Mahalingam's alleged crime was to fail to disperse as instructed by police officers, and to insist on entering Belilios Road which had been closed off by the authorities. His lawyer said that his client was not trying to enter the road, he merely wanted to wait for his brother whom he said had gone into the area to relieve himself.
The misunderstanding could have been cleared before anyone was dragged to court. Here the laughing matter stops being funny.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Subramaniam, the officer who made the in-situ decision to arrest Mahalingam - reportedly because “no advice or persuasion was going to make him change his mind” - told the court: "I'm not able to recognise the accused now, as my encounter with him then was brief."
Special Operations Command officer Lim Ke Wei, who provided his standard issue hand-cuffs to effect the arrest, also testified in court that he could not recognise Mahalingam.
When Inspector Lee Tian Huat of the Criminal Investigation Department was asked if he had “any evidence that the accused man had used any force or any behaviour that prevented the officer from discharging his duty”, the law enforcer said, "No".
Of the 25 Indian nationals charged for various offences, from rioting to failure to disperse, 6 have pleaded guilty and sentenced to between 15 and 18 weeks’ jail. Makes you wonder how many languishing behind bars, or the lot that was so promptly deported, were positively identified.