ST June 13, 2008And why did the ICA not help to fulfil he dying man's last wish? What reason could the ICA possibly have?
One last look at prodigal son
ST helps cousin of man in coma to locate his family; son dies 15 minutes after mum leaves hospital
By Teh Joo Lin
MORE than 20 years ago, Mr William Rajasingam Kasinathan became estranged from his family. He lost touch with his mother, sister and son.
... Last week, the 53-year-old prodigal son suffered a stroke and was on his deathbed. And the search was on for his kin.
On Tuesday, mother and son had a reunion of sorts - Mr Kasinathan was comatose - in the intensive care unit of Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
The frail woman gazed upon her son and looked lost as she repeatedly rose from her chair and sat down.
Fifteen minutes after the 78-year-old left the hospital, he died.
It was his cousin, Ms Prem Bir Kaur, 53, who managed to track down the old woman.
Aided by a doctor and a medical social worker, she contacted the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the custodian of the national registration records, in the hope of securing an address.
The hospital staff offered to furnish proof that Mr Kasinathan, a bar musician, was in a critical condition so that the ICA could try and contact his mother on Ms Kaur's behalf.
But rules forbade the ICA from revealing her whereabouts, Ms Kaur was told.
On Monday night, she called The Straits Times, which helped her locate Mr Kasinathan's mother by going down a list of possible family names in the phone directory.
When given the news that her son was gravely ill, the old woman told her daughter: 'He's still my son. Take me to see him.'
Ms Kaur is relieved mother and son got to 'meet' one last time but wonders why the ICA would not help her.
She said: 'It's not fair for him to die alone. At least I can say I've tried to fulfil his last wish.'
An ICA spokesman told The Straits Times that the National Registration Regulations make it an offence for any public officer to disclose to anyone information from its records - on pain of jail time, a fine or both.Recently I commented that PAP MP Teo Ho Pin is quite a clever person. After reading the above ST article, and Teo's remark as quoted in it, I feel compelled to withdraw my comment. I no longer think that Teo is very clever.
The exceptions are few - when it is in the public interest and with the permission of the ICA Commissioner, or for the purpose of criminal proceedings.
This was not a criminal case, so the police could not formally help either.
Dr Teo Ho Pin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, agreed it was important to protect the private information of people.
According to the law, ICA was not allowed to reveal the old lady's address to Prem Bir Kaur. However, there was a very simple solution. ICA could have contacted the old lady directly, by phone or by mail, and said:
"Dear MadamSimple as that. As I see it, there could only have been two reasons why ICA didn't do it:
We were informed by Tan Tock Seng Hospital that your son William Rajasingam Kasinathan is seriously ill in Ward ___. His cousin Ms Prem Bir Kaur has also contacted us about this matter. She has been trying in vain to locate you.
To safeguard your privacy, we have not given them your personal contact details. However, if you wish to know more about the matter, you can directly contact Tan Tock Seng Hospital (tel no. XXXXXXX) or Ms Prem Bir Kaur (tel no. YYYYYY) yourself."
(1) ICA is just too stupid; or
(2) ICA just can't be bothered.
Either way, it just reflects very badly on the ICA.
On a separate note, isn't it really quite ironic? If you have died in hospital without signing the opt-out form, the government has the legal right to immediately cut out your organs for transplant purposes. But while you're dying in hospital, the government won't even help to let your mother know.