SINGAPORE - A Malaysian motorist who caused a lockdown at the Woodlands Checkpoint when he tried to tailgate a car through a security barrier was jailed for eight weeks yesterday.
Poultry seller Koh Chin Had, 42, claimed he had lost his way on April 13 and had not intended to leave Johor Baru when he ended up at the Malaysian side of the immigration checkpoint.
As he did not have a passport, he approached an immigration officer and said he wanted to make a U-turn.
The officer told him to report to the Malaysian police nearby, but, instead of doing so, Koh proceeded towards Woodlands and joined the queue of cars arriving, Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia told the court.
When the car in front of him went through a raised barrier, Koh quickly drove forward as well.
An immigration officer saw this and pressed the panic button immediately, causing the car arrival zone to be locked down and traffic at the section to come to a standstill. Koh was then arrested.
Pleading for leniency, the father of two said he had lost his way while driving. "So I was very frightened,'' he said.
Asked by District Judge Lee Poh Choo why he had tailgated the car, he said he had been waiting for a long time and that it was very hot in his car.
DPP Teo sought a stiff sentence of eight weeks, arguing that it was to protect the integrity of Singapore's borders and a strong signal should be sent that evasion of immigration clearance is not to be taken lightly.
She told the court there had been four such cases since January, with the latest occurring on Monday morning.
"He knew that he should stop his vehicle for examination. However, he disregarded the security measures put in place,'' she said.
Time and resources were wasted as a result of the estimated 15-minute closure of the zone.
Judge Lee said she found Koh's excuses unacceptable. Having come to Singapore on three previous occasions, he must know that immigration clearance was necessary, she added.
"For whatever reason, there has been an increasing number of instances of non-Singaporeans trying to evade immigration clearance and entering Singapore.
"This seems to be a recent trend, and I agree with prosecution that border security is important,'' said the judge.
For failing to stop his car without reasonable cause, Koh could have been fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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