Couple being investigated under Public Order Act for wearing anti-death penalty t-shirts at 10k

Photo: Nafiz SerbaBoleh/fb
Photo: Nafiz SerbaBoleh/fb

A Singaporean couple is officially under investigation for taking part in a “public assembly or procession without a police permit” after the two wore anti-death penalty T-shirts to Sunday’s Yellow Ribbon Prison Run.

Nafiz Kamarudin and his wife, who has yet to be publicly named, each wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words “2nd chances means not killing them” on the front and “#antideathpenalty” on the back.

While Nafiz was disqualified ahead of the 10k fundraising event, he chose to run alongside participants from outside the barricades for part of the race before eventually being confronted by police. His wife was in attendance as moral support.

In a statement obtained by Today, police confirmed they were investigating a 38-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman for offenses under the Public Order Act.

The police statement was issued just hours after Nafiz went to the station to give his statement yesterday. His wife, who is seven months pregnant, went to the station for the same purpose today.

Speaking to Coconuts Singapore this afternoon, the first-aid trainer said this incident shows “how broad this Public Order Act is, to the point where it doesn’t allow people to wear T-shirts with slogans on them.”

He added: “They should’ve just allowed me to run. I would’ve taken pictures and only my friends would see them. Now, it has blown out of proportion.

“I’m not going to support the run next year. Obviously, it’s not about second chances — only (second chances) for certain ex-offenders.”

His wife, who works in the F&B industry, finds the whole episode “ridiculous,” he said. But she is not “troubled” by it, “because a lot of people are giving us support.”

Nafiz is also the founder of the non-profit organization Happy People Helping People, which donates food and money to the mostly elderly Singaporeans working as cardboard collectors in the city-state.

Nafiz had previously told Coconuts Singapore that organizers told he and his wife that the slogan on their shirts was “offensive,” and that he would be deregistered unless he changed, something he obviously did not do.

He was standing near the finish line outside the Changi Prison compound watching runners go by when he says “prison officers” came to escort him away.

Weeks before the event, Nafiz had actually requested the anti-death penalty slogan be printed on his official running bib, something organizers actually did for him by “mistake.”

Once they realized what had happened, organizers then requested — three times according to Nafiz — that he get it replaced with one that had only his name, as the anti-death penalty message was “not in line” with the theme of the Yellow Ribbon Project, a 15-year-old campaign aimed at helping former convicts reintegrate into society.

After all the back and forth, he ultimately accepted a running bib with his name only, though still attempted to run with the T-shirt that’s now got him in trouble.

For those outside the Little Red Dot, a “public assembly” charge might be tough to reconcile with two people wearing T-shirts at a 10k, but there’s plenty of precedent.

In February, a local activist was hit with a public assembly fine after broadcasting a Skype session with famed Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong. In 2018, activist Seelan Palay was arrested after walking from Hong Lim Park to the Parliament while holding a mirror, a performance art piece that was dubbed an illegal “public procession.”

Singapore currently has 32 offenses that can potentially warrant death sentences, with those involving drug convictions most frequently coming in for international criticism.

Coconuts Singapore has reached out to the organizers and the police for comment and will update this story as more information becomes available. 

Related story:

Man who wore t-shirt in protest of death penalty claims he was stopped from participating in Yellow Ribbon Prison Run



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