CHRISTCHURCH: The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand on Friday (Mar 22) followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since a white supremacist gunned down 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.
As the call was broadcast around the country, thousands of people - including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began, as the country of 4.5 million came to a standstill.
"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," she said in a short speech.
Most victims of New Zealand's worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The massacre by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, has shocked a nation known for its tolerance.
It has prompted horrified Kiwis to respond with vigils and performances of the traditional Maori haka dance, and to form lines behind Muslims to symbolically protect them while they pray.
A muezzin in white skullcap issued the call to regular Friday prayer at 1.30pm local time with chants of "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest) as thousands listened in Christchurch's Hagley Park across from the Al Noor Mosque.
The country then fell silent for two minutes, with public gatherings in Auckland, Wellington and other cities.
In neighbouring Australia, people stopped in the streets and in shops to mark the moment.
Al Noor imam Gamal Fouda then took to the lectern to denounce hatred, but also to praise the sense of Kiwi togetherness that the killings have sparked.
"Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love and compassion," he said. "New Zealand is unbreakable.
"This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable."
Many women in attendance wore headscarves in solidarity with New Zealand's Muslim community.
Kirsty Wilkinson joined the throng at Hagley Park along with two female friends, all in make-shift hijabs.
"I personally am doing this to knock down my walls of personal oblivion to the terror Muslim people feel every day, worrying about their safety," Wilkinson told AFP before the prayers began.
"I can take my scarf off if I feel afraid. They cannot.
"The message I want to send is that hate cannot win. We are all just people. What happened is not ok."
The gunman killed 50 men, women and children - the victims aged between three and 77 years old - and left dozens injured in an attack that he live-streamed, sparking global revulsion.
The sombre gathering comes a day after the country imposed a ban on assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics, making good on a pledge to rid the country of the kind of weapons used in last week's slaughter of 50 people.
The move triggered renewed calls from leading American politicians for a similar response in the United States, which has suffered a stream of firearm massacres but left gun reform untouched.
Police and tradesmen had been working intensively in the hope of repairing the mosque's bullet-scarred and blood-spattered interior ahead of afternoon prayers.
But authorities late Thursday announced prayers would be held in the park.
PRAYERS AND PAUSE
The national mourning and moment of silence were broadcast on television networks, radio and across multiple local media websites.
"We are so happy that this prayer will be broadcast to the entire world so that everyone can be part of it," Mustafa Farouk, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said in a statement announcing the prayer session on Thursday.
Burials of victims resumed on Friday morning, with a hearse pulling in to the cemetery on the eastern edge of Christchurch where many have already been buried.
Ardern, who swiftly denounced the attack as terrorism, announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws on Thursday.
Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the Christchurch attack and was remanded without a plea.
Tarrant is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.
Ardern, surrounded by ministers and security officials, wore a black headscarf and a black suit. Female police at the park also wore headscarfs, with a red rose on their body suit.
In a powerful speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Imam Gamal said through its love and compassion, New Zealand is unbreakable. He thanked Ardern for her compassion.
"It has been a lesson for world leaders," the Imam said about the prime minister.
"Thank you for holding our families close and honoring us with a simple scarf," he added.
He said Islamophobia dehumanises Muslims, and called on the world to end hate speech and the politics of fear.
"Last week's event is proof and evidence to entire world that terrorism has no colour, race or religion. The rise of white supremacy is a great global threat to humanity and this must end now," he said.
MUSLIMS WILL BE "SAFE" AFTER MOSQUE ATTACKS
Muslims living in New Zealand would be "safe and secure" despite the deadly attacks, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told an emergency meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.
"Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus," he added.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has angered New Zealand by repeatedly showing a video made by the mosque gunman.
SINGAPORE: The Government's management of data is being reviewed in light of cases of information mishandling by IT vendors.
More details on the review will be shared when ready, said the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) on Friday (Mar 22), in response to queries by Channel NewsAsia.
“The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office is currently reviewing the Government’s management of data, and will share more when ready," it said.
Over the past three months, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has revealed two cases of information being mishandled by IT vendors.
About 7,700 individuals received inaccurate healthcare and subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme due to an error in a computer system administered by NCS, an information technology and communications engineering company and subsidiary of the Singtel Group.
Separately, the personal information of more than 800,000 blood donors in Singapore were exposed on the Internet for over nine weeks before the authorities were alerted to it by a cybersecurity expert. Vendor Secur Solutions Group - tasked to update the records of blood donors – had failed to ensure adequate safeguards when it placed the information on an unsecured database.
SNDGG is conducting a “deeper investigation” into the incident involving the leak of blood donors' data, it said.
“The findings will inform us of the measures that need to be implemented and the assistance that the Health Sciences Authority will require to rectify the situation,” it added.
Singapore’s health sector was hit by two other data breaches in the past nine months.
A cyber attack on SingHealth in June 2018 compromised the personal information of 1.5 million patients, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Another data breach affected 14,200 HIV patients after confidential information - including identification numbers and contact details - was leaked online by American Mikhy K Farrera Brochez.
He was the partner of Ler Teck Siang, the former head of MOH’s National Public Health Unit.
This week, Russian cybersecurity firm Group-IB revealed in its press release that email log-in information of employees in several Singapore government agencies had been put up for sale on the dark web by hackers.
SNDGG said on Thursday that only 119 of the approximately 50,000 compromised details were still being used while the rest were either outdated or bogus.
The information was not leaked from the government system, it also said, but from the use of those addresses for personal and non-official purposes.
The officers with the affected credentials have changed their passwords, SNDGG added.
SINGAPORE: A jobless man who swung a plank during a riot involving about 60 people outside a temple was sentenced on Friday (Mar 22) to more than five years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
Yadwinder Singh, a 26-year-old Indian national, was the leader of one of the two groups of people who started fighting outside the Silat Road Sikh Temple in the Bukit Merah area in the afternoon of Apr 2, 2017.
The two groups of men wielded wooden poles, planks and belts, spilling onto the road and disrupting traffic, the court heard. The court did not specify the reasons behind the fight.
Footage from a public bus, played in court on Friday, showed Yadwinder brandishing a long wooden plank at members of the opposing group.
The court heard that Yadwinder and his group gathered at the bus stop outside the temple after prayers that morning.
Some of them had armed themselves with wooden planks. They chased after the men from the opposing group, who were walking along Kampong Bahru Road after leaving the temple, shouting vulgarities at them before attacking them.
The other group responded in kind, with several of them wielding their belts. Men from both sides attacked each other with poles, planks and belts in the melee.
Yadwinder was seen hitting two men with his wooden plank, injuring one man's scalp and face.
TRIED TO FLEE BY HIDING IN BUS CARGO HOLD
After his arrest, Yadwinder plotted to leave Singapore illegally. He had already been jailed previously for rioting and unlawful assembly in 2016 and had committed this fresh offence while on remission. He was also on bail for another extortion offence.
Two weeks before his trial for rioting outside the temple began, Yadwinder made plans to leave the country illegally, paying a man S$4,000 to flee Singapore in the cargo hold of a bus.
He carried out his plan in October 2018, after the first tranche of the trial, but was discovered by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers at Tuas Checkpoint, hiding in the cargo hold of the vehicle. He was arrested, along with the bus driver.
After seeing how Yadwinder had been nabbed for trying to leave Singapore, three men accused of being involved in the riot stopped turning up for the trial, the court heard. Arrest warrants were put out for them and they have been at large since.
Yadwinder pleaded guilty after a five-day trial to rioting with a deadly weapon, failing to present travel documents upon departure and extortion with common intention.
Two months before the riot, he and four others extorted S$200 from a 21-year-old Indian national. They threatened to report her to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) for supposedly having more than the legal number of tenants in her flat.
Yadwinder, who was unrepresented, was sentenced to jail for five years and five months, along with 12 strokes of the cane.
District Judge Marvin Bay gave him an additional jail term of 129 days for committing a crime while on remission for earlier offences, the maximum possible for this case.
According to a list prepared by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Chua, Yadwinder had been committing crimes repeatedly since 2015, three years after arriving in Singapore to work in construction.
The judge granted Yadwinder 10 minutes to speak to his fiancee and friends who attended the hearing, as long as they "maintained a certain civility".
All of Yadwinder's co-accused have been dealt with in court. One of his opponents, Nirmal Singh, who had swung his belt during the riot, had his appeal against his 31-month jail sentence and caning dismissed by the High Court.
MT SOMERS, New Zealand: Mike Salvesen was working on his farm in the foothills of New Zealand's Southern Alps last Friday (Mar 15) when his phone began pinging with news of a tragedy unfolding about 110km away in Christchurch.
A lone gunman, armed with two powerful semi-automatic rifles and other weapons, had entered two mosques, shooting dead 50 people and wounding 50 more.
Six days later, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand's gun laws - little altered for almost three decades and much less restrictive than neighbouring Australia - would be overhauled to ban the type of semi-automatic weapons used in the attack.
Ardern was applauded by many, but there was uncertainty about how the rural community that make up most of the country's quarter of a million gun owners, would react.
"I'm fine with it," said Salvesen, who owns three guns but not of the type that will be banned. "I don't have a need for them and very few do."
Salvesen said he admired Ardern's response since the tragedy. "She's come across confident when needed, sympathetic when needed and she's said pretty much what most people were thinking."
Most farmers in New Zealand own guns, which they use for killing pests such as possums and rabbits, and for putting down injured stock.
Recreational hunting of deer, pigs, and goats is popular for sport and food, while gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.
The new laws allow for some exemptions for pest control.
Shaun Moloney, who culls pests including goats and wallabies across the South Island, said there was "definitely a place" for semi-automatic weapons with larger magazines for jobs like his.
"If you are having a very tightly controlled access to that style ... but it's still available, that is welcomed by several of my associates and myself," he said.
Hunting - with the kinds of weapons excluded from the ban - was an important part of life for his family, Moloney said.
"My daughter would go out and shoot rabbits, with a semi-auto, with me, and then we'd skin and gut it, she'd cook and eat it and then go to ballet," he said.
New Zealand's main farm lobby group quickly came out in support of the new laws.
"This will not be popular among some of our members but ... we believe this is the only practicable solution," Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement.
"Christchurch, Friday March 15 has changed everything."
The main opposition National Party, which draws strong support in rural New Zealand, also backed the plans.
Under the changes, all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles will be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.
The changes exclude two general classes of firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting: Small bore rifles with magazines of no more than 10 rounds, and pump action shotguns holding no more than five rounds.
Bruce Plant, a rifle range club secretary in Oamaru, south of Christchurch, said there was little need for military-style weapons in New Zealand.
“If you are out hunting and can’t hit an animal with one shot you are certainly not going to hit it with 20 shots."
Experts say the changes don't go as far as Australia which toughened gun laws 12 days after the shooting of 35 people at Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996.
There all semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns are banned. There is also a restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.
HIGH GUN OWNERSHIP
New Zealand has a lot of guns. With a population of just under 5 million, there are an estimated 1.5 million firearms.
In 2017, it had the 17th highest rate of civilian firearm ownership in the world, with 26.3 guns per 100 residents, according to the Small Arms Survey. The United States tops the list with 120.5 guns per 100 residents.
The last real change to New Zealand's Arms Act was made in 1992, following a shooting where 13 people were killed by a gunman with a semi-automatic weapon in Aramoana, a small South Island coastal settlement.
A special E-category license, which requires tough checks, was added to cover MSSAs.
Advocates say New Zealand's high gun ownership rates and low rates of gun violence are evidence of a system that works. Restrictions are certainly tighter than in the United States.
However, individual weapons are not registered, meaning police have little oversight over how many guns people hold.
Ardern said a further tranche of reforms will cover the firearm registry and licensing.
John Hart, a farm owner and former Green Party candidate, surrendered his semi-automatic rifle to police after the shooting, one of 37 weapons police said had been voluntarily returned ahead of the new laws.
"The time is right. I have spoken to many farmers who feel the same way. They have not given theirs (guns) back but they support the idea - although they won't do it until they have to."
Noel Womersley, who slaughters cattle for small farmers around Christchurch, said he was happy to sell his AR-15 rifle into a government buyback expected to cost up to NZUS$200 million (US$138 million)
"I'm using guns every day. I use them on the weekends, in my spare time, and I use them at work every day. But I don't need a semi-automatic military firearm."
(US$1 = 1.4461 New Zealand dollars)
SINGAPORE: Self-driving vehicles to clean roads in Singapore will go on trial in 2020, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in a joint media release on Thursday (Mar 21).
Two consortiums have been selected to design, develop and test the vehicles, following a Request for Proposals that was issued in December 2017.
Trials will be conducted in two stages - first, each consortium will test the vehicles' safety features within a circuit at the CETRAN AV Test Centre.
They will only be allowed to start trials on public roads at designated AV (autonomous vehicle) test sites such as one-north, after passing a rigorous safety assessment, said NEA and MOT.
"The AESVs (Autonomous Environmental Service Vehicles) are required to have on board at all times for the duration of the trials, a safety driver who is trained to take immediate control of the vehicle, in accordance to strict operational protocols," the authorities added.
The consortiums selected consist of "experienced and established" players from the autonomous vehicles and environmental services industries, said NEA and MOT.
The first consortium comprises Nanyang Technological University, Enway, Veolia ES Singapore Industrial and Wong Fong Engineering Works.
The second consortium is made up of ST Engineering Land Systems and 800 Super Waste Management.
"The successful completion of these trials will pave the way for the pilot deployment of AESVs for road cleaning," said NEA and MOT, adding that details of the pilot deployment will be announced after 2020.
“Building on existing technologies used on our mechanical sweeper vehicles to monitor the progress and status of road cleaning, these projects seek to further automate road cleaning, by catalysing the local robotics industry to build up expertise and experience in delivering environmental robotic solutions, which can then be commercialised and potentially exported,” said NEA CEO Tan Meng Dui.
Such vehicles also have the potential to improve productivity, said Permanent Secretary for Transport Loh Ngai Seng.
"The deployment of AESVs will enable us to optimise the use of our road network, while improving the productivity of road cleaning operations," he said.
"With reduced reliance on manpower, we can potentially shift road cleaning activities to the night and reduce congestion during the day."
SINGAPORE: A babysitter was sentenced to jail on Thursday (Mar 21) after slapping a toddler in the face and lying to the police in her statement.
Angry that a baby she was caring for did not want to take his medicine, the babysitter slapped the 15-month-old child in the face.
After his face turned red, she decided to lodge a police report, claiming that the injuries had been caused by "an unknown man".
She later admitted that she had lied about this, but cooked up another lie that the child had fallen from the bed and injured his face.
The 41-year-old babysitter was sentenced to six weeks' jail for her actions. She pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily causing hurt to the baby and one charge of giving false information to the police.
A third charge of giving false information to the police was taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that the woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, worked for the baby's father from November 2017.
BOY NEEDED MEDICATION FOR HIS COUGH
The father would drop his son off at the babysitter's home every weekday at 8am and pick him up at 8pm.
On Jan 24 last year, he left his child in the babysitter's care as usual. The baby had a cough at the time and needed to be given medicine three or four times a day.
At about 11.35am, the babysitter took a syringe and began measuring the dosage of cough medicine. The baby, who had just eaten, began crying when he saw the syringe. His babysitter tried feeding the medicine to him, but he spat it out.
"Upon seeing this, the accused became angry and used her right hand to slap the left side of the victim's face," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Pavithra Ramkumar.
The baby stopped crying and ate the second dose of cough medicine his babysitter prepared for him. When the woman took the child to the toilet to wash away medicine left on his face, she realised that the left side of his face had turned red.
The child was taken to hospital that night with redness over his left eye and more than five abrasions up to 3cm long over his cheek, nose, eyes and forehead.
BABYSITTER LIED TO POLICE TWICE
"To absolve herself from blame, the accused decided to lodge a police report about the victim's facial injuries, allegedly caused by an unknown man slapping his face," said the prosecutor.
At the police station that same day, the babysitter gave a statement claiming that she had been pushing the baby in a stroller along a walkway in Woodlands when "an unknown man walked towards them".
She claimed that she was listening to her foster daughter, who accompanied them, when she heard "the sound of something being slapped and saw the unknown man run past them". She then discovered a red mark on the left side of the baby's face.
But more than an hour after giving this false statement, the babysitter admitted that she had lodged a false report. She then lied that the baby had been injured after falling from the bed.
It was only half a year after the incident that the babysitter came clean and admitted that she had slapped the toddler.
The judge allowed her to defer her sentence for two weeks. For voluntarily causing hurt, the woman could have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$5,000, or both.
For lying to the police, she could have been jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$5,000, or both.
CAIRNS, Australia: A powerful tropical cyclone that lashed the northeast coast of Australia, closing ports and causing power outages, is expected to strengthen further Wednesday (Mar 20).
Tropical Cyclone Trevor was a category 3 system - with winds gusting at 165km per hour - when it made landfall on the Cape York peninsula Tuesday evening, hitting small isolated communities.
The Bureau of Meteorology said it is now tracking slowly west out to the Gulf of Carpentaria and will intensify to a category 4 system by the weekend before making landfall again.
Queensland energy provider Ergon Energy say they are ready to fly crews in to help restore power with all residents in Lockhart River and Coen now in darkness following the event.
Spokesperson Emma Oliveri said local police have reported multiple lines are down across the region.
"A total of 460 people have lost power and while those numbers may not seem high, every person in the communities of Lockhart River, Coen and close to half of Aurukun are in darkness," she said.
CEO of the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire, Dave Clarke, said nobody anticipated how severe Trevor would be.
"Everyone needs to stay in their homes because we don't have a designated cyclone shelter and assessments need to be made across our town," he said.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said drones have been used for reconnaissance in remote affected areas.
"We've deployed them a number of times to compare before and after of natural disasters and used the intelligence to assess the damage quickly," he said.
Far North police Chief Supt Brian Huxley said getting help to some locations would be difficult.
"The next difficulty will be getting crews into the airport because crucial equipment has been knocked out, but low-lying cloud cover is making it hard to get crews in to assist with the cleanup and get power restored."
SINGAPORE: Activist Jolovan Wham and Singapore Democratic Party's John Tan will have to wait to find out their sentences after both men were convicted of contempt of court.
Justice Woo Bih Li on Wednesday (Mar 20) reserved judgment on the High Court sentencing against Wham and Tan. During the two-hour hearing, he grilled both the prosecution and defence on their sentencing submissions.
The prosecution called for Wham to be fined S$10,000 to S$15,000 and in default, jailed for two to three weeks. It also wanted Tan to be sentenced to at least 15 days in jail, saying both men demonstrated an "utter lack of regard" and “disrespect of the finding of this court in particular".
They have a "high level of culpability", the prosecution added.
The duo was found guilty of the offence in October last year. In April 2018, Wham published a Facebook post alleging that Malaysia's judges were more independent than Singapore's when it comes to cases with political implications.
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) initiated a contempt of court case against him.
Less than a month later, Tan, a Singapore Democratic Party politician, said on Facebook that the AGC's actions confirmed the truth of Wham's comment.
These were the first convictions for contempt of court by scandalising the judiciary, under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act 2016, which came into effect on Oct 1 last year.
In supporting his sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy said that a relevant aggravating factor was that the offending posts were still online, more than five months after the men were found guilty of contempt of court, and more than 10 months after the posts were posted.
He said: "This shows a striking lack of remorse and defiance of the court’s authority."
During the hearing in the High Court, Justice Woo questioned the relevance of the timeline and said that the bottom-line was that the two men have refused to take their posts down.
Mr Senthilkumaran, referring to blogger Alex Au’s contempt of court case for which Au was fined S$8,000 in 2015, said that Wham’s case was more serious than Au’s.
Au’s allegations, which were against Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice Quentin Loh, were more targeted, while Wham’s was an “indiscriminate attack and wholly unnecessary”, he added.
The judge questioned his argument that Wham was more culpable, given that Au took the trouble to target certain members of the judiciary, and his post "went into paragraphs".
When Mr Senthilkumaran said that Wham’s offence is more serious, Justice Woo said: "I am trying to understand how so."
PROSECUTION, TAN'S LAWYERS ASK FOR JAIL TERM
Justice Woo also took issue with the submission that Tan should have a custodial sentence, which the prosecution pointed out that his defence lawyers agreed with. The two men were represented by lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Remy Choo and Priscilla Chia.
Justice Woo said: "This court is not bound to sentence a person to imprisonment just because prosecution and defence think it’s appropriate."
Mr Senthilkumaran also raised Tan’s previous offence in 2008, when he was convicted of contempt of court for turning up at a defamation hearing in a T-shirt with a kangaroo dressed in a judge’s gown.
The prosecution said it pointed to the politician’s higher culpability. Photos of him and others wearing the same T-shirt were also posted online.
While Justice Woo said that the two offences were different, Mr Senthilkumaran argued that the essence of the offences was the same.
“I hear you that he has got an antecedent. I am just wondering whether that necessarily means he needs to be incarcerated for the present offence," Justice Woo said.
When Mr Thuraisingam responded, asking for Wham to be fined S$4,000 to S$6,000 or jailed a week in default, and for Tan to be jailed for three days, Justice Woo grilled him on the need for Tan to be imprisoned.
The reason behind asking for a jail term was that if a politician was fined more than S$2,000, he or she would not be able to stand for election. The threshold for being able to stand for election when it comes to a jail term is one year.
He also asked if Mr Thuraisingam thought that Tan was more culpable than Wham, given the higher sentence submitted for Tan.
“If I am not persuaded that he is more culpable than Wham, we have a situation that one sentence is a fine, and one is a jail sentence,” Justice Woo said.
The judge said it was up to Tan if he wanted to stand for election, but questioned if the court should take it into account when sentencing.
COURT SHOULD ORDER APOLOGY, POSTS TO BE TAKEN DOWN
The prosecution also asked the court to order the men to apologise and take down the posts, but Justice Woo said that an apology should not be forced.
“How meaningful can it be if the court has to order the contemnor to apologise?" he asked. He reiterated his question several times, asserting that a forced apology was not a genuine apology.
Mr Senthilkumaran said that sincerity was not the point, but efficacy was. He argued that the apology should be made on the same medium where the offence was committed, in this case, on Facebook and that a court order would "ensure effective purging" of the contemptuous content.
The judge asked if not purging the content could lead to a second incident of contempt of court, of which the prosecution said it would.
"We are not focusing on the two of them, but the administration of justice and the reputation of the court," Mr Senthikumaran said.
Justice Woo said he was more concerned about the principle. If he were to follow the prosecution's argument, the general approach would be to order an apology, the judge added.
The prosecution also sought S$8,000 in costs from Wham and S$5,000 from Tan.
During the course of the discussion with the judge, Mr Thuraisingam submitted a higher sentence of seven days and said that while Tan will not apologise, as he did not intend to scandalise the court, he will take down the post on Wednesday.
This is not Wham's first brush with the law. Last month, he was fined S$3,200 over a public assembly he organised two years ago without a permit and refusing to sign a police statement. At the time, he indicated he would not pay the fine and will instead serve jail time of 16 days in default.
For contempt of court, Wham and Tan face a maximum fine of S$100,000 and a jail term of up to three years.
SINGAPORE: A man implicated in a scheme that created the largest losses in any case of market manipulation in Singapore was sentenced to three years' jail on Wednesday (Mar 20) for two charges of false trading and market rigging.
In the wake of the rigging, a penny stock crash in 2013 wiped out S$8 billion from the Singapore stock market. To date, more than S$350 million in losses to financial institutions remains unpaid, the prosecution said in the High Court. The scheme involved two others who have claimed trial.
Goh Hin Calm, 59, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Securities and Futures Act on Wednesday, with another four charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
His decision to admit to the charges had come as a surprise as all three accused persons were set to go to trial over the case. His co-accused are: Malaysian businessman John Soh Chee Wen and former IPCO International CEO Quah Su Ling, who were in an intimate relationship at the time of the offences.
Goh, who was senior finance and administrative manager at Singapore Exchange (SGX)-listed company IPCO from July 2001, held two main roles in the scheme.
As early as 2008, he began opening multiple trading accounts at brokerages across Singapore in his name and his wife's name. He allowed Soh and Quah to use these accounts, effectively providing them the use of trading limits and credit to trade in shares of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital Limited and LionGold Corp.
By 2011, Goh began handling the finances for the scheme, receiving and making more than 1,200 payments on behalf of his two co-accused into and out of a pool of funds that he managed for them.
The size of this "float" or pool of funds was more than S$2 million at times, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Tan and Ng Jean Ting.
In total, Goh managed about S$30 million in outgoing payments on behalf of Soh and Quah.
"The accused was in effect both seed funder and finance manager of Soh's and Quah's scheme," said the prosecution.
ACCOMPLICES CONTROLLED ACCOUNTS, "ESSENTIALLY TRADING WITH THEMSELVES"
Goh's accomplices are accused of controlling a large volume of shares in the three companies and manipulating the market to create false appearances of supply, demand, trading volume, liquidity, active trading and price in the market for their securities.
They were "essentially trading with themselves", said the prosecution, "since they were on both sides of the trade".
In early October 2013, the companies' share prices crashed. The scheme's collapse triggered a dumping of penny stocks in the larger market and an investigation into the circumstances of the collapse, with regulators later introducing changes to the regulatory regime such as a minimum trading price requirement for mainboard-listed stocks.
Including 10 accounts held in the names of Goh and his wife, Soh and Quah controlled a total of 189 trading accounts for trading and holding securities for the three firms.
Quah and Soh are accused of instructing the trades in the controlled accounts through more than 25 brokers and third-party intermediaries, dominating trading activity in the market for Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold shares, the court heard.
Between Aug 2012 and October 2013, Soh and Quah were allegedly responsible for carrying out trades in billions of the shares - constituting between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the total traded volume for the entire market.
MASSIVE LOSSES OF S$350 MILLION REMAIN UNPAID TODAY
The prosecution had called for a sentence of three years' jail to be imposed on Goh, saying that the losses caused to innocent parties were massive when the scheme collapsed in October 2013.
"This includes losses incurred in trading accounts, which remain unpaid till today, and which therefore fall on the financial institutions at which those accounts are held," said the prosecutors.
"The unpaid losses in just the accused’s and his wife’s trading accounts alone amount to S$1.5 million. The total unpaid losses in the 189 controlled accounts is more than S$350 million."
They added that market manipulation causes widespread losses not only to the investing public, but to financial institutions both locally and abroad.
Goh's defence lawyer Adrian Wee told the court that his client's role in the scheme was "extremely limited" and that he had "no specialised knowledge and no formal training in trading of equities".
He said Goh had "no part in conducting, strategising or formulating any of the trades which formed part of the scheme", adding that Goh had made no financial gains. Instead, he has purportedly been saddled with debts of S$400,000 from the scheme.
"In fact, there is no suggestion that the accused even knew what the scheme was for ... who it was to benefit, and what purpose the participants or the controllers of the scheme sought to achieve," said the defence counsel.
He said his client expressed remorse and decided not to claim trial, asking also for a term of three years' jail.
Justice See Kee Oon said Goh had some measure of autonomy in the "sophisticated, systematic and sustained" scheme. His role, although "facilitative in nature", was necessary for the functioning of the scheme and was not sporadic but extensive and prolonged, said the judge.
"It is clear nonetheless that the accused was not the mastermind," he added. "He did not actually know the full extent or the duration of the market manipulation."
However, the judge said the sheer magnitude of the market manipulation resulted in "serious damage to investor confidence".
The trial for Soh and Quah begins on Monday.
KAMPALA: Uganda is investigating a supply of food from the World Food Programme (WFP) after three people died and more than 150 others became sick in recent days, police said.
The food was part of a community feeding programme in northeast Karamoja region, a semi-arid area where the United Nations food agency has long provided food aid for people facing poor harvests.
People suffered diarrhoea, nose bleeds and other health problems after eating the food, police said in a statement late on Monday (Mar 18).
Police are "actively investigating the death of three people ... from eating adulterated or poisonous food supplied by the World Food Programme," according to the statement.
Samples of the food and patients' urine and blood had been sent to a government laboratory for analysis.
WFP was not immediately available to comment on the police investigation.
The food agency said on Saturday it had suspended distribution of Super Cereal - a fortified blended food - at all its operations in Uganda.
"From the outset, WFP has treated this as a matter of extreme urgency," the agency said.
Uganda hosts a large population of refugees mostly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo where widespread insecurity has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.