I must first state that I am NOT implying, nor is it my intention to imply that Calvin Cheng did threaten or have the intention to kill any Singaporeans. I ask the questions below without having made any judgements myself because I don’t have the required legal knowledge to make any judgements. What I wish to accomplish by asking those questions is to generate a philosophical discussion about the interpretation of the law, particularly Section 503 of the Penal Code that states, given the context of what Calvin Cheng has said:
“Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.”
Let’s recap what Calvin Cheng actually said:
From this, is it reasonable to conclude that Calvin Cheng is threatening to kill terrorists?
Then the next question I would like to examine is whether there are terrorists in Singapore. And the answer to that is that there are. The most obvious cases are the “handful” of Singaporeans that the Government knows to have gone to Syria to take part in the conflict. One of them is Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali (Haja), a naturalised Singapore citizen of Indian origin. He brought his wife and three children then aged between 2 and 11 with him. Another is a female Singaporean who is believed to have gone to Syria with her foreign husband and two teenaged children. The whole family is taking part in the conflict in various ways, either joining the terrorist groups to fight, or providing aid and support to the fighters. Does Calvin Cheng’s statement about killing terrorist count as threatening to kill these Singaporeans should they return to Singapore?
I presume (though I admit that I could be wrong) that the children who Syria with with their parents are Singaporeans. If they are, then does Calvin Cheng’s statement about killing the children of terrorists “in case they grow up to take revenge” count as a threat to kill those children, in cold blood and not in the heat of battle, should they return to Singapore?
Other than these Singaporeans who are confirmed to have taken part in terrorist activities, there are a number who have tried, but did not manage to make it to Syria or formally join ISIS.
For example, Mustafa Sultan Ali, 51, had left Singapore in May 2015 to try and join ISIS. He had gone to an unnamed regional country before flying to Turkey. From there, Mustafa Sultan Ali had planned to cross into Syria. He was sent back to Singapore and detained under the ISA on 28 July 2015 and subsequently issued with a two-year order of detention. Even though Mustafa Sultan Ali did not manage to formally join ISIS, does he count as a terrorist? If Mustafa Sultan Ali can be considered a terrorist, then does Calvin Cheng’s statement count as a threat to kill Mustafa Sultan Ali? Also, if Mustafa Sultan Ali has children, does Calvin Cheng’s statement to kill children of terrorists “in case they grow up to take revenge” then count as a threat to kill Mustafa Sultan Ali’s children, in cold blood and not in the heat of battle?
Final two examples. On October 1, 2015, TODAY reported that two Singaporean men “have been separately detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their involvement in terrorism activities.” According to MHA’s statement, Muhammad Shamin bin Mohamed Sidek, 29, and Muhammad Harith Jailani, 18 — “harboured the intention to make their way to Syria to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and engage in violence there”. Shamin had apparently been previously convicted and sentenced to three-months jail in May 2015 “for inciting religious violence through his pro-ISIS postings on social media”. While in prison, Shamin continued to express his “unstinting support for ISIS” and said that “he was prepared to die in the course of defending the ‘caliphate’ that was declared by ISIS”.
Given that TODAY reported that they were involved in terrorism activities, does that mean that Shamin and Harith count as terrorists? If so, does Calvin Cheng’s statement about killing terrorist constitute a threat to kill Shamin and Harith? Harith is 18, so it is unlikely that he has children. But Shamin is 29, so he may have children. If Shamin has children, then does Calvin Cheng’s statement about killing children of terrorists “in case they grow up to take revenge” constitute a threat to kill Shamin’s children in cold blood and not in the heat of battle?
Let me reiterate that I am not implying nor is it ever my intention to imply that Calvin Cheng did threaten or has the intention to threaten to kill Singaporeans who are terrorists and/or their children (who are, in all likelihood, Singaporeans) in cold blood. It is really my intention to discuss and find out what constitutes a “threat” and how section 503 of the Penal Code on criminal intimidation should be interpreted.
In fact, there is a case, I think, to be made that what Calvin Cheng said doesn’t amount to criminal intimidation. Because he said “You kill them…” and not “I want to kill them”. It could be therefore argued that that particular statement by Calvin Cheng’s was made in a context of discussing whether public policy should be changed to killing children whose parents who are terrorists but themselves mat not yet be terrorists. I don’t think comments made as part of those sort of discussions count as criminal intimidation.
But I’m no lawyer, never studied law. So I wouldn’t know better. That said, I do want to find out the “correct” answers and I want to understand the reasons for those answers. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if any readers who are lawyers would be so kind as to enlighten me. Much thanks in advance.