Back in May this year, lawyer, Ms Syazana Yahya, made a police report on a post put up on the Facebook page of SMRT Feedback by The Vigilanteh (a page with a sizable following of about 430,000 followers), stating that it is understandable that late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew did not allow Muslims to serve in sensitive military positions, except for a few.
Ms Syazana considered the post seditious as it “casts aspersions on a Singaporean Muslim’s loyalty to its nation” and refused to withdraw her police report even after the website took down its post and apologised on the basis that apologies have not absolved individuals in the past. She cited the examples of Workers’ Party Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan and the sibling duo of YouTube fame, Preetipls.
Ms Raeesah “was flamed” during the last general election campaign period for her remarks on the Robertson Quay and the City Harvest Church incident, never mind that she was a minority highlighting racism. Despite a sincere apology, the police still investigated her for offences under s 298A of the Penal Code and issued a “stern warning” against Ms Raeesah.
Preetipls was investigated over a satirical rap video they made and posted online in response to a racist “brownface” ad by e-payments company Nets and despite an unconditional apology, the siblings were given a 2-year stern conditional warning. And despite the fact that most people would consider the Nets advertisement racist, Nets was only given a stern reminder by IMDA with the police taking “no further action” against them on the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) advice that no criminal offence was disclosed.
The police seemingly dawdled on Ms Syazana’s report, appearing not to have taken any action for weeks. Now they have finally emerged and said that they will not be taking any further action because apparently, the police have consulted the AGC, which directed no further action to be taken as the elements of an offence have not been established beyond a reasonable doubt.
Yet, how has the AGC come to this conclusion when it seems contrary to the cases of Ms Raeesah and Preetipls?
An essential hallmark of justice is the need for consistency. In other words, it needs to be like for like.
People need to be treated equally before the eyes of the law. It cannot be one rule for one and another for someone else.
“It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.
Why is it that The Vigilanteh has received no censure and not even a warning?
They have a large enough following to have influence over how Singaporeans may view our Muslim brothers and sisters. Surely, if the authorities are keen to clamp down on racial and religious intolerance, this is a case they cannot ignore?
Unless of course there are other factors at play. If so, perhaps the AGC should shed some light on the grounds of its decision so that the public can have a better understanding of how these things work.
Otherwise, it is prima facie seemingly unfair and inconsistent. If such inconsistencies are not openly addressed and explained, the rumour mill and speculation will once again thrive and this does no one any favours – least of all the authorities.
As the famous aphorism by Lord Hewart goes, “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”
As it stands this does not seem to be the case.