Jail for man who harassed bus driver and livestreamed it , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Jail for man who harassed bus driver and livestreamed it

A misunderstanding over whether a neck gaiter could be used as a mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on public transport turned into a criminal case, when a man used vulgar language to insult an SBS Transit bus driver.

Nimal De Silva, a self-employed music teacher, even live-streamed the entire confrontation, which took place in August 2020, compounding Mr Xu Bo’s humiliation, the prosecution said.

De Silva, a 46-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to a week in jail on April 30.

District Judge Lau Qiuyu had earlier convicted the Singaporean offender of a harassment charge following a trial in January 2024.

De Silva will be appealing against his conviction and sentence, and his bail was set at $15,000 on April 30.

In September 2021, he had pleaded guilty to a similar harassment charge over this case.

However, his plea was set aside the following month after the defence lawyer Luke Netto disagreed with the prosecution’s submissions which stated that his client had used “racist and xenophobic” language on Mr Xu, a 55-year-old Chinese national.

On Aug 19, 2020, the day of the offence, De Silva had travelled by bus and MRT wearing a neck gaiter, which can be worn over a person’s neck and lower half of the face for protection from sun and wind.

At that time, it was compulsory to wear a mask in public due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At around 6pm, De Silva tried to board bus service 196 at a bus stop along Nicoll Highway wearing the neck gaiter, instead of a mask.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheah Wenjie said Mr Xu “was uncertain as to whether or not the neck gaiter worn by the accused was compliant with SBS Transit’s mask-on policy aboard buses” and did not allow De Silva to enter the bus.

“At the same time, the victim contacted the SBS Transit operation centre to seek clarification on whether the neck gaiter was compliant with SBS Transit’s mask-on policy aboard buses,” the prosecutor added.

According to court documents, a dissatisfied De Silva used a door cock outside the bus to open the doors to the vehicle, and boarded it.

He began to live-stream the incident on Facebook Live, and filmed himself confronting Mr Xu with his mobile phone.

Among other things, De Silva had said: “This is the problem when you have China people working in Singapore.”

Throughout the confrontation, Mr Xu, who was not conversant in English, continued trying to seek verification from the SBS Transit operations centre over the radio as to whether De Silva’s neck gaiter was compliant with the public transport operator’s mask-on policy aboard buses.

The DPP told the court: “The victim tried to get the SBS Transit operations centre to speak to the accused, but was informed that the...centre would be calling for police assistance.

“The victim communicated this to the accused, and also tried repeatedly to explain to the accused that he was simply following the rules regarding SBS Transit’s mask-on policy aboard buses.”

At one point, an unnamed passenger on the bus was heard on the video footage offering De Silva a mask to resolve the issue.

De Silva refused the offer and said that he did not want to “give in”.

Due to the situation, Mr Xu could not continue driving the bus. The passengers on the bus had to alight and wait for the next service 196.

Amid the pandemic, the Ministry of Health (MOH) website had earlier stated: “A mask that closely and completely covers the nose and mouth (without leaving a gap between the mask and the face) must be worn when persons go out of their homes.”

“MOH does not recommend the use of neck gaiters and bandanas as masks,” said a ministry spokesperson in 2020.