Couple being investigated by police for wearing anti-death penalty T-shirts at Yellow Ribbon Prison Run

Husband-and-wife duo are being investigated by the police for wearing T-shirts that carry anti-death penalty messages at the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run on Sunday (15 September).

The police are investigating 38-year-old Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin, co-founder of non-profit organisation Happy People Helping People Foundation and his 30-year-old wife for offences under the Public Order Act, which carried a maximum fine of S$3,000, with repeat offenders liable to be fined up to S$5,000.

In a press statement released on Tuesday (17 September), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) did not identify the couple but stated that they are “investigating a 38-year-old Singaporean man and a 30-year-old Singaporean woman for offences under the Public Order Act.”

The statement added, “It is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to take part in a public assembly or procession without a police permit. Investigations against the duo are ongoing.”

How it all started

Based on a previous TOC reporting, Mr Nafiz had earlier highlighted in a Facebook post that the organiser contacted him last week to request him to change his bib as the message written on it “is not in line with the cause”.

Initially, the organiser didn’t have any problem with the message “2nd chances means not killing them” printed on the bib, instead of his name. However, they changed their mind and asked him to change his bib with one that bears his name.

Mr Nafiz told TOC that after rejecting the request from different staff from the organisation to change his bib, he finally agreed to do it as he planned to wear a T-shirt with the same message on the day.

“Since I already have the t-shirt printed, I thought exchanging the bib with just my name is not a big deal as the fonts are quite small,” he said.

As such, he met the staff personally to exchange his bib, and before leaving the meet-up, he double-checked with a staff if he can appear in the race with any T-shirt of his choice.

As a reply, the staff – known as Mr Ong – said that he can come to the event in any T-shirt that he likes but noted that “the reason why they gave an official t-shirt to all participants is because they want everyone to be in yellow”.

However, on Sunday morning (15 September), he took to his Facebook on Sunday morning to reveal that the Yellow Ribbon Project Singapore disallowed him from running in the Prison Run 2019 due to the anti-death penalty messages written on the T-shirt that he wore when he came to the event.

The T-shirt had “2nd chances means not killing them” printed on the front, and “#antideathpenalty” printed on the back.

“So they did not allow me to run, despite being clear on their site that runners can use any other tops other than their official t-shirt. First they told me I need to change my bib. Now they want to police me what to wear,” he wrote.

He added, “Screw Yellow Ribbon Project. This will not stop me from achieving my goal on my birthday. I will be running parallel to them. Screw the medal.”

Reply from Singapore Prison Service

In a separate statement by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), it stated that organisers contacted Mr Nafiz a few times explaining “why his bib was inappropriate, as the YRPR (Yellow Ribbon Prison Run) should not be used by him as a platform to advocate other causes, or to campaign against existing laws” after they found out about the message printed on his bib.

After successfully exchanging his bib with a one that bears his name, SPS said that the man and the woman turned up at the event adorning identical yellow T-shirt with the anti-death penalty slogan. He was then told that he can’t take part in the race, SPS added.

“This was no different from his original intention to wear the running bib with the message printed on it, and as the organising committee had earlier advised him, it was inappropriate and not right for him to exploit the YRPR to advocate and campaign on his cause,” SPS explained.

Upon being informed of their rejection to participate in the run, the woman left the venue, but the man refused the organisers’ offer to provide him with an event T-shirt, said SPS.

“(He) ripped off his bib and threw it on the ground, and ran separately by himself on the public road that ran alongside the event running route,” it stated.

Mr Nafiz told TOC that he ran parallel with the participants, along Loyang Avenue, until the road was barricaded for the run. As such, he said he had no choice but to join the race.

He continued, “My intention was to not blend in and hope that they think I finished the race with them. The reason was because I couldn’t run on the other side, and ran together with them but without my bib.”

However, once he reached the end of the race route (at Changi Prison Complex), the organisers told him that he would not be given the permission to enter, SPS noted.

It added that Mr Nafiz stood outside the prison and left the place at around 10am.

“The duo’s actions at this year’s YRPR are a disservice to offenders, ex-offenders and their families whom the Yellow Ribbon Project seeks to help,” said the prison service.

The SPF said, “The police would like to remind members of the public that there are property avenues for Singaporeans to express their views on issue.”

It continued, “For example, they can use the Speakers’ Corner to carry out public assemblies and speak on these issues, without the need for a permit, subject to certain conditions being met.”

Mr Nafiz went through a two-hour interview at Bedok Police Station yesterday and his wife will be going for her interview today.

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