Ex-neighbours fell out over joss stick smoke

Ajmer Singh Ajit Singh (right) is accused of assaulting Mr Chua Hock Kwee (left), a taxi driver, at the condominium coffee shop in 2010.

They used to be friendly with each other.

But a SilkAir pilot, accused of punching his former neighbour, told a district court yesterday that this changed after an incident involving some joss sticks.

Ajmer Singh Ajit Singh allegedly hit former taxi driver Chua Hock Kwee, 57, on the left cheek at a coffee shop in Changi Garden Condominium at Upper Changi Road North on May 8, 2010, at about 7pm.

Singh, 46, said he used to find his ex-neighbour "polite and friendly".

He added that their cordial relationship lasted for "quite some time".

This soured one day after Mr Chua, who is now a drink seller at a coffee shop, positioned an altar in front of his unit near Singh's apartment.

Joss sticks

And the court heard that on it were some joss sticks of various sizes.

On the third day of trial, which started on March 26, Singh, who took the stand yesterday, told District Judge Roy Neighbour that some of the joss sticks were "normal ones" that were "about a foot long" (about 30cm) and each was "thinner than a pencil".

But he said that a few were as big as his thumb and about "two feet" long.

Singh added the joss sticks created smoke that could not escape as an airwell near the unit Mr Chua rented had been covered with plywood.

As a result, the court heard that the smoke entered the pilot's home as his doors were not airtight.

Singh also told the court that he tried to stop the smoke from entering by covering the bottom of the door with a wet towel - with little success.

The smoke still managed to enter his unit through the sides and the top of the door, said the pilot.

Singh said that "as a good neighbour", he told Mr Chua about what his family was then facing.

But the pilot stressed that he did not complain to Mr Chua.

Instead, the court heard that he had intended to give his neighbour some feedback.

The response from Mr Chua was "unexpected", said the pilot.

Singh said that his former neighbour became "hostile, angry and aggressive".

"He said: 'What smoke?' and I said that smoke was engulfing my house.

"But he replied: 'So what's the problem?' and I told him that the problem was the smoke and the smell of fumes."

Singh said that his neighbour later stated that the smell was "very nice" and that the altar was "installed by the 'gods' ."

The court heard that the altar was relocated to the rooftop soon after this.

But this move apparently did little to mend ties between the two men.

Singh said that Mr Chua started to harass him and his family members.

The court heard that Singh, and his family members including four children aged between five and eight years old, moved out last January.

The hearing continued on Tuesday.

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