Dispute at Cheers store started when customer asked Singaporean worker if he was a foreigner

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
February 26, 2024

What purportedly started out as a customer’s attempt at making small talk with a Cheers convenience store employee escalated into a harassment case when the worker allegedly insulted the man.

The customer, Mr Namasivayam Jayapal, had asked Jonathan Ong Jun Jie if he was a foreigner. Ong then allegedly insulted Mr Jayapal by saying that Mr Jayapal was from Bangladesh and Chennai, and that Mr Jayapal was “under his feet”, the court heard on Feb 26.

Both Mr Jayapal and Ong, 30, are Singaporeans.

Ong, who no longer works for Cheers, is claiming trial to three harassment charges, including two allegedly linked to a police officer, Staff Sergeant Mohammad Firdaus Hassan.

On the first day of his trial on Feb 26, the court heard that before the dispute, Mr Jayapal, a security officer, entered the Cheers outlet at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre in Raffles Quay to buy some beer at around 8pm on Jan 1, 2023.

Ong was manning the cashier’s counter at the time.

Mr Jayapal, who took the stand, testified that Ong looked angry when asked if he was foreigner and started insulting him.

Mr Jayapal said that Ong’s words made him feel “very down” and he responded by hurling a vulgar word at Ong. He added that an argument then broke out and Ong stepped out from behind the counter.

“(Ong) showed signs and tattoos... (He also said:) ‘I finish work at 11 o’clock, If not happy, we can meet up,’” said Mr Jayapal, who also told District Judge Teoh Ai Lin that he responded by saying that he was a former police officer even though he was not one.

The court heard that both men then stepped out of the store and Mr Jayapal said Ong used a racist insult on him but he could not recall the exact words.

Mr Jayapal alerted the police and left when officers arrived at the scene. He also testified that he was later given a warning letter over his behaviour that day.

Ong first made the headlines in January 2023 after he allegedly took a video of his dispute with the police at Cheers during this incident and the clip went viral soon after.

Ong, who is not represented by a lawyer, asked Mr Jayapal in court on Feb 26 if he was drunk that evening. The security officer told the court that he was sober.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Da Zhuan said that Staff Sgt Firdaus was one of the police officers who arrived at the scene after the authorities received Mr Jayapal’s call.

The prosecutor added: “The accused took out his mobile phone and started to video record (the officers). At no point in time did Staff Sgt Firdaus consent to the accused’s filming of him.

“Prior to commencing his interview with the accused, Staff Sgt Firdaus asked for the particulars of the accused, but the accused refused to give them. (The policeman) verbally warned the accused that there may consequences to refusing to disclose his particulars.”

Court documents stated that Ong later uploaded his video recordings in six different posts on social media platform TikTok.

Two of them allegedly had captions that include “Cop lying through his teeth”. The videos were shared by other sources and some of them are still up on TikTok.

The trial continues.

The Straits Times

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