Police investigating duo for offences under Public Order Act at Yellow Ribbon Prison Run

Participants resting and taking photographs outside the old Changi Prison wall at the end of the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2019 on Sept 15, 2019.
Participants resting and taking photographs outside the old Changi Prison wall at the end of the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2019 on Sept 15, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Police are investigating a Singaporean duo for offences under the Public Order Act, after the pair attempted to advocate against the death penalty at the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run on Sunday (Sept 15) using running bibs and T-shirts at the event.

The duo is believed to be Mr Nafiz Kamarudin, 38, a first aid trainer, and his wife, 30, who was at the event to support him.

Mr Nafiz had first posted on his Facebook account about the incident last Thursday, where he said that the Yellow Ribbon Run had contacted him to change his runner's bib as "the message... is not in line with their cause".

His bib had read "'2nd chances' means not killing them", referring to the death penalty.

On the day of the race, Mr Nafiz changed to another runner's bib that had just his name, but wore a yellow T-shirt that reproduced the same text from the previous bib.

In another Facebook post, which was uploaded on Sunday, he said the organisers did not allow him to take part in the race, and he was "running parallel" to them.

Mr Nafiz, who is also co-founder of non-profit organisation Happy People Helping People Foundation, later told socio-political news site The Online Citizen that he was called for questioning by the police at Bedok police station two days after the race.

On Tuesday, the police confirmed in a statement that they are investigating a Singaporean man, aged 38, and a Singaporean woman, aged 30, under the Public Order Act, after a police report was made after the run against their actions.

 

The Singapore Prisons Service (SPS) also issued a statement, saying that the organising committee for the run had become aware that Mr Nafiz printed the anti-death penalty phrase on his runner's bib more than a week before the event.

The organisers then contacted Mr Nafiz twice on Sept 6 to explain to him why his bib was inappropriate, "as the YRPR should not be used by him as a platform to advocate other causes, or to campaign against existing laws".

"He was offered the opportunity to exchange his inappropriate bib with one printed with his name. On both occasions, he rejected the organising committee's offer despite being informed that he would be deregistered from the event and his registration fee refunded if he refused to change the bib," the statement added.

The organisers then contacted him for the third time on Sept 13, and both parties met in person that night.

"The meeting took place and he exchanged his bib for one bearing his name, so that he could participate in the event," said the SPS.

However, on the day of the race, Mr Nafiz and his wife turned up wearing identical T-shirts with the same anti-death penalty message from his previous runner's bib on the front of the shirt, and on the back, the words #ANTIDEATHPENALTY, said SPS.

The organisers then told him that he would not be allowed to participate in the run in the T-shirt, as it was "no different from his original intention to wear the running bib with the message printed on it".

He was offered another event T-shirt to wear instead, the statement said.

"However, he rejected the offer, ripped off his bib and threw it on the ground, and ran separately by himself on the public road that ran alongside the event running route," said SPS, adding that the woman then left the event venue.

When Mr Nafiz reached the entrance to the Changi Prison Complex at around 8.15am, he was told that he would not be allowed in, and he stood outside until around 10am, SPS added.

"Over the past decade, this event has helped to rally community support for ex-offenders who have served their sentences and made a commitment to turn over a new leaf. The duo's actions at this year's YRPR are a disservice to offenders, ex-offenders and their families whom the Yellow Ribbon Project seeks to help," said SPS.

Police investigations are ongoing.

It is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to take part in a public assembly or procession without a police permit. Anyone convicted may be fined up to $3,000. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $5,000.

The police in their statement reminded the public that "there are proper avenues for Singaporeans to express their views on issues".

"For example, they can use the Speakers' Corner to carry out public assemblies and speak on these issues, without the need for a permit, subject to certain conditions being met," it added.

In Singapore, capital punishment may be meted out for offences such as murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking above a certain quantity.

In 2012, Parliament made significant changes to the Penal Code and the Misuse of Drugs Act, changing its policy from mandatory to discretionary capital punishment.