Jail for couple who knelt in middle of road

Jail for couple who knelt in middle of road
PHOTO: Shin Min Reader

On the night before they turned up at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Services Centre to voice their grievances, the two Chinese nationals prepared A4-sized placards highlighting their grouses in Mandarin.

At around 12.30pm on Aug 24, sales assistant Yang Xuemei, 28, and her husband, mechanic Bao Weilong, 29, were spotted holding them up while kneeling in the middle of Bendemeer Road.

Several motorists and passers-by captured the couple's antics on camera. Their videos and pictures were uploaded onto social media and the couple was slammed by netizens.

Both Yang and Bao were jailed for five weeks yesterday after pleading guilty to criminal trespass by unlawfully remaining inside the MOM Services Centre to cause annoyance to its officers. They also pleaded guilty to committing a rash act by kneeling on the road.

The court heard that the couple went to the MOM Services Centre at Bendemeer Road at around 9am that day.

PLACARDS

They wanted to find out if Yang could get a refund for the $6,000 she had paid an agent in China before coming to Singapore to work.

When customer service officer Tang Poh Lin, 52, told them that MOM could not help her obtain it, the couple knelt in the foyer of Hall A of the centre, held up their placards and refused to budge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kumaresan Gohulabalan said: "The contents (of the placards) stated that (Yang) had been cheated by (her) agent in China and requested relevant departments of MOM to assist her in obtaining a refund of the agency fees."

Ms Tang and two of her colleagues managed to go to an interview room at the centre to discuss a resolution to the situation.

When a settlement could not be reached, the disgruntled couple went outside the centre, knelt on the pavement and started crying.

They returned to the interview room and this time, MOM asked Yang's Singapore agent to come down and the couple were told that they could be given a $3,000 refund.

They declined this offer, walked out of the centre and knelt in the middle of Bendemeer Road with their placards.

DPP Kumaresan said security officers had to divert traffic for the couple's safety and the safety of motorists on the road.

The pair were pulled off the road and later arrested.

DPP Kumaresan pressed for between three and four weeks' jail for the pair, who were not represented by a lawyer.

In mitigation, Bao told the judge he was remorseful and that they had family members to support in China.His wife said she was unaware of Singapore's laws and wanted to return to China as soon as possible.

An MOM spokesman told The New Paper: "Foreigners working in Singapore must abide by Singapore's laws and should never take matters into their own hands."


This article was first published on September 10, 2015.
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