Covid-19: Man fined over 10-person gathering at Newton Food Centre in Singapore

When the auxiliary policeman advised the group to disperse, Idumehdrah Arumugam suddenly turned aggressive and hurled a vulgar phrase at him. — TODAY file pic
When the auxiliary policeman advised the group to disperse, Idumehdrah Arumugam suddenly turned aggressive and hurled a vulgar phrase at him. — TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, June 11 — A 44-year-old man who celebrated a birthday with nine others at Newton Food Centre last year, in breach of Covid-19 safe distancing measures, was fined S$6,500 (RM20,209) in court today.

Idumehdrah Arumugam, pleaded guilty to one charge each of exceeding the maximum group size of five for a social gathering, and verbally abusing an auxiliary police officer who had tried to break the group up.

The birthday celebration took place on October 11 last year, lasting for about three hours from 2pm to 5pm. The group drank liquor and chatted with each other.

Singapore was in the second phase of its Covid-19 reopening then.

The auxiliary policeman, as well as two safe distancing ambassadors, were at the hawker centre when members of the public approached them and told them about the gathering.

They observed Idumehdrah and the others mingling with each other and smoking under the shelter in front of a stall.

When the auxiliary policeman advised them to disperse, they ignored him. Idumehdrah then suddenly turned aggressive and hurled a vulgar phrase at him, then also directed multiple vulgarities at one of the safe distancing ambassadors.

He had to be held back by other members of the group after acting in an openly aggressive manner. The other safe distancing ambassador then lodged a police report.

Police officers arrived shortly afterwards.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Niranjan Ranjakunalan sought the fine imposed, telling the court that Idumehdrah was fined S$500 in 2011 for disorderly behaviour. He served the default jail term of two days.

In mitigation, Idumehdrah — who did not have a lawyer — said that he was “very stressed” that day from losing his job, so he went to the birthday celebration to “divert my attention”.

He added that divorce proceedings with his Malaysian wife are ongoing, and he currently does not have a permanent job.

“Your Honour, I still need to pay my bills and I have no one to talk to except some friends. At times, I become very depressed,” he told Magistrate Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen in pleading for a light fine.

In sentencing him, the judge told the court that the gathering showed Idumehdrah’s “brazen attitude and disregard for the law”.

“Such vulgar and disobedient challenges to authority in times of a public health crisis calls for heightened general deterrence,” added the judge, who allowed him to begin paying the fine in instalments starting from next month.

For breaching Covid-19 laws, Idumehdrah could have been jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or both.

For using abusive words towards a public servant, he could have been jailed for up to a year and fined up to S$5,000, or both. — TODAY

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