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Singaporean judge considers probation for Gan Huai Shi after the teenager pleaded guilty to two counts of sedition
The Straits Times
Thursday, October 27, 2005
By Chong Chee Kin
Private school student Gan Huai Shi yesterday became the third person this year to be convicted for making racist remarks on the Internet, but he may yet avoid a jail term on account of his age and clean record.
The 17-year-old San Yu Adventist School student faced seven charges of sedition, four more than animal shelter assistant Benjamin Koh, who was jailed for one month on Oct 7.
Gan pleaded guilty to two counts of sedition for comments he made on his blog, or Internet journal, which he titled The Second Holocaust. Another five charges were taken into consideration.
But instead of handing down a jail term, District Judge Bala Reddy called for a pre-sentencing report to see if Gan could be placed on probation.
Gan caused a furore when between April and July this year he posted a series of offensive comments about Malays - even admitting in one April 4 entry that he was 'extremely racist'.
Over the next three months, he made more inflammatory remarks mocking the Malay community and ridiculing their religion, which were deemed by the court to promote 'ill will and hostility' between races, an offence under the Sedition Act.
Between Aug 5 and 10 this year, three students and an engineer reported Gan's remarks to the police.
In court yesterday, Gan kept his head bowed and his hands behind his back, fidgeting nervously in the dock as Deputy Public Prosecutor Jaswant Singh repeated what he had written in his blog.
His parents looked on impassively from the public gallery.
But after Gan had been convicted, his lawyer Edmond Pereira delivered an impassioned speech in his defence, urging the court to consider his youth and clean record and spare him a prison sentence.
Mr Pereira explained that Gan's deep-seated ill feeling towards the Malay community stemmed from the traumatic death of his baby brother 10 years ago, which Gan blamed on a Malay couple.
The couple had refused to give up a taxi they had hailed when his mother was trying to rush the infant to hospital.
Gan and his parents were visibly relieved when the judge agreed with Mr. Pereira's request to consider the possibility of putting the teenager on probation. The teen, who is sitting for his O-level examinations, will return to court on Nov 23, a day after the exams end.
It is then that a decision on his sentence will be announced.
On Oct 7, Senior District Judge Richard Magnus handed landmark jail sentences to marketing executive Nicholas Lim and Benjamin Koh for similar offences. They were the first people to be jailed under the Sedition Act since 1966.
Racist sentiments stemmed from baby brother's death, says lawyer
Gan Huai Shi kept his deep-seated feelings towards Malays a secret, even from his parents and closest friends.
In his mitigation speech yesterday, Gan's lawyer Edmond Pereira told the court how shocked his parents and friends were when they found out what he had written.
'He never openly expressed his dislike for the Malays to anyone. In fact, the parents knew of his feelings towards the Malays only when he was questioned by the police,' he said.
To those who knew him, Gan was an introvert who spent most of his time in front of a computer.
Mr Pereira said the root of Gan's feelings lay in the death of his one-month-old brother 10 years ago.
On Aug 27, 1995, the baby boy began to suffer serious breathing difficulties and Gan accompanied his mother to take the baby to the hospital.
The first taxi they spotted was being boarded by a Malay couple. Gan's mother Koh Ah Luan pleaded with the couple to let them take the cab, but they refused.
They had to wait another 20 minutes for a taxi and by the time they reached the hospital, it was too late.
Mr Pereira said the incident left a 'very deep scar' on the youth.
'These ill feelings gradually grew with him over the years and unfortunately neither his parents nor his close friends knew about this,' he said.
Gan had since visited a psychologist and counsellors to 'resolve his many emotional issues'.
'It is extremely unlikely that he will offend again. He has learnt his lesson...and the Court's serious view of the matter will have a lasting and deep impression on this young man,' the lawyer said.
Date Posted: 10/27/2005
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