SINGAPORE - The day he was sentenced to jail was the day he was set free.
Indian national Mahalingam Thavamani was sentenced to five months' jail yesterday for obstructing a policeman on the night of the Little India riot on Dec 8.
However, he does not have to serve another day of his jail sentence as he has been behind bars since the riot, and already served his time.
His sentence was backdated to Jan 23, and, hence, was completed the day it was meted out.
"He will most likely be sent back to his home country, either today or tomorrow," said defence lawyer B. J. Lean.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said Thavamani will be repatriated under Section 33 of the Immigration Act, like others in the riot who were convicted and sentenced by the courts.
Thavamani, 27, was the first among 25 charged for their roles in the riot to claim trial.
He was initially accused of rioting, but then faced an amended charge of obstructing Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) N. Subramaniam on the night of the riot.
District Judge Salina Ishak accepted DSP Subramaniam's testimony that Thavamani had refused to leave Belilios Road and insisted on moving further into the area.
She added that his tone grew louder as he spoke to DSP Subramaniam and Thavamani did not comply with his direction.
The district judge also accepted DSP Subramaniam's evidence that Thavamani "had not provided any reasons for entering Belilios Road".
Hence, she rejected Thavamani's testimony that he had no intention of obstructing the police officers and that he had pleaded with DSP Subramaniam about his brother, who he had earlier claimed had gone missing during the chaos.
She added that DSP Subramaniam's inability to identify Thavamani in court "was not fatal" to the prosecution's case as he had been "positively identified" by another officer, who cannot be identified due to the nature of his work.
Thavamani's "persistent refusal to heed the directions" of DSP Subramaniam "had amounted to obstructing" him as he had to "spend about 10 minutes in engaging the accused".
In passing sentence, she said that even though Thavamani had not been actively involved in the riot, he had showed a "blatant disregard" for the authorities and, hence, a "strong signal must be sent".
Thavamani asked the district judge, via a Tamil interpreter, whether he would be allowed to return to Singapore to work, to which she replied that it was not for her to decide.
He was allowed to speak for 10 minutes after the session with his brother, who left the courtroom in tears and visibly upset.
Thavamani could have been jailed up to eight years and/or fined.
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