Today: NMP Thio gets threatening note (Nov 7)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

She gets physical threat, makes second police report in 3 months

It looked innocuous enough: A brown envelope with a single, printed A4 sheet inside.

But the contents of this letter were hateful enough — indeed, the words "hate", hatred" and "hurt" were repeated no less than 10 times — that its recipient made a police report on Monday night. It is the second police report Nominated Member of Parliament Thio Li-ann has made in three months.

But while she has said she will not sue her first antagonist, poet Alfian Sa'at, who sent her a four-sentence insulting email, the situation is different now.

"This is a physical threat, different from the usual insults," said Professor Thio. The threats are ugly and worded unambiguously, and Today, which has a copy of the page-long letter, chose not to reproduce its content.

But, if carried out, the threats are serious enough to be treated as offences causing grievous hurt. And the anonymous letter writer even threatened her family.

"Singaporeans need to know the tactics that have been employed and what I really want to see is free and open debate without intimidation," said Prof Thio, who disclosed last month the first email incident, after she gave a strongly-worded speech on keeping Section 377A, the law on homosexual sex.

While she declined to say if she would take precautions, Prof Thio said making a police report was the "responsible thing to do". Police spokesman Stanley Norbert confirmed her police report. A probe is ongoing, while the email incident is under investigation.

Criminal lawyer Anand Nalachandran, a partner at Harry Elias Partnership, said the letter was "malicious", and that anonymous threats to cause hurt or death would attract stiffer punishments because of the "ominous" factor of not knowing the threat's origin.

The punishment for criminal intimidation to cause hurt or death is a maximum seven-year jail term or a fine, or both. If the threat is anonymous, an additional jail term of up to two years could be imposed.

NMP Siew Kum Hong, who had differed with Prof Thio in Parliament, was outraged by the threat, saying: "There is no place for such things in our society. Whoever sent that letter crossed the line. The police should look into it."

Mr Siew, who has received his share of abuse for asking for Section 377A to be repealed, said he has not received threats of "this extent". "This is outrageous … I unequivocally condemn this ... Nothing anyone says could possibly justify such a despicable act."