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Judicial CP - March 1998
New Paper, Singapore, 2 March 1998
The Electric New Paper. Copyright © 1998
Straits Times, Singapore, 13 March 1998
Drive against illegals: Over 200 arrested in raids
POLICE arrested more than 200 people of various nationalities in a series of island-wide raids yesterday.
About 83 officers from the Ang Mo Kio Division swarmed a coffeeshop and a provision shop along Ponggol Road at 7 pm yesterday, surprising dozens of shoppers and diners.
Many men were asked to stand in line and to produce their identification papers, while others were asked for their papers even as they tried to finish their dinner.
Two men tried to run away, but were caught almost immediately.
The operation, codenamed Lightning, lasted two hours, during which time 112 suspected illegal immigrants and overstayers were detained.
Many were believed to be working at construction sites.
Police said that preliminary investigations show that they could be from India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, China, Thailand and Myanmar.
Earlier in the day, police officers from various land divisions raided several places in the morning.
These included lodging houses and construction sites in Woodlands, Race Course Road and Selegie.
A total of 91 people were nabbed in the morning raids. Of these, 44 were overstayers. The others were suspected illegal immigrants.
Police said in a statement that they are also investigating the likelihood that these offenders may have been employed illegally.
It warned employers of these illegal workers that they could be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $6,000. Those caught employing more than five of such workers would be caned.
The drive against immigration offenders is also taking place at sea.
At about 3.45 am yesterday, a Police Coast Guard patrol craft intercepted a boat off Marina East and arrested four Indonesian illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants and overstayers will be jailed for up to six months and will receive at least three strokes of the cane.
The police operations continued throughout the night and into this morning. They were part of stepped-up enforcement against immigration offenders.
"Police will continue to take enforcement action at all known locations where illegal immigrants and overstayers are known to congregate, work or stay," said a spokesman yesterday.
Straits Times, Singapore, 22 March 1998
Flood of immigration offenders in court
By Elena Chong
NEARLY 300 foreigners were charged in the Subordinate Courts yesterday, in an unusually long session that lasted till late afternoon.
This was the second time in less than a week that such a large number of people had been prosecuted.
On Thursday, District Judge Lau Wing Yum sat till about 8 pm to deal with more than 200 immigration cases.
This was repeated yesterday when the afternoon session, presided by him, did not finish until 4.45 pm, about four hours longer than a normal Saturday.
Most of the 117 who pleaded guilty yesterday had entered Singapore illegally.
Their sentences ranged from one month to six weeks in jail plus four to six strokes of the cane.
Those who overstayed were each given one month's jail and four strokes of the cane.
Among the overstayers were three women from China who were each jailed a month and fined $2,000.
The fines were given because women offenders cannot be caned.
All the offenders -- from Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia and India -- were taken to court in nine bus-loads.
Those who were not dealt with were remanded for a week for the police to check on their entry status and if they had any criminal records.
In pressing for deterrent sentences, the prosecutor said there had been an alarming increase in the number of illegal immigrants.
A clear signal needs to be sent to potential offenders that such flagrant disregard of the law would not be tolerated, he added.
"With the large numbers of convicted immigration offenders and as the further influx of such offenders continues and escalates, there will be a problem of overcrowding of the prisons," he said.
He also said that the current regional economic crisis will mean more illegals will come as they face unemployment at home. They also pose a threat to security and the safety of Singaporeans.
"We are literally a nation besieged, and a lot of manpower and resources have to be deployed to block their entry until the waves of such immigrants subside," he said.
The maximum penalty for illegal entry and overstaying is six months' jail and caning. Those who overstay beyond 90 days will get at least three strokes.
Those who harbour and employ illegal immigrants will be jailed between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000. Those who employ more than five of them will also be caned.
Straits Times, Singapore, 23 March 1998
I have never felt such pain before
NYI NYI, a Myanmar national, winced in pain every time he moved on his chair.
The 29-year-old sociology graduate from Rangoon University had been caned the day before, and the three fresh wounds on his backside were stinging.
Police caught the illegal immigrant late last month. He is still serving his one-month jail term at Portsdown Prison.
"I did not sleep last night. I never felt such pain before. I cannot describe it, but it was very, very painful," Nyi Nyi told The Straits Times last week.
Unlike other illegal immigrants, he did not live in dire straits back home.
His father is an engineer who earns about $400 a month. The family of five live in a rustic but comfortable three-bedroom house.
As a fresh graduate, Nyi Nyi could earn about $250 a month if he remained in Yangon. But he yearned for more.
He had heard from his friends that it was easy to find work in Singapore and this made him set on coming here.
University graduate: Nyi Nyi was not in dire straits in Myanmar, but he thought he could earn more money in Singapore. - Picture by George Gascon.
He landed in Changi airport last November and was taken by the agent to "a boarding house" -- a three-room flat in Tiong Bahru.
It was then that he had a rude shock: He did not expect to see 15 other Myanmar nationals holed up in the flat.
The flat was a mess. The men's belongings were strewn everywhere. The rooms stank of sweat and soiled clothing.
For someone used to having his own room, Nyi Nyi said: "When I saw the flat, I wanted to go home."
But he gritted his teeth and put up in the flat because he had hoped to earn some money before he headed home.
While the lodging was in a poor state, it did not come cheap. He paid $200 a month to the Singapore landlord.
As he had brought only about $600 with him, he had to look for a job fast and save on food. He cooked his own simple meals of rice, vegetables and meat.
"Sometimes, I just ate Maggi mee," he added.
For the next two months, he staked out various places in Chinatown, such as the People's Park Complex, hoping to get a job in one of the restaurants there.
No luck. Restaurant owners showed him the door. He said: "They did not hire me because I had no permit."
He began to look for work in other places, such as in the Rochor and Kallang areas.
But each time, the answer from the employers was the same: "Go away!"
Nyi Nyi said: "Every day, I just went from one place to another. I didn't know what to do."
When asked whether he tried looking for work at construction sites, the frail-looking man shook his head, smiled sheepishly and said: "I have not done such work before. I don't think I can survive."
He stayed in the Tiong Bahru flat for about two months before moving out because he could not afford to pay the rent.
He then moved into a flat in Old Airport Road, which four of his friends, also illegal Myanmar immigrants, had rented.
He was arrested by police at the flat two weeks later.
It so happened that a neighbour had called the cops, after seeing three of his friends climbing into the flat from the window at the corridor.
The men had forgotten their door key, but the neighbour did not recognise them and thought they were burglars.
The policemen were inside the flat when Nyi Nyi returned that day. Instead of running away, the worn-out man walked straight into them.
He remembered being exhausted and incoherent when the police questioned him then.
He said: "They asked for my passport. I said I came back to get my pillow and blanket."
Every night, before he fell asleep in his dormitory- like cell which he shared with other immigration offenders, he would count the number of days which he still had to serve.
He said he missed his family very much and was looking forward to being repatriated later this month.
"I am very sad. Coming to Singapore illegally is my biggest mistake. I will tell my friends not to do it. If they want to work, they should apply for a legal permit," he said.
He came to Singapore because of a dream. Now, he is going home penniless -- and with three cane marks to show for his illegal life here.
Straits Times, Singapore, 28 March 1998
120 illegals plead guilty
By Karen Wong
MORE than 120 foreigners pleaded guilty yesterday to illegal entry and overstaying, and about 50 more were remanded while police investigated their cases.
They were the largest group to admit committing immigration offences since the Subordinate Courts began on March 19, to hold special sittings to deal with such cases.
In this, the fourth sitting, District Judge Lau Wing Yum meted out nearly 500 strokes of the cane in total.
This "immigration court" handles between 100 and 300 illegal immigrants and overstayers at each session.
Last Saturday, a total of 110 foreigners admitted entering or staying on here illegally.
At yesterday's sitting, most of the people in the dock were Thais.
The next largest group were Bangladeshis and, after them, Myanmar nationals.
The men were led into court in small groups. Most of the immigration offenders were men in their twenties.
Only three of the group were women and all of them were from China.
Six of the men were 50 or older, and were thus spared caning.
Each of the older offenders was jailed a month and fined $2,000.
The heaviest sentence was imposed on a 30-year-old Indonesian national known only as Salleh.
For smuggling six illegal immigrants into Singapore, he was sentenced to a total of six years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane.
He was given three years' jail and three strokes of the cane on each of the six charges.
But only two of the jail terms are to be served consecutively.
The court heard that at about 11.45 pm on March 20, a Police Coast Guard patrol boat intercepted an unnumbered wooden motorised sampan at sea.
They encountered them near the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
Salleh was at the helm of the boat.
He had six passengers with him; all of them were Indonesian.
Neither he nor his passengers had valid travel documents.
The minimum penalty for smuggling illegal immigrants into Singapore is two years' jail and three strokes of the cane. The maximum jail term is five years.
A spokesman for the courts said that these special sittings may continue indefinitely.
He said that period would depend on how many immigration cases the courts have to handled.
Straits Times, Singapore, 31 March 1998
Lorry driver tries to smuggle 64 illegals out
A MALAYSIAN lorry driver tried to take 64 foreigners, including two Thai women, out of Singapore in his lorry late last Friday night. But he was caught by immigration and police officers conducting a random check at the Causeway.
Poh Siak Meng, 35, was jailed four years and fined $42,000 yesterday for helping the group leave illegally. If he cannot pay, he will be jailed 21 more months.
Immigration prosecutor Tng Kim Choon told the court the foreigners had come here to look for work, but could not find any. They then arranged through different middlemen to leave the country illegally.
One such middleman, a Malaysian named Ah Siang, paid Poh M$1,000 (S$463) for each trip.
They met at the Malaysian Customs' cargo complex in Johor Baru at 8 pm on Friday, and drove separately into Singapore to pick up the foreigners. Poh then drove to the Woodlands checkpoint. But he was asked to remove the lorry's canvas covering. Huddled inside were the 64.
Poh was jailed a year and fined $2,000 on each of 21 charges. Four sentences are consecutive. Forty-two similar charges were considered in sentencing.
A first offender, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $6,000 on each charge.
Fifty-nine of the foreigners -- 32 Myanmar nationals, 23 Thais, three Bangladeshis and a Pakistani -- were given a month's jail and four strokes of the cane each yesterday for offences of entering Singapore illegally and overstaying.
Ah Siang has not been identified. A Thai national carrying the Aids virus was deported immediately without being charged. The two Thai women were jailed a month and fined $500 each. Two others, both Malaysians, were jailed a month each for failing to report to an immigration officer before leaving Singapore -- they are not supposed to leave the country without permission as they are prosecution witnesses in a case against their employer for hiring them illegally.
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