Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cynthia Phua (PAP Aljunied MP) and the poor in Singapore

PAP's Cynthia Phua And Her Most Famous Moment as an Aljunied MP

(source: Mr Wang says so [here])

Today I will tell you a story. It is a sad story, almost like a Taiwanese soap opera.  Unfortunately, it is not fiction, but a true story. (And here is the SPH newspaper report to prove it).

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in Aljunied (we don't know her real name, so let's just call her Julie). She was 53 years old, and she had a 17-year-old son (again we don't know his real name - let's call him Ah Teck).

Julie was poorly educated. She had only studied up to Primary 6. She worked as a part-time cleaner, earning $400 a month to support herself and Ah Teck. Meanwhile, Ah Teck had low IQ and was attending a special school for mentally handicapped kids. He also had thalassemia, a blood disorder.

Ah Teck's father had run away several years ago and could no longer be found. So there was absolutely no financial help from him.

One day in January 2009, Julie was at work. She was standing on a chair to clean a fan. Suddenly, she slipped and fell. She broke her wrist. Thereafter Julie lost her job, for she could no longer perform her cleaning duties.

The money soon ran out and they could not pay their HDB mortgage installments. So Julie and Ah Teck were about to lose their home - the HDB was taking action to repossess it. The HDB agreed to rent her another flat. But Julie did not even have $138 to pay for the rental deposit.

So Julie and Ah Teck decided to go to see their MP in Aljunied. They hoped that the MP would sign an appeal letter for them, to waive the $138 rental deposit. They went to the town council and had a chance to meet Aljunied MP Cynthia Phua (yes, the same Cynthia Phua now running for Aljunied again, together with George Yeo).

What went on in the office, we will never know for sure. Cynthia claimed that the conversation was cordial and went well. Her fellow PAP MP Lim Hwee Hua even claimed that Cynthia behaved in a manner that was "very helpful" and "very motherly". But we hear a different side of the story from Julie, and it goes like this:

      ".....shortly after they had entered the office, Madam Phua asked her son a series of questions: 'She asked him, 'Who are you? What are you doing? Why aren't you working?' .... The mother said she wanted to explain her son's condition, but wasn't given a chance. 'I felt like we were being scolded,' she said.
Whatever Cynthia Phua had actually said, we know that Ah Teck must have felt very humiliated and insulted. Perhaps it was not merely the words, but the tone, the demeanour, the body language. Whatever the case may be, we know how Ah Teck must have felt, for right after he walked out of Cynthia's office, he lost his temper in a big way. Ah Teck picked up a foldable chair, and slammed it twice on a door.

There was a small commotion, other people restrained the boy and calmed him down. And then Julie and Ah Teck went home.

Things might have ended there, but they did not. Cynthia made a police report. Later that night, the police arrived and arrested Ah Teck. Criminal charges were brought against him.

Two days later, Julie went to see the MP again, clutching a handwritten letter of apology from her son. We are told that in this letter, Ah Teck wrote the following words: "'Please fodgive me for what I dad I am sinelely truely I'm sorry". (Note that Ah Teck has low IQ - that would be why his writing skills are so poor).

But there was no forgiveness. There was no kindness. PAP MP Lim Hwee Hua rejected the apology and refused to ask the police to withdraw the case.

Hwee Hua further claimed that Ah Teck's chair "could have killed somebody". (Personally, I think that the only thing you can kill by hitting a door with a chair is the door. Or the chair).

Charges were pressed and the hapless Ah Teck was required to appear in court on a certain date. What happened next is not publicly known. This is probably because the boy was underage - juvenile court proceedings are generally shielded from the public eye and reporters are kept out of the courtroom.

So the story ends here - because we really don't know what happened next.

What I hope is that Ah Teck did not get some criminal conviction that would stain his record, and make his already-bleak future even more difficult.

I also hope that both Julie and Ah Teck had the good fortune to meet a judge who could understand their hardship and empathise with their daily struggles for money and a roof over their heads.

And I hope that the judge treated Ah Teck with more kindness and compassion, than the Aljunied PAP MPs had done.

Since the General Elections are here again, it is also my hope that you will take a few moments to reflect on the above incident.

Especially if you are in the Aljunied GRC, please vote wisely .... for MPs who are kind and compassionate, and who genuinely want to help their residents

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