Go tie yourself to a tree, judge tells homeless man

I was saddened yet at the same time angry when I read this news report:

Straits Times, Aug 18, 2009

Jailed for living in illegal tent

By Sujin Thomas

HOMELESS and unemployed, Noor Mohammad Yassin Ismail pitched a canvas tent at East Coast Park in May, 2007, and lived there for almost a month – without a lease or licence to do so.

He was discovered on June 26 of that year, after he was apprehended by park rangers.

In court on Tuesday, Noor was asked to produce his Identity Card or passport but he said that he had lost both items.

It prompted District Judge Mr Shaiffudin Saruwan to retort in jest: ‘I suggest you use a bicycle chain to tie yourself to a tree or you may lose yourself as well.’

Pleading for leniency, Noor, who is tanned and skinny, said that he seldom ate, only doing so if friends gave him food.

He added that his mother is paralysed and looked after by a younger sibling, while an elder sister does not care about him.

He was fined $800 but could not afford to pay the fine so he was jailed four days instead. He could have been fined up to $2,000.

Jailed for living in illegal tent
By Sujin Thomas
HOMELESS and unemployed, Noor Mohammad Yassin Ismail pitched a canvas tent at East Coast Park in May, 2007, and lived there for almost a month – without a lease or licence to do so.
He was discovered on June 26 of that year, after he was apprehended by park rangers.
In court on Tuesday, Noor was asked to produce his Identity Card or passport but he said that he had lost both items.
It prompted District Judge Mr Shaiffudin Saruwan to retort in jest: ‘I suggest you use a bicycle chain to tie yourself to a tree or you may lose yourself as well.’
Pleading for leniency, Noor, who is tanned and skinny, said that he seldom ate, only doing so if friends gave him food.
He added that his mother is paralysed and looked after by a younger sibling, while an elder sister does not care about him.
He was fined $800 but could not afford to pay the fine so he was jailed four days instead. He could have been fined up to $2,000.

It is bad enough that this poor (literally) man who doesn’t even have food to eat and a place to stay is jailed, but when I read what Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said to him as he sentenced him, I was completely aghast! Does the judge have no compassion whatsoever? He jails a destitute man and then insults him.

What is my country coming to? A land where the powerful elites sneer at the weakest members of society instead of helping them?

I thank reporter Sujin Thomas for highlighting this case.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “Go tie yourself to a tree, judge tells homeless man”

  1. This is most deplorable. I hope CJ or someone in a position to do so will censure the the judge.

    If you look at history, the people WILL turn against the regime when enough is enough. I hate to see my country go down this path. (Of course, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are supposedly separate. But in Singapore Inc., people tend to see them as one.)

    A question I have is: would Sujin Thomas get to keep his job? And even if he keeps his job, could the article be a career-ender? He didn’t write against the powers that be but a judge must count for something… albeit a district judge.

    Perhaps Mr Brown may have a job opening at his outfit…

    Regards,
    An Old Friend

  2. Not in jest lah…200% must be the judge spoke in a “fatherly” manner like one female MP who “motherly” ask why a seeking help resident’s son not working during meet-the-people session

  3. >>I can’t see why the reporter would be penalized for doing his job. This was a straight report, no commentary. And the editor approved it.

    Ya lor…too bad not reported online ONLY else they could simply do what they’re good at – UPDATING THE DETAILS…including heading…hahaha

  4. What an insight to singapore’s society.

    Apart from the judge, I wonder where are the lending hand social community? Aren’t they supposed to give a hand to this poor man after taking so much donations and tax payers money?

    Does putting this man in jail solves the root of the problem?

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