SINGAPORE - In the first case of its kind, a part-time security officer was fined $1,000 on Thursday (Feb 4) for destroying an election poster.
Lim Song Huat, 48, had earlier pleaded guilty to an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The incident occurred last year at around 9.30am on July 3, one week before Singapore held its general election on July 10.
The Singaporean was walking along Woodlands Street 13, where he lives, when he spotted People's Action Party (PAP) posters on lamp posts there.
Members of the party's Marsiling branch had put up the posters on July 1 last year. Each poster cost $10.
Lim went towards one which had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's image and tried but failed to rip it with a stone.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap said: "He then discarded the stone and used his hands to forcibly peel (the poster) from its backing, causing more than half the poster to be detached from its backing."
The police were alerted the next day and Lim was exposed after footage from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras showed him committing the offence.
Officers from Woodlands Police Division Headquarters arrested him at around 6.30pm the next day.
On Thursday, DPP Yap urged District Judge Marvin Bay to sentence Lim to the maximum fine of $1,000, stressing that such offences were difficult to detect.
She told the court that Lim was found only after "extensive trawling" of CCTV images.
Lim, who was unrepresented, told Judge Bay that he is not against PAP and said that he had done a "stupid thing".
Before sentencing him, the judge said that the courts must send a "clear and unequivocal message" that the damage, destruction and defacing of posters is "utterly unacceptable".
He added: "While a person may hold strong political views, these should be expressed by their vote at the ballot box or by other legally sanctioned means.
"Acts of defacement and destruction of political posters set up by any party for the purpose of national elections are not merely unlawful, but are also extreme, divisive and potentially inflammatory forms of expression which must be strenuously deterred in our country."
In an unrelated incident, another Singaporean man - Constantine Paul, 51 - is accused of removing two Progress Singapore Party posters from lamp posts in Bukit Batok East Avenue 5 at around 8pm on June 30 last year.
Paul, who also faces charges under the Act, is expected to plead guilty on April 5.
It is an offence for any person to alter, remove, destroy, obliterate or deface election posters or banners. For each charge, an offender can be jailed for up to a year or fined up to $1,000.