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 - so we'll just 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.
A few months later, their money ran out and they could not pay their HDB mortgage instalments. 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 had gone to their Aljunied MP many times before, to get financial aid, so they knew where to go. This time Julie and Ah Teck wanted to ask the MP to sign an appeal letter for them, to waive the $138 rental deposit. They went to the town council and met with 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 do not know for sure. We do know that the letter did get signed. Later Cynthia also claimed that the conversation was cordial and went well. And in the subsequent newspaper report, her fellow PAP MP Lim Hwee Hua also said that Cynthia behaved in a manner that was "very helpful" and "very motherly".
However, Julie tells a somewhat different story, 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. Perhaps it was not the words, but the tone, the demeanour or the body language. Whatever the case may be, we know how Ah Teck must have felt. That's because 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 glass door.
There was a commotion, other people quickly restrained the boy and calmed him down. And then Julie went home, taking her mentally-handicapped son with her.
The story might have ended there, but it did not. Cynthia made a police report. Later that night, the police arrived at Julie's home and arrested Ah Teck.
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 that forgiveness didn't come. PAP MP Lim Hwee Hua rejected the apology. She would not ask the police to withdraw the case.
A grassroots volunter, Mr Poon, further claimed that Ah Teck's blows with the chair "could have gotten someone killed".
(Personally, I think that the only thing you can kill by hitting a door with a chair is the door. Or the chair. The TNP article also made the subtle observation that despite the killer blows, the door, which was made of glass, remained unbroken).
The hapless Ah Teck was required to appear in court on a certain date - 12th May 2009. He faced a criminal charge of committing a rash act to endanger the safety of others.
What happened next is not publicly known. I have surfed and googled, but the media does not seem to have followed up on the story and I cannot get any more information.
This is probably because the boy was underage. In Singapore, 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. He is a low-IQ boy, after all.
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. Please vote wisely .... for the MPs whom you believe will have compassion for their residents.