Malaysian teacher facing trespass charges may have no lawyer

The court heard last week that Nurul Rohana Ishak is of unsound mind and unfit to make a plea.
The court heard last week that Nurul Rohana Ishak is of unsound mind and unfit to make a plea.

She is refusing to speak to anyone, and is due in court tomorrow

The Malaysian teacher who entered Singapore illegally will likely be heading into her pre-trial conference tomorrow without a lawyer.

Nurul Rohana Ishak, who slipped past immigration officers at Woodlands Checkpoint on Jan17 by tailgating a car, has refused to communicate with anyone, making it difficult for any defence counsel to help her.

"It's difficult as she won't speak to anybody, period," Malaysian Deputy High Commissioner Kamsiah Kamaruddin told The Straits Times yesterday.

Nor has the 27-year-old Kedah native spoken to her parents since she entered Singapore.

Her father, a rubber tapper, and stepmother, a cook, were allowed to visit her twice last month at the Institute of Mental Health where she has been in remand, but left after they failed to get their daughter to open up.

The Straits Times understands that the High Commission is arranging for the family to attend Nurul's second court appearance tomorrow.

She first appeared in court last Wednesday, when two more immigration charges for failing to present her passport for examination and failing to stop her vehicle on arrival at the Woodlands Checkpoint were read to her.

These were on top of the initial criminal trespassing charge brought against her after her Jan 20 arrest, when she entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs compound without authorisation. The new charges each carry a maximum sentence of six months' jail and/or a fine, while criminal trespass could lead to up to three months' jail and/or a fine.

Bail was set at $15,000, but Ms Kamsiah said no bail was posted as Nurul's family could not afford that amount.

The court also heard on Wednesday that Nurul, who reportedly has a long history of mental illness, is of unsound mind and unfit to make a plea.

This assessment could mean that her charges may be dropped or she may be cleared, criminal lawyers told The Straits Times.

Ms Kamsiah said, however, there has been no clear sign of how the case will proceed. "The High Commission is hoping for the best, that the Singapore authorities will consider dropping the charges," she said. "We will wait for a decision and we will work with that decision."