Couple drop appeal against jail sentence
They will serve 8 weeks in prison for offences under Sedition Act
By K. C. Vijayan
A COUPLE found guilty of keeping and distributing seditious publications have withdrawn their appeal and opted to start their jail term instead.
Ong Kian Cheong, 50, and his wife Dorothy Chan, 46, made the move last week on the last day of their 10-day appeal period. They had been out on $15,000 bail each before that.
The couple were found guilty in May of mailing seditious or objectionable evangelical Christian tracts to three Muslim civil servants between March and December 2007.
They had also kept about 440 copies of 11 seditious booklets in their Bukit Timah condominium.
The charges were made under the Sedition Act, which is designed to punish those who stir up feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore. District Judge Roy Neighbour imposed an eight-week jail term, even though the law allowed for just a fine, to underline the point that the couple's offences affected the very foundation of Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society.
Their lawyer Selva K. Naidu had urged the court not to impose a jail term, arguing that all three recipients of the tract had not become hostile or formed any ill-will against a particular religion.
But the judge stressed that the sentence in this case was necessary to deter others from committing similar offences.
Their sentence, though, was still lower than the maximum of six months' jail the prosecution had been pressing for.
It is unclear why the couple, married for 24 years and who have a 19-year-old daughter, decided not to go ahead with the appeal.
Both had longstanding jobs - Ong was a technical officer, while Chan was a banker - which they lost after the conviction.
Mr Kenneth Cheong, whose church near River Valley Road used to be attended by the couple, said he was saddened by their admission to jail.
He said: 'I know them to be straight-forward and down-to-earth people.'
[I hope that this decision is their realisation that what they did was wrong, and that they accepted their punishment and are remorseful. I wish them well. They do not seem like hate-filled people to me, and they may have done what they did as a matter of faith, but they and Christians like them, need to realise that this approach is wrong. Even if one believes that one knows the Truth, there is also tact, consideration, and respect. Because without basic courtesy, Truth would compel us to destroy temples to false gods. And where would that lead us?]