originally intended to deface only the PAP posters, one of which bore the image of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He had also wanted to reach the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) poster above the PAP poster, but could not.
The part-time security guard pleaded guilty to one charge of defacing an election poster under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.
Two other similar charges were taken into consideration.
He said that stress and his own “stupidity” were the cause of his imprudent behavior.
The incident occurred on the morning of July 3, 2020.
Lim left his home in Woodlands earlier that day and bought some 4D tickets.
On his way home, he saw PAP posters under SDP posters along the service road of Woodlands Street 13, behind Marsiling Secondary School.
He then took a stone and tried to use it to tear up the PAP poster with PM Lee’s picture. When he failed to rip it with the stone, he tore down over half of the poster with his own hands.
He also tore another PAP poster, and took a black pen and marked a third one with a horizontal line.
A report was lodged with the police on July 4 about the defaced posters. Lim, who was caught in the act on CCTV cameras, was arrested.
According to Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap, the posters cost $10 each.
She told the court that the offences were “incredibly hard to detect” because the posters were placed in public spaces all across the country. Lim should be given the maximum fine of $1000, she said.
CNA quotes the DPP as saying to District Judge Marvin Bay, “As your honour is well aware, election campaigns are highly regulated in Singapore. It takes place over a short period of time, and putting up of posters in public places is highly regulated. There is a limit to the amount of posters parties can put up, and the time they can put it up for.”
She added that defacing the posters “deprives candidates of the ability to present themselves to the electorate”.
Lim said it was his first offence and asked for a lighter sentence.
He told the court, ”Because of stupidity (and) influence of my colleague, that’s why I do this stupid thing.”
He said he had emailed the PAP a request to do volunteer work.
Asked by the judge why he was stressed, he replied that he had become frustrated, feeling things do not change in the country, no matter who is voted into office.
“You know whether it’s PAP, SDP, Workers’ Party, we don’t have the talented people there. So sometimes, as a member of public, we are worrying that maybe in two years’ time, five years’ time, what will happen to Singapore to progress. So, sometimes out of frustration, you want to pour out the frustration, that’s why.”
However, he added that the MPs where he lives “have done a good job,” installing “a lot of facilities”.
“I’m not only against PAP. It’s because of frustration. The voice in my head — my colleague (said) — you want to vote PAP or SDP,” he added.
But Judge Bay said that it was important for the court to send a clear message that destroying or defacing election posters is “utterly unacceptable,” given that this is the first case prosecuted under a particular segment of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
He said, “While a person might hold strong political views, this should be expressed through their votes at the ballot box or by other legally sanctioned means.”
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