A 48-year-old man was fined S$1,000 on Thursday (4 Feb) for destroying a People’s Action Party (PAP) poster during the General Election (GE) last year, in the first prosecution of its kind under the Parliamentary Elections Act.
In an earlier report, it was noted that Lim Song Huat – who works as a part-time security guard – faced three charges of destroying one PAP poster and defacing two more on 3 July 2020.
The court heard that Mr Lim left his residence in Woodlands to buy 4D lottery tickets on the morning of 3 July last year.
On his way home, he passed by the election posters along the service road of Woodlands Street 13.
At 9.53am, Mr Lim picked up a stone from the road and attempted to use it to tear a poster of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong but he failed.
He then tore the poster with his bare hands, causing more than half of it to be removed and defacing the poster. He also drew a horizontal line across another poster and tore a third poster, in charges taken into consideration.
Mr Lim was caught in the act via nearby closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs), and he was subsequently arrested.
The offence was made “out of frustration”
Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap sought the maximum fine of S$1,000, saying that the offences were “incredibly hard to detect” because Mr Lim was only found after “extensive trawling of CCTV footage” near the location where the incident took place.
“As your honour is well aware, election campaigns are highly regulated in Singapore,” said DPP Yap.
“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.
Mr Lim, who was unrepresented, had pleaded for a lighter sentence. He argued that it was his first offence, which he said was due to “stupidity” and “stress of work”.
“Because of stupidity and [the] influence of my colleague, that’s why I [did] this stupid thing. I sent email to PAP to volunteer work as well… Your honour, if [it’s] possible for lighter sentence, [it] will be appreciated.
“I promise you I very scared already, I won’t do this anymore. I got black record in my future, when employer find out this kind of thing, [they] won’t employ me,” he told the court.
Mr Lim was asked on the frustrations he had at the time, to which he answered: “Because I am pure Singapore citizen, I’m born in Singapore… sometimes, whether it’s elections or non-elections, sometimes the people’s opinion is like – you vote PAP also same. It’s like we don’t have the talented people.”
“Whether [it’s] PAP, Singapore Democratic Party [or] Worker’s Party, we don’t have talented people there. As a member of public, [I am worried] maybe in two or five years’ [time], what will happen to Singapore… [I wanted] to pour out [my] frustration, that’s why,” he added.
Attempted to destroy SDP poster but failed
Mr Lim also revealed that he had intended to destroy a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) poster, but could not reach it.
“Actually that day we have [SDP] poster, but because [I] couldn’t reach,” he said. “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.”
In sentencing Mr Lim, the judge noted that this was the first prosecution under the Parliamentary Elections Act and the court must send a clear message that damaging, destroying, or defacing election posters is “utterly unacceptable”.
“While a person may hold strong political views, these should be expressed by their vote at the ballot box or by legally sanctioned means.
“Acts of defacement and destruction of political posters set up by any party for the purpose of national elections are not merely unlawful, but are also extreme, divisive, and potentially inflammatory forms of expression, which must be strenuously deterred in our country,” said the judge.
Those convicted of altering, removing, destroying, obliterating, or defacing election posters or banners can be jailed up to a year or fined up to S$1,000, or both.