Still no updates from police about report filed against SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh’s seditious post

It has been over a month since a police report was made by lawyer Syazana Yahya against Facebook page SMRT Feedback by the Vigilanteh over a now-deleted post published on 21 May. And yet, there doesn’t appear to be any update from the police about its investigation into the matter or what actions they have taken.

TOC notes that the police have contacted Ms Syazana after we ran our last story on the subject, titled “Why are authorities so silent over police report filed against SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh’s seditious post?”, on 31 May, a week after the police report was filed. They have since conducted an interview with the lawyer.

However, the police have yet to issue a statement or update on the matter.

In the offending post that became the subject of Ms Syazana’s report, the page expressed support for the late Singaporean statesman Lee Kuan Yew’s views on being wary of placing Malay-Muslim Singaporeans in sensitive positions such as in the Air Force and Navy.

The Straits Times reported the former prime minister as saying in Sep 1999:

If, for instance, you put in a Malay officer who’s very religious and who has family ties in Malaysia in charge of a machine gun unit, that’s a very tricky business. We’ve got to know his background … I’m saying these things because they are real, and if I don’t think that, and I think even if today the Prime Minister doesn’t think carefully about this, we could have a tragedy.

Putting a Muslim Singaporean “in a sensitive position where he has to deal with Israeli tech”, which “he knows is the same tech that is used to lay siege on Palestine”, said SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh, would put him in a difficult predicament.

“Would he then bin laden with guilt? Would his responsibilities as a Singaporean be overridden by his duties as a Muslim?” the page questioned.

“Lee Kuan Yew wasn’t racist. He just didn’t want our Muslim countrymen to be put in a position where they have to decide between country and god. The best position is not having to decide at all,” SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh added.

We also noted that the page hasn’t published anything since posting an apology for the offending post.

In a post of her own explaining her police report against the offending post, Ms Syazana explained the post falls under sedition, as it “casts aspersions on a Singaporean Muslim’s loyalty to its nation”.

“It falsely suggests that when a Muslim person is in a war with a religious element, he/she will turn his/her back on Singapore,” she said.

Countering such an assertion, Ms Syazana stressed that a Muslim’s “primary obligation in Islam is towards his family and country”.

“However, a non-Muslim reading this post (who may not understand Islam) will likely believe this post to be true. That a Singaporean Muslim’s loyalty is questionable in times of war. That Singaporean Muslims are predisposed to be traitors.

“This is a blatant attempt to promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will by non-Muslims against Muslims. It is surely an offence under s 298A, Penal Code,” she said.

Under the Sedition Act, those found guilty of promoting feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore may be subject, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to three years, or to both.

SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh apologises

Following backlash and a police report being filed, SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh issued an apology to the Muslim community in Singapore in a follow-up post the next day after the offending post was removed.

The ‘satirical’ Facebook page said that its earlier post was not meant to “question the loyalty of Muslims in Singapore but to reaffirm a Muslim’s commitment to his religion”.

“The religion of Islam obligates the Muslim to obey the laws of the land and to stand up for the oppressed. This also means that even if Indonesia and Malaysia attacks, it is an obligation for Singaporean Muslims to protect their homeland and fellow Singaporeans,” said SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh.

Bringing into the picture a “religious and moral dilemma” of Singapore hypothetically ending up in the position of the oppressor, the page questioned: “[W]hat then becomes of the Singaporean Muslim?”

“Perhaps it was wishful thinking for me to think that the purported restrictions of Muslims in classified military units would absolve them of making the difficult decision to choose between God and Country.

“But I have come to realise that it is not fair to burden only the Singaporean Muslims with such a question because if Singapore is the oppressor, then in its precedent, the citizens (Muslims and Non-Muslims) are the ones responsible to change the system,” said SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh.

The follow-up post, however, garnered backlash from many commenters, stating that SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh’s views merely serves to perpetuate the same kind of prejudice against Malay-Muslim Singaporeans that has enabled policies restricting them from holding sensitive vocations in the Republic’s air force and Navy for decades.

“Apologies have never absolved individuals of liability”: Lawyer explains

The next day, Ms Syazana said that apologies have never absolved individuals of liability, as demonstrated in previous cases involving police reports made against high-profile figures who spoke up against discrimination against minorities in Singapore.

Responding to the ‘satirical’ Facebook page’s apology, Ms Syazana said that the offending post is seditious, as it “casts aspersions on a Singaporean Muslim’s loyalty to its nation”.

“It falsely suggests that when a Muslim person is in a war with a religious element, he/she will turn his/her back on Singapore,” she said.

Countering such an assertion, Ms Syazana stressed that a Muslim’s “primary obligation in Islam is towards his family and country”.

“However, a non-Muslim reading this post (who may not understand Islam) will likely believe this post to be true. That a Singaporean Muslim’s loyalty is questionable in times of war. That Singaporean Muslims are predisposed to be traitors.

“This is a blatant attempt to promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will by non-Muslims against Muslims. It is surely an offence under s 298A, Penal Code,” she said in a Facebook post on 23 May.

In her post, Ms Syazana also highlighted the case in which sibling duo of YouTube fame, Preeti Nair — known as Preetipls — and Subhas Nair were investigated over a satirical rap video they made and posted online in response to a racist “brownface” ad by e-payments company Nets.

“The siblings also posted up an unconditional apology. The police investigated this incident and issued a 2 year stern conditional warning to the siblings,” said Ms Syazana, adding that Nets was only given a stern reminder by IMDA and the police had taken “no further action” against them on the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ advice that no criminal offence was disclosed.

Ms Syazana pointed out that many Singaporeans, particularly from minority communities, were outraged by how the individuals who spoke up against discrimination in this case and others were subjected to police investigations for offences pertaining to racism instead.

“Nevertheless, many Singaporeans begrudgingly accepted the decision in hopes that if the tables were turned, and a racist comment was made against minority communities instead, the state machinery will clamp down on them as they did with Ms Raeesah and Preetipls,” she said.

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