In 2017, almost 800 people gathered at Hong Lim Park to take part in a silent protest against the reserved Presidential Election. However, one man was not in the same page with their intentions and attempted to chase away the protesters by placing a toy grenade attached to a bag, at an exit near the Clarke Quay MRT station.
59-year-old Ho Hee Hew pleaded guilty to one charge of causing alarm under the Protection from Harassment Act on Friday (6 September).
The prosecution is looking at a S$5,000 fine, which is the maximum penalty for the offence, when the man returns to court on 1 October for the sentence.
Initially, Ho was charged under the United Nations Act as he wanted to induce a false belief in people by indicating that the toy grenade may explode and result to personal injury or damage to property.
If he were to be charged under this Act, then he may face a harsher punishments of up to 10 years’ jail, or a fine of up to S$500,000 or both.
However, the charge against Ho was revised to the one he faced in court on Friday.
How it all happened
It was revealed in court that this whole incident took place on 16 September 2017.
During the protest that afternoon, some of the renowned names that turned up include former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and blogger Han Hui Hui.
The protest happened as people wanted to show their concern and unhappiness over the concluded reserved elected presidency which saw Mdm Halimah Yacob being declared President-elect as sole qualifying candidate. This is because Parliament made amendment to the Presidential Election stating that the 2017 election was reserved for the Malay community.
Ho, who was cycling near Exit A of Clarke Quay MRT station at around 4.30pm on that day, stopped to examine a bad that he found earlier somewhere else. Court documents did not provide details on where the bag was originally from.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Thiagesh Sukumaran told the court that the bag contained a plastic box filled with old toys, as well as a toy grenade attached to it.
Upon getting rid of some of the items, Ho examined his surroundings to see if anyone is looking at him, before throwing the bag towards a nearby wheelchair ramp and fled the scene. His actions were recorded in a closed-circuit television.
At about 5pm, a passer-by found the unattended bag and alerted the police. The police then sealed off the exit for about 15 minutes to allow officers from the Public Transport Security Command (TransCom) unit to inspect the bag.
It was later found that the bag did not have anything that may be a safety treat to the public. A court document also stated that the bag did not cause any disturbance to the protesters.
The police then arrested Ho and he told them that he disagreed with the protesters’ intentions and placed the bag there in an attempt to get them to leave the park.
Ho’s lawyer asked for a fine of S$1,500 as his client’s actions only resulted to minimal disruption and the fine would “suffice to deter him from committing such a foolish act again”.
To counter that, DPP Thiagesh said that Ho caused a high level of potential harm, pushing for the maximum S$5,000 fine.
“We also have to look at the accused’s intentions..if there was public alarm caused, it would cause mass panic among the protesters. That escalates the intention in this particular case,” he explained.