SINGAPORE, May 17 — A former Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer, who was seen in a viral video confronting an inter-ethnic couple and making racist remarks about them last year, was charged in court today over the incident.

Tan Boon Lee, 61, faces one count of making racist remarks and two counts of making insensitive comments about religion, including once during a lecture at the polytechnic.

He also faces one count of possessing 64 obscene films on his mobile phone. 

Today, Tan’s lawyer Johannes Hadi told the court that his client was not ready to decide whether or not to plead guilty and asked for a three-week adjournment.

District Judge Lorraine Ho granted the postponement and set his bail amount for S$5,000 (RM15,818.81). She ordered Tan not to contact the victim or any of the prosecution’s witnesses, whether directly or indirectly.

Confronted inter-racial couple

Court documents said that the the alleged incident happened on June 5 near Anguillia Park in Orchard.

A viral video of the confrontation between Tan and the couple was first uploaded on Facebook by Dave Parkash the next day.

In his post, Parkash — a Singaporean who is half-Indian and half-Filipino — alleged that he was confronted by Tan about his girlfriend, who is half-Chinese and half-Thai.

Tan, who is seen wearing a red sports jersey with the word “Singapore” across his chest, admits on camera to being a racist and tells Parkash that he is also being racist for not “marrying” an Indian girl.

Tan is heard on video saying: “I have nothing against Indians, but I think it is racist for an Indian to marry a Chinese girl.”

Court documents also stated that Tan allegedly told Parkash not to “come in... and disturb the race” and that he thinks “it’s racist that the Indian prey on Chinese girl”.

In a statement on June 17, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where Tan worked as a senior lecturer in the engineering department, said it was terminating Tan’s employment following its investigations into the incident, as well as its investigations into allegations by a former student that he had made Islamophobic remarks.

After the video of the confrontation surfaced on social media, a former Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, Nurul Fatimah Iskandar, 22, took to Instagram to claim that she was on the receiving end of Islamophobic comments.

Nurul alleged that during a lesson on June 28 in 2017, Tan went on a “full-on discourse about Islam which escalated so badly”.

Court documents allege that Tan told his students during that class: “What type of father tells you to worship him five times a day and threatens to send you to hell if you don’t?”

He also allegedly told his students that they “need to be smart enough to identify if the religion we follow is fake or not” and drew a comparison between how Allah treated his people with how “animals will treat their children”.

Between August and September 2020, Tan is also said to have responded insensitively to questions on an online forum about religion.

To a question on about whether there is a psychological explanation for people being “overcome by the Holy Spirit”, Tan allegedly replied: “Overcome by the Holy Spirit or evils (sic) spirit or ghost are exactly the same.

“One cannot distinguish between these spirit. And people under the influence of drugs or epilepsy have the exact same experience. ‘Chasing the dragon’ is the term, drug addicts used or in the presence of god is what a Christian would describe it.”

And to another question on the same forum on whether a particular flavour of the Chupa Chubs brand of lollipops are Halal, he is said to have replied: “Allah is a lie. Quran is a lie and imams are liars.”

Tan will return to court on June 24 for pre-trial conference, where he is set to confirm whether he will plead guilty or contest his charges.

For uttering of words with the deliberate intention of wounding the racial feelings of a person, a convicted offender can be jailed up to three years or fined, or both. 

Anyone found guilty of committing of an act prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups can be punished under the Penal Code with three years jail or fine, or both.

Possessing obscene films carries a punishment of up to 12 months jail, a fine of up to S$40,000, or both. — TODAY