Donor, lawyer on mission to help two men escape jail for fishing during MCO to feed family

John Bunyan
Both men had gone to a pond in Rimba Panjang in Sungai Siput on April 2 at 5pm and were stopped by policemen, who were patrolling. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, April 6 — A good Samaritan and a lawyer have joined hands to help two men who were sentenced to two months jail for fishing, which they claimed were for the purpose of providing food for their families during the movement control order (MCO). 

Lawyer Balakrishna Balaravi Pillai from the National Legal Aid Foundation, who also initially represented the duo, today filed for a revision on the sentence at the High Court here.

The decision was taken after a good Samaritan offered to pay the fine for both men should the revision on the initial judgement take place, so that the duo will not have to serve the time in jail.

“I filed the papers at the High Court this morning. Technically, it should be heard at the Taiping High Court since Sungai Siput falls under that jurisdiction.

“But I have requested the revision to be heard at the High Court in Ipoh. Because the duo are in Tapah Prison, and the High Court in Ipoh is nearer to the prison as compared to the one in Taiping,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

“I’m also from Ipoh and it goes against the spirit of MCO for all of us to travel until Taiping when the things can be settled here,” he added. 

The duo, Chin Chee Wei, 45 and Chong Poh Wah, 56, were sentenced after pleading guilty to the offence before Magistrate Norhabsarina Ayob when they were charged last Friday at the Sungai Siput Magistrate’s Court.

However, Balakrishna said the High Court in Ipoh had directed the case to be filed and heard at the High Court in Taiping.

“I have to re-file the revision at the High Court in Taiping. Once they accept the papers, they will set a date for the matter to be heard in the court. Hopefully, within this week, but the High Courts are completely shut down due to MCO,” he said. 

“Also a lot of people are involved, not only me. It’s the court, the deputy public prosecutor, and the prison and also the police. I have done my part, now the court has to give instruction to everyone,” he added. 

According to the charge sheet, both Chin and Chong, who were on a motorcycle, had gone to a pond in Rimba Panjang in Sungai Siput on April 2 at 5pm and were stopped by policemen, who were patrolling. They were unable to provide a valid reason for being there and were arrested under Section 269 of the Penal Code and the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Measures within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations.

Both Chin and Chong were charged under Rule 3(1) the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, which carries a RM1,000 or imprisonment not more than six months or both.

Balakrishna, who did the mitigation when the duo was charged, said that they had asked for community service instead of jail punishment.

“Even though fine was an option, they did not request for it. We requested for the community service, but the court had sentenced them to three months jail,” he said.

Balakrishna said that both his clients are labourers who repair roofs and only earn daily wages.

“Due to MCO their source of income was badly affected as the non-essential sector has to close their businesses temporarily.

“Both are married and sole breadwinners of the families and Chin has two children aged 13 and 15, who are still schooling,” he said.

“The reason they went for fishing is to provide food for their families as they could not afford to buy essential items. The fish is for their own consumption,” he added.

Separately, Balakrishna also brushed off claims by a social activist Kuan Chee Heng, also known as Uncle Kentang, who wrote in his Facebook posting that the duo are repeat offenders and requested jail imprisonment themselves.

Balakrishna said that Kuan claims are defamatory and are done for his own publicity as the duo are not repeat offenders.

“I don’t know where he got the information. However, he had retracted his Facebook posting,” he said, referring to Kuan.

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