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The Straits Times
November 17, 2022
A former Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer on Thursday pleaded guilty to making racist remarks against an interracial couple in an incident in 2021 that was captured on video and went viral.
Tan Boon Lee, 61, admitted to two charges – one count of wounding an individual’s racial feelings and another of possessing obscene films. Two other charges were taken into consideration.
On June 5, 2021, Tan, a Singaporean, who was at the time a lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s engineering department, directed racist remarks at Mr Dave Parkash, 26, in the vicinity of Angullia Park in Orchard Road.
Mr Parkash, a Singaporean who is half-Indian and half-Filipino, was with his girlfriend, Ms Jacqueline Ho, at the time.
The couple were walking towards a carpark in Orchard Boulevard when Tan crossed paths with them and made the comment that it was “such a disgrace, Indian man with a Chinese girl”.
Ms Ho, who is half-Thai and half-Singaporean Chinese, recorded the confrontation that followed, and the video, which lasted around nine minutes, went viral on social media after Mr Parkash shared it on Facebook.
In it, Tan accuses Mr Parkash of “preying on a Chinese girl”. He also says a Chinese woman should not be with an Indian man.
Tan added: “The only thing is when you’re preying on Chinese girl, I tell you the Chinese don’t like it.”
He also told Mr Parkash: “If you are proud of your own race, you marry somebody Indian.”
Tan then said Mr Parkash’s girlfriend’s parents would be disgraced that she is dating an Indian man.
He added: “You do not see a Chinese guy going to an Indian girl. There is a reason. There is something wrong with the race, there is something wrong with the colour. If she is an Indian you may not like her. She is Chinese.”
About a month after his outburst in Orchard Road, Tan issued a formal apology on Facebook.
Separately, in June 2021, the police uncovered 64 obscene videos on Tan’s phone.
These videos showed women engaged in sexual acts and they were downloaded from online sources or sent by his friends for his personal enjoyment.
Seeking four weeks’ jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor Yeow Xuan said: “The racist remarks made were vile and sustained – the accused repeatedly told Dave that he should ‘marry an Indian’, stated that he was ‘preying’ on Chinese girls and even called Dave a ‘disgrace’ and, ironically, a ‘racist’.”
She noted that the remarks were not just directed at Mr Parkash, but at Ms Ho, Mr Parkash’s family and the entire Indian race.
Defence lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam sought a community-based sentence for his client and said Tan’s daughter, now 25, previously had a relationship with a man of another race.
“The accused objected to this relationship and was saddened... This was what was weighing on his mind when he encountered the couple,” he said.
Mr Thuraisingam also noted that Tan had taught at Ngee Ann Polytechnic for more than 30 years and character references from his colleagues and students showed that he had never discriminated against anyone based on race and religion.
The lawyer added that since the incident, Tan has been publicly chastised and shamed, and also lost his job.
“He has made a mistake but is someone who has contributed to society. He is a family man with two children, a son who is 30 and a daughter who is 25,” said Mr Thuraisingam, who also noted that his client has gone for therapy in an effort to become a better person.
Principal District Judge Victor Yeo said he needed time to consider both the prosecution’s and the defence’s submissions.
Tan will be back in court on Dec 29 for sentencing.
Those who deliberately wound the religious or racial feelings of a person may be jailed for up to three years, or fined, or both.
Those who possess obscene films may be fined up to $40,000, or jailed for up to a year, or both.