SINGAPORE: Action will be taken against a Singaporean man for allegedly "insulting Indians" on social media to deliberately stoke anger, unhappiness and racial tensions, a senior minister said on Saturday.
The man using @SharonLiew86 Twitter username posted tweets with derogatory terms to refer to people of South Asian descent, reported Channel News Asia. He tweeted that amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, those who sit too close to each other are Malays, Indians or foreigners, and not "true blue" Singaporeans, triggering an outrage in the city-state.
Reacting to the developments, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam wrote on Facebook that "police have investigated, found the person, a man, not a female named Sharon Liew, and the man is not Chinese".
Sharon Liew, who posted that Chinese women do not want to sit next to smelly Apuneneh is neither Chinese, nor female".
The minister said that "some weeks ago, there were nasty posts by one 'Sharon Liew@sharonliew86', insulting Indians, saying: COVID-19 is the 'apuneneh (considered derogatory term for people of Tamil origin) virus'; and how smart Chinese women do not want to sit next to 'smelly apuneneh' inside the MRT. Done deliberately to stoke anger, unhappiness, racial tensions. Action will be taken."
The police said that they were investigating a 34-year-old man for "promoting enmity between different racial groups". The police received a report about offensive content against Indian migrant workers on April 18.
Through investigations, CCTV footage and police cameras, the authorities identified the man on April 23. "Preliminary investigation revealed that the man is believed to be involved in two other cases involving offensive tweets," said the police.
If found guilty of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of race, the man could be jailed for up to three years, fined or both. "At a time when we need the nation to stand as one, acts that sow racial discord cannot be condoned.We will continue to take a tough stand against those who seek to stoke community tensions in multi-racial Singapore," said Julius Lim, assistant commissioner of police, commander of Bedok Police Division.
Migrant workers make up the bulk of COVID-19 cases in Singapore, with the outbreak affecting several foreign workers living in crammed dormitories.
Last month, Shanmugam spoke out against a forum letter published in Chinese daily questioning if foreign workers were to be blamed for the rise in cases in Singapore, pointing to their eating habits and alleged lack of personal hygiene.
According to media reports, the minister later said these sentiments showed "underlying racism".