A couple who had allegedly hurled vulgarities and sprayed disinfectant at their neighbour — a Singaporean nurse and his family — was charged for harassment on Friday (21 May).
Cheang Eng Hock, 55, was slapped with two charges of intentionally causing harassment, while his wife Lim Sok Lay, 48, was given five similar charges and one count of public nuisance.
The pair had allegedly shouted phrases such as “COVID”, “COVID spreader”, “virus” or “virus family” at the nurse and his family at a Punggol HDB block in May last year, in addition to spraying disinfectant solution at them.
They are also accused of insulting against a man at Sengkang General Hospital via remarks such as “This nurse gangster”, “this nurse no good” and “this nurse very bad” on 8 Jan this year.
Additionally, Lim is also accused of using curse words at her neighbours in Nov and spraying disinfectant at her neighbours in Oct and Dec last year.
The prosecution had requested the court to allow Lim to undergo a psychiatric assessment, following which the judge ordered her to be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks.
The judge also offered bail to Cheang at S$5,000 on the condition that he must abstain from contacting his neighbours, whether directly or indirectly. The prohibition against Cheang extends to the prosecution’s witnesses.
This comes after the continued harassments were highlighted by the nurse on his Instagram account @jibby4g and went viral after groups like Wake Up, Singapore and Singapore Nursing began sharing a video of the event on their social media accounts.
The duo, earlier only identified as a 55-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman, have been allegedly harassing the frontline healthcare worker and his family since May last year by hurling vulgarities at them, spraying disinfecting solution towards them and pouring soapy water towards their main gate.
It was reported that the police first received a report regarding this matter on 15 May 2020.
While the investigation was going on, the police received several more reports between October last year and January this year, claiming that the harassment by the pair kept on happening.
This repeatedly happened despite both parties having attended mediation at the Community Mediation Centre in June 2020 in an attempt to resolve the matter.
The woman also faces additional offences committed against the neighbour, which were reported in April this year, are ongoing.
The police stated that throughout the investigation period, they have kept in contact with the parties involved and have also advised them to minimise contact and interactions with one another.
The pair will be charged in court on Friday (21 May), and the woman will also be charged for allegedly causing public nuisance in an unrelated case.
If they are found guilty for intentionally causing harassment, they face a maximum fine of up to S$5000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
As for the offence of public nuisance, they can face a maximum penalty of a jail term of up to three months, a fine of up to S$2000, or both.
Quoting a report by Mothership, the police said: “We do not condone any behaviour that impacts the public’s sense of safety and security in the neighbourhoods. We urge members of the public to practise neighbourliness and work together to overcome COVID-19 together.”
In May 2020, the nurse, who works at Sengkang General Hospital, took to his Instagram account to share the ordeal that he and his family have had to endure from their neighbours.
The nurse, whose Instagram account is ‘jibby4g’, said that he and his family were repeatedly harassed by their neighbours who mocked, hurled vulgarities, spray disinfecting solution and cursed them every time they come back to their home.
“I am called obai, kanina, virus, dirty family and virus family and was sprayed with Dettol. Just so sad. What have my family ever done to you that we deserve this treatment from you guys.” said the male nurse.
He shared that they had been good neighbours for the past 5 years and said, “suddenly after this pandemic happen, they knew that we are frontliners and this is the treatment we receive”.
In fact, the male nurse said that even the parents who fetched their kids had allegedly verbally abused and been sprayed.
A recent post by the nurse, in which he detailed experienced another incident where the neighbour poured a bucket of soap water towards the entrance of his front gate, had sparked widespread criticism among the public.
The neighbour had reportedly committed the appalling act while the nurse was on his way to send his son to school.
“Sending my son to school, soap water outside the house. Still being sprayed. They claim to spray their gate and always a coincident my son was there. When actually they can spray all they want when no one is home or after the kids are out in school,” he wrote in the caption of his video that he posted on Instagram.
“My son would cough due to the strong smell of the disinfecting solution and when he cough, the school centre will reject him. If bring him see doc, will be given SHN… when I am out of leave/CCL, how? Take no pay leave?” the nurse added.
The story of this male nurse being discriminated against by his neighbours is not the sole story that has been happening in the country since the pandemic started.
There have been numerous reports highlighting how healthcare workers are shunned by the public as they are feared to be in close contact with COVID-19 cases.