Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Vandalism cases in Singapore

From the Straits Times archives

One of two German nationals, Elton Hinz, covering his face while he is transported in a police vehicle after being charged with trespassing and vandalising a transit train in Singapore. -- PHOTO: EPA

Two young German men were sentenced on Thursday to nine months in jail and three strokes of the cane for vandalising an MRT train.

Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and Elton Hinz, 21, had entered the Bishan train depot on Nov 7 last year through a drainage system and by scaling a wall. They surveyed the area before leaving, and returned the next day, where they spray painted graffiti measuring 1.8m in height and 10m in length on a train carriage.

The judge said that the offences were "committed after thorough, meticulous, deliberate and elaborate planning," adding that a "self-timed" photograph that the two men had taken in front of the train before vandalising it "was meant to serve as a trophy to gain notoriety.

This is not the first time which Singapore's vandalism case has made global news. We look at other cases of vandalism in Singapore.

1. Five Singaporean teenagers spray-paint graffiti on Toa Payoh rooftops

The spray-painted red graffiti across the walls of a rooftop of Block 85A, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on 7 May 2014. Five teenagers were involved in the spray-painting, and three of them have been sentenced to probation. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

In May last year, a group of five teenagers stole four cans of spray paint from a parked lorry, and used their spoils to spray-paint red graffiti with expletives directed at the People's Action Party on the rooftop of Block 85A in Toa Payoh Lorong 4.

The youths - Chay Nam Shen, Reagan Tan Chang Zhi, David William Graaskov, Boaz Koh Wen Jie and Goh Rong Liang - are all 18 years old and Singaporean. The group of boys, who called themselves Mikecool, were also involved in other offences, including trespassing on the Marina Bay Suites condominium, and climbing into a construction site in Jalan Rajah to get onto a crane.

So far, only three of the teens have been sentenced. Graaskov, who did not participate in the rooftop graffiti, was given 15 months' probation for theft and trespass, while Chay and Tan were ordered to undergo 24 months of probation. Under the probation order, they have to perform 180 hours of community service, remain indoors between 10pm and 6am and be electronically tagged for six months. The other two have not been sentenced yet.

2. Vandals inspired by hacker's group Anonymous

The vandalism found outside Sunshine Plaza at Prinsep Link, which have been spray-painted with the words “WE ARE ONE WE ARE LEGION EXPECT US!!”, followed by a logo-styled “TSK". -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Muhammad Qamarul Arifin Sa’adon was one of five charged for spray-painting slogans on the pavement outside Sunshine Plaza at 91 Prinsep Link and on a nearby pillar in November 2013. The slogan sprayed was apparently associated with the global hacktivist group Anonymous. -- ST FILE

Five men, including a full-time national serviceman and a former firefighter, spray-painted "WE ARE ONE WE ARE LEGION EXPECT US!!" on the pavement outside Sunshine Plaza along Prinsep Link at around 4am in November 2013. The words were styled in a similar way to messages from "hactivist" group Anonymous.

The same graffiti was sprayed on a pillar nearby, and a section of pavement along Waterloo Street was also vandalised. Two of the men, national serviceman Mohamad Fadzly Aziz, 21, and former firefighter Muhammad Qamarul Arifin Sa'adon, 23, were sentenced to two months in jail and three strokes of the cane.

Among those involved included freelance deejay Danial Ryan Salleh, 25. He apparently told Fadzly and three others that he had received a call from someone in Switzerland claiming to be a member of Anonymous. He said he was told to spray-paint a message backing its fight against the Singapore Government.

3. Vandal scribbles CPF graffiti

The CPF-related graffiti found at a bus stop in River Valley Road. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

It's not just young men who are committing acts of vandalism. In May last year, a 71-year-old man went on a defacement spree, writing "We support CPF Blogger, Return our CPF Money" on advertisement boards at more than a dozen bus stops.

He scribbed the words on bus stops in Clemenceau Avenue, River Valley Road, and at Hill Street outside and opposite the Ministry of Communications and Information Building, among others. A day before he committed the acts of mischief, Loh Thiam Hock had read a newspaper article relating to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), in which blogger Roy Ngerng had removed a blog post accusing the Government of misappropriating CPF funds.

Speaking in Hokkien through an interpreter, Loh said that he had been picking up cans as a rag-and-bone man after his release from prison in 2003 for causing grievous hurt. He was sentenced to four weeks in jail.

4. The Cenotaph war memorial vandal

The Cenotaph, a war memorial at Esplanade Park was vandalised on 23 April 2013. The Cenotaph is a national monument and is a tribute to those who lost their lives during both World Wars. -- PHOTO: STOMP

Security guard Mohamad Khalid Mohamad Yusop spray-painted "democracy" and an "X" in red on the national monument in Connaught Drive in April 2013. The Cenotaph was built in 1922 and is dedicated to Singaporeans who died in the two world wars.

Khalid argued that his graffiti was art and a revolution when confronted by eyewitnesses.

He was sentenced to three months' jail and the minimum three strokes of the cane.

4. Train depot vandals

Swiss national Oliver Fricker trying to avoid the media as he arrived at the Subordinate Courts in 2010. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

A vandalised SMRT train at Bishan Depot. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

In May 2010, Swiss national Oliver Fricker, 32, and Briton Dane Alexander Llyod, 29, managed to cut a hole and entered SMRT's Changi depot. They apparently spray-painted the train with the words "McKoy Banos" - the signature tag of two graffiti artists believed to have spray-painted trains around the world.

Fricker, an IT consultant, was sentenced to seven months in jail and three strokes of the cane while his accomplice remains at large.

There were two other reported cases of defaced trains here. In 2011, a hole was cut in the Bishan depot fence and the words “Jet Setter’s” were spray-painted on a train. In 2010, two vandals cut through SMRT’s Changi depot fence and spray-painted graffiti on a train. SMRT was fined $50,000 for the 2010 incident and $200,000 for the 2011 breach.

5. American teenager Michael Fay

Michael Fay (with cap) surrounded by reporters and cameramen outside Queenstown prison in June 1994. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

In 1994, Michael Fay made global headlines when he was caned for damaging cars and public property despite an appeal for clemency by then-President Bill Clinton. Born in the United States in 1975, Fay moved to Singapore in 1992 to be with his mother and stepfather, who were working here. While in Singapore, Michael studied at the Singapore American School (SAS).

In 1993, the American teen and his friends, some of whom were from the SAS, carried out acts of theft and vandalism on several occasions. These included spray-painting cars, pelting cars with eggs and stealing signboards. Fay and his friends were arrested in late 1993. On March 3, 1994, he was sentenced to four months in jail, slapped with a $3,500 fine and given six strokes of the cane.

His friends received different sentences based on how serious their offences were – one was given 12 strokes of the cane, while another was fined $800. After President Clinton’s appeal to then-Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong for clemency, the Singapore Government reduced Fay’s punishment from six strokes to four.

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Vandalism and the Act of Rebellion

There is something interesting to be said about the recent act of vandalism on the roof of a HDB block, sprayed with profanity prominently mentioning a political party. Though it may be that the culprits could be either naïve or immature, the bold and blatant act caught some people by surprise.

Consider the precariousness in which the graffiti was sprayed. Near the ledge of the roof where the perpetrators could fall off easily, not only were it risky for them to spray the words visibly, there was a certain guarantee, intended or not, that any attempt to erase it will be difficult. (We now know it is not cause a foreign worker cleaned it off shortly after.)

Consider the fact that the message was displayed on a HDB block, a hallmark of government housing and a mark of provision for all.