May 4, 2011

The Aljunied Mother & Son Story

So now ChannelNews Asia is on it. Unfortunately their article is quite garbled and I get the feeling that Satish Cheney, the journalist, is feeling a little lost as to what the story is really all about. Here's the CNA article (which contains various inaccuracies and ambiguities). Full text below:
GE: PAP Aljunied team denies pressing charges against low IQ boy
By Satish Cheney

SINGAPORE : The People's Action Party's Aljunied GRC team has denied allegations that it is pressing charges against a mentally disabled boy who had come to one of its Meet-the-People sessions (MPS) in Serangoon North and slammed a chair on the door.

In a note on its Facebook page, the team labelled the allegations and reports "slander that has been viralling online".

It said the team was wrongly accused "that we had not been compassionate, also that we had pressed charges against the poor boy".

"We didn't press charges. The mother and son have been coming to MPS regularly and we had been helping them to get financial aid. We had continued to help after the incident and we will continue doing so."

In the note, the team urged residents and grassroots leaders to look out for those who require assistance but are hesitating to come forward to seek help.

Some media reports had indicated that the MP who met the boy was Cynthia Phua and that she had said she would not accept the boy's apology and was in no position to excuse or forgive the boy.

Okay, Satish. The first thing you'll want to take note of is that this incident is not something happening now, but is a past incident that occurred two years ago, in 2009. So the PAP is definitely not pressing charges now.

The next thing you'll want to note is that generally, only the police and the AGC can press charges. Other people cannot press charges (that includes MPs) and so it must be true that the MPs in this case did not press charges.

I think what's getting people excited about this matter is that the mother went to apologise and the boy wrote an apology letter too, but the MP rejected the apology. If the MP had been more magnanimous (taking into account the fact that the boy was mentally disabled and his mother was in dire financial straits), the MP could have accepted the apology and asked the police to drop the case.

Thirdly, you'll want to take note that it was not Cynthia Phua, but Lim Hwee Hua, who said that she would not accept the boy's apology and was in no position to excuse or forgive the boy. Satish, read this New Paper article which was published on 8 May, 2009. I've reproduced the full text below.
Teen arrested for violence at MP's office

The 17-year-old boy slammed a chair over his head when he felt his mother was given cold treatment by MP. -TNP

Fri, May 08, 2009
The New Paper
By Ng Tze Yong

A YOUTH with low IQ has been arrested by police after flying into a rage at a Meet-the-People Session (MPS), upset at what he felt was his MP's cold-shoulder treatment of his mother's financial plight.

The 17-year-old boy hoisted an aluminium foldable chair over his head and slammed it against a glass door seconds after walking out of MP Cynthia Phua's Serangoon North office with his mother.

The boy, who has been released on bail, has been told to report back to the police on 12 May, where he may be charged with committing a rash act.

The offence carries a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500.

The youth cannot be named because of impending court proceedings.

This is the third incident in recent months involving MPs and their constituents.

The boy and his mother, 53, are familiar faces to the grassroots volunteers at the MPS.

The unwed mother with Primary 6 education gets by on a $400 monthly salary as a part-time cleaner.

He attended a special school and suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder that renders him weak and sickly.

The mother said that things went from bad to worse in November 2004 when the boy's father disappeared and stopped paying the $300 monthly maintenance due to her.

As a result, she visited the MPS about once a month for the past few years to request for various kinds of financial aid.

FORGIVE ME: Two days ago, the mother returned to the MPS alone and with a handwritten letter of apology from her son.

January this year saw a crisis unfold in their lives, when the mother broke her wrist after falling off a chair while cleaning a fan. She hasn't worked since.

She said the HDB was then in the middle of repossessing her flat and giving her a rental unit, but she was unable to pay the $138 in rental deposit and stamp duty.

So last Monday, she went to the office at Block 125, Serangoon North Ave 1, where MP Lim Hwee Hua holds her MPS, hoping to have her sign an appeal letter for HDB.

But that day, Mrs Lim, who is also a minister in the Prime Minister's Office, was abroad. Fellow Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua stood in for her.

The mother's request was granted - Madam Phua signed the letter - but mother and son left fuming, claiming that Madam Phua had put them down.

She claimed that 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?' she claimed.

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.

The meeting ended after two or three minutes, she said.

As they were walking out, the son snapped.

His outburst with the chair - two blows against the glass door, which didn't break - was 'strong enough to get someone killed', said the Serangoon PAP branch secretary, Mr Poon Mun Wai.

As grassroots volunteers scrambled to calm down the teenager, his mother begged a neighbour to whisk him home immediately.

Later that night, the police arrived at their flat and arrested him. He was released on bail at about 1am.

When contacted, Madam Phua contradicted the mother's version of events, saying she felt that their conversation 'went well'.

She said: 'Like any normal case at MPS, I have to try to understand the case first of all...

'I had to ask some pointed questions about his employment status to understand the root cause of the problem, so that I can be more effective in helping them.'

During the one week after the incident, the mother pondered what to do.

She got her son to shave off his shoulder-length orange-dyed hair to get rid of bad luck.

For days, she said, he couldn't find the courage to face himself in the mirror. He also decided to put on hold a long-time dream to audition for Singapore Idol.

Two days ago, she returned to the MPS again alone and clutching a handwritten letter of apology from her son.

'Please fodgive me for what I dad I am sinelely truely I'm sorry (sic),' the teenager had written in big, neat handwriting.

The apology, however, was not acceptable to Mrs Lim, who was back chairing the MPS after returning from abroad.

'I made it very clear to (the mother) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There's no excuse to be violent,' Mrs Lim told The New Paper.

She also explained that she was not in a position to excuse or forgive the boy.

'I was not present and the police are investigating into the matter. I believe the police will take into consideration the mitigating factors,' said Mrs Lim.

'From what I understand, Madam Phua was being very motherly and very helpful inside the room with them.'

Mrs Lim's response surprised the mother, who had spoken fondly of her throughout the interview with The New Paper just a day before.

She said: 'I know what my son did was wrong. But how can I not defend him? He is my son, he is not well and he has a problem with his temper.

'I don't want him to go to jail and have his future ruined.'


Anonymous said...

Hey Gilbert,

Just heard about your blog recently. Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

could be very low EQ on the minister part... perhaps "power" over situation got the better of these mps...

Anonymous said...

come to think of it.. usually these so called "in the middle" level of mps think they are hell of a smart...figuring it's they who are capable of helping... "so bend down you who wants my help"

Anonymous said...

Truth hurts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gilbert
Thanks for surfacing the news, sad but really, singaporens need to be informed and make their own judgement from the incident.

Anonymous said...

is satish cheny foreign talent clueless about how to report this?

we should demand better from our media

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Thanks for the update. I went to watch the Dream Potters Episode 7 just a while ago. It seems like the mother and son probably need a patient, positive and strong character to encourage and guide them along for the next couple of years. The production crew's attempts to fix their external problems are helpful but not sufficient.

While it is true that people's motivation should come from themselves and only themselves, sometimes life does get too overwhelming for the average person, and having someone to mentally lean on can help. Try not to be too prejudiced by what seems like their pretty unrealistic and unattractive character.

I have my own story to tell but it is for another time - the only takeaway is that mental/psychological/emotional help is sometime required to get over a hump no matter how strong or weak one seems.

Anonymous said...

What a low IQ journalist. He should go back to reading school and stop his propaganda.


Anonymous said...

Lim Hwee Hua and Cynthia Phua should sue TNP and SPH.

If they dont sue TNP and SPH, they are admitting that TNP is reporting the truth.

Oops……… PM LHL say TNP and SPH report truth, whole truth, nothing but truth……….. so is Lim Hwee Hua and Cynthia Phua lying????

If Lim Hwee Hua and Cynthia Phua do not lie, that means TNP and SPH is not telling truth………. that means PM LHL is lying (when he say that TNP and SPH reports Truth, Nothing but Truth)!!!!!!!

George Yeo should write in his facebook to ask PAPpigs to boycott TNP.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Wang's post. However, I strongly frown upon negative comments on the journalist (e.g. low IQ) in the comments thread.

People, attack the article he wrote, NOT the person.

Anonymous said...

Is it in your interest to vote for PAP? Please read the latest article on Temasek Review below before it is taken off.

Anonymous said...

Re Cynthia Phua:

It is a good MP's role to CARE about citizens with problems, to MOVITATE tem, to BE WITH THEM in their moment of need, to REACH out to them.

The PAP MP (well MPs) have forgotten they are her for Singapore, they represent the PAP and what is claims to stand for. The best thing for Cynthia Phua is to offer her resignation.

Anonymous said...

Just simply vote them out

Anonymous said...

goodness you are just being spiteful for its own sake

Anonymous said...

I read this with great concern that an MP does not even realise that her line of questioning and body language is frustrating her residents. The fact that she said she thought it went well is even more disconcerting as one cannot change if one does not even know what went wrong and blame the other party. Unless this boy is mad, otherwise his perception of the MP's tone and body language is his perception and his reaction is testimonial to the reality of his perception, no wrong or right here.
Kinesics, or the study of body language, is an important aspect of good communication. What we say in words account for only 7%, the tone 38% and our body language the remaining 55% are rudimentary knowledge for those involved in effective communication work. So I am very surprised and alarmed that an MP does not seem to be aware of this and yet "licensed" to operate as an MP.
I suspect this "task oriented" madam is so used to her "telling" leadership style that it has become second nature to the extent that she does not even realise it but the strange part is that when she deals with her more senior colleagues she can switch styles and exudes an image of being affectionately motherly so there is something odd here.


Anonymous said...

Upon further reflection I am inclined to conclude that it is a case of Deficiency of Execution (De) rather than a Deficiency of Knowledge here (Dk).

Which means she does not need to be sent for a training course to close the learning gap but has to be counselled and her lack of motivation to treat her constituents with more respect even if they come from a poor background be investigated to find out the root cause.
It could be a hormonal imbalance if it is an isolated case but if there is a pattern then it very well be a lack of genuine concern for lesser mortals.


Amused said...

I hope she is not threatening lawsuits. If so, she should say it now rather than wait until after the election for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

Was watching news 5 last night. The female newscaster mis-reported what the opposition candidate Gerald giam (WP in East Coast GRC) has to say. She reported that the opposition said they are in a better position to voice the concerns of the people because they are more 'FREE' to do so. She even emphasized the word 'FREE'. When the camera turned to Gerald delivering his speech at the rally, what came out from his mouth was "the opposition could freely voice the concerns of the people in and out of parliament without worrying ....". Sad that such mis-reporting could happen. Bias..bias

Alan Wong said...

I think sometimes it is human nature to look down on people on first impressions. And this is where people would have already formed their own opinions even before they care to find out more about the background and special circumstances of each case.

This may probably explain why the MP refused to accept the son's apology because of her own personal bias towards the son.

Therefore when it comes to selecting our MP, having emphathy and the true heart to serve is more important than all those professional and paper qualifications that they seem to searching for during their tea sessions which ended up with all kinds of heartless representatives.

Just my 2-cent opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang, it seems like the youth supporters have tracked down the mother and son to do a video saying how good the MPs were to them. I don't know what carrot and stick they have used...

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I have not seen the video. But it does not surprise me that the woman said such a thing.

She already said it in 2009. Read the New Paper article:

"The apology, however, was not acceptable to Mrs Lim, who was back chairing the MPS after returning from abroad.

'I made it very clear to (the mother) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There's no excuse to be violent,' Mrs Lim told The New Paper.

....... Mrs Lim's response surprised the mother, who had spoken fondly of her throughout the interview with The New Paper just a day before.

But my point has never been about the financial aid or other assistance that the MPs gave to her.

That wasn't what the TNP article was about, either.

The article was about the chair-slamming incident, and the subsequent treatment towards the mentally-disabled boy and his mother.

Some of those concerns are reflected in the next part of the mother's words:

"'I know what my son did was wrong. But how can I not defend him? He is my son, he is not well and he has a problem with his temper.

'I don't want him to go to jail and have his future ruined.'"

Anonymous said...

Hi Gilbert,
The mother and son granted an interview yesterday. Here's what they had to say...

Anonymous said...

I sympatihized with the mother's concern for her son. Indeed, there ar many ways for a person's future to be ruined - not just by being arrested and becoming a criminal but also by being bankrupted after being sued.

Time to put a stop to all these. This is not being First World or Third World, it is simply being civilized.

Laura Goh said...

Hi Gilbert,

I'm actually a huge fan of your work as I am a writer myself but I see it necessary to point out and clarify that Mrs. Lim Hwee Hua is in charge of sea and air transport and not public transport, as pointed out in your article.

And to others who've made personal comments about the various PAP candidates or journalists, shame on you. Fight fair, no one has ever called Mr. Low Thia Khiang or Ms. Sylvia Lim names and neither have they made comments about their appearances.

Also, I find it amusing that one can make such immature conclusions that because Lim Hwee Hua and Ho Ching are friends, "the plot thickens" - Jesus Christ, I suppose then that even if she were friends with anyone else, there would be some story, something to write about it.

Politics is truly a tricky thing isn't it. It really brings out the worst in all Singaporeans. It's so easy to criticize and demean anything the majority party does. Just as it may be fair and justifiable for all of you to do so (because you have a voice, a choice), why is it that any criticism on any opposition policies is immediately met by an insane amount of brigadiers so ready to "campaign" for a cause they really know so little about. Ignorance is bliss maybe, but not this time.

Even Chen Show Mao himself was overheard saying that he "didn't know what would happen even if they won," and that he would just "take over whatever plans HDB has or whatever plans other organizations has" because he is "not clear." And I know what's going to be said - no proof. And true enough, I don't have a video recording of any sort because I asked out of genuine concern and not because I was trying to crucify him like what Singaporeans have chosen to both Cynthia Phua and Lim Hwee Hua.

What do you really know about them anyway? You claim they know nothing about your lives and nothing about what you've gone through - but hey there pots, do YOU know anything about them? I really doubt so.

Go, go find out their stories before being so quick to criticize and victimize. And if you really have the balls to comment and "have a voice" - all so eager to share your comments, why the anonymous front?

Has any of you spoken personally to the mother and son? Gilbert, have you spoken to them yourself? Have you heard from them firsthand to make such bias statements that condemn them as beings with no compassion?

Social media is a cruel thing, I'm sure you're well aware of how the internet can misconstrue the truth so easily - how sentiments shift so violently on non-truths. So this is my very earnest plea, please find out the truth before leveling your judgment on them both.

Thank you.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Laura, thanks for the clarification about Lim Hwee Hua's point.

On your other points, no, I have not spoken to the mother & son myself. Neither have I ever spoken to Cynthia Phua, or Lee Kuan Yew, or Low Thia Kiang, or George Yeo.

I don't think that should stop me from expressing an opinion. Especially when my opinion is based on facts - the facts stated in the New Paper article.

These facts I have presented in my blog post and the PAP has not denied them:

1. That the boy is mentally disabled

2. That the woman was in financial dire straits

3. That their HDB flat had been repossessed

4. That Cynthia Phua made a police report against the boy

5. That the boy was arrested

6. That the boy was charged

7. That the boy wrote a letter of apology

8. That Hwee Hua rejected the apology

9. That Hwee Hua said that she is not forgiving the boy.

I sense your compassion for the PAP MPs, but I can't help but feel that it is a little misplaced. I think that there must be plenty of poor, disadvantaged people in this country who are more deserving of your compassion.

Confused said...

@laura - what is the truth here? Is the truth untrue because it doesn't fit into your pro-PAP sentiments? From the video, the mother and son here appear to victims even if they don't think they are.

They did not address the incident or try to explain why their MP insist on pressing charges - only that its a "misunderstanding".

They seem to think that the PAP is good and should continue supporting the PAP because their MPs will continue to give them NTUC vouchers and cheap furniture.

Is it correct to equate compassion with charity? Do you and your like-minded friends think that you have done enough for the poor if you just throw money (or cakes) at their direction? As long as they don't threaten you with bodily harm?

Ben said...

Hi Laura,

With all due respect, I believe you have missed the whole point: A reasonable person reading the newspaper report would (without having to speak to the mother and son firsthand) come to the perfectly legitimate conclusion that the behavior of (lack of empathy shown by) the 2 MPs is deplorable and should be condemned.

Anonymous said...

Someone went to interview the mum and the son ..

Anonymous said...

A leader will say "Follow me!" into glory and honor and danger for all!

A coward and behind others type of leader will only say "Go!" into glory and honor and danger but for me and always me okay!

Which type of leaders the PAPigs are?

Think about it...and ask yourselves seriously this past 5 years...any lead by me forward hands on types you see in the PAPig establishment?...are these leaders or leechers or worse?

I am not joking...i am very serious. And i am not crazy either as mentioned by the Law Minister Sham dismissively of others "crazy" economical proposals or ideas that can be explore in which Mr. Shame himself has none to put forward and who is he to say crazy to for economical policies craft and endosed by real economist since Mr. Shame himself is not an economist.

Speaks volumes doesn't it? And this is the best Singapore can find??? It is really crazy the price we are paying for this so called "servant" (mentioned by PM LHL but has shown other-wise) of the people and singapore.

Singapore is a very stable place because of its stable tectonic plate and a safe country because of its rational and very very patient population. But it has limits to all you can eat policies for greed sake.

I think it is time Singaporeans decide where and how and which direction Singapore and all its peoples should go.

Rather then continued under a bunch of self serving greed for greed sake crazed for money/power nutjobs and so far has proven as paper certified intelligent only!


It is sad and malu to see this.

Anonymous said...

Expecting More of Our MPs. It is sometimes said that comments on Cynthia Phua have at times been harsh. That is not the issue: the issue is whether she should have done what she did.

We do expect more of our MPs. They are public figures if not public servants and set the tone for many issues in society through their access to media and other facilities.

We also expect more of our National Servicemen. They serve and no one would argue that they are properly paid. That is not the point. National Service is an obligation and s duty to our coutry. Implicit to national service is that soldiers and policemen and all uniformed members face death when duty calls.

That is why National service is so important and we honour our National Servicement. We expect more of them.

Some of the proposed Mps have not done National Service. That is neither here nor there. What is relevant is that a person who has done and served National Service should not have his motives called into question UNLESS there is proof.

Otherwise this calls into question every sacrifice that every son and family have done for Singapore.

It is in tis context that the debate on Cynthia Phua and her actions is relevant. We expect similarly more of her.

Laura Goh said...

Hi Gilbert,

Thank you for your reply.

I'm sorry to say this, but we all know that the credibility of The New Paper stands at an all-time low. When TNP headlined that story of Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha being a "GAY MP?" the paper was slammed for taking things to an "all-time low".

And now that TNP has reported on this issue about the Aljunied Mother & Son pair, why is it that it is immediately assumed to be factual/true? I'm not saying that you are wrong - but there is a fundamental judgment call issue here don't you think?

I am not pro-PAP, in fact truth be told, I'm politically apathetic. I just feel that with all the bad press dealt towards the PAP, it's very easy for one to feel so strongly about any issue that pops up. Did you know that Low Thia Khiang was seen sneering rudely at a resident, remarking quite loudly that when he "gets the money, he will," do this and that. You see, one can easily misconstrue this as arrogance (which the PAP has been faulted for) but his behaviour has not been once criticized. (Or barely for that matter.)

I'm speaking for Mrs Lim because I've met her twice before and Gilbert, all I'm saying is that if you've met her before and spoken to her even for just a minute, you'll know that she's not capable of such a thing.

I'm sure you understand what it means to go with your gut feel, and to look at matters with your heart. And maybe I'm being idealistic, or airy-fairy for that matter but I know Mrs Lim to be a good person.

As for the rest of your replies, I can only quote Low Thia Khiang - "Friends, do not assume all that you read in the papers to be completely true."

Moreover TNP?

Anyhow, this wasn't written to start a PAP vs Opposition argument, and if I've offended anyone, I do apologize.


Ex-PAP Supporter said...

Laura Goh aka pro-PAPer,

1) you raise the credibility of TNP. If there was any infactual reporting by TNP regarding Cynthia Phua, then why hasn't Cynthia Phua hit back at TNP? Going by past experience, the PAP has been quick to respond to any untruths whether they be uttered by the press or anyone else.

2) you pupported to be a neutral observer and yet you demonise Low Thia Kiang while singing LHH's praises.

3)you have written 2 very long comments and yet have not touch upon any issues raised by Mr Wang.

4) if your comments were to push back against Netizens fury over Cynthia Phua, you might as well spend more time over the mainstream press lopsided coverage of Singapore's political scene. Think about it: people exercise more judgement over what they read on the Net verssus what they read in the mainstream press.

---Ex-PAP supporter.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she puts on a different behaviour towards the more well educated than the downtrodden, who more often than not, are totally helpless and looked down upon. I know that most civil servants are like that. Against someone more educated and likely to voice complaints, they are more humble.

If Cynthia is really what someone made her out to be, incapable of such things, then all the brickbats that I heard about her, not once or from one source only, must be fairy tales.

For example elderly ladies joining activities at the RCs, said that when a group of them saw her approaching, they just disperse. They dislike her. That was the answer. Why?

Now, I am quite sure that with the range of activities at the RC in question, those elderly ladies must have met and talked to her more than twice to arrive at their opinion of her. Isn't that so?

Anonymous said...

In politics, one need to have high EQ, and to be seen to have.

Examples of high EQ. The dos

1. Apologise publicly over shortcomings.

2. Carry and kissing babies.

3. Eager to help the poor, the weak and elderly.

4. Cry publicly if necessary.

5. Publicly declare as servants to the people.

6. Smile even after being scolded.

Examples of low EQ. The Don'ts

1. I don't accept your apology.

2. Why you like that?

3. You are daft.

4. Tell people you will repent if you do this.

5. Your womanfolk will become maids if you do this.

Anonymous said...

'lu yao zi ma li, ri jiu jian ren xin', meaning to know the stamina of a horse, it has to be gauge by the distance it travels, to know a person, one needs (a long)time to be with that person.

To claim that a few minutes contact made one knows another is simply simplistic.
Anyway, our media(print, screen and radio) is claimed to report factually, such that anything that it reports should qualified as evidence.


Amused said...


People slammed TNP on the story of Dr Vincent Wijeysingha not because it was True or False, and you know it. But then you used it as an example to cast doubt on the reliability of TNP report on the Aljunied Mother & Son pair.

Gilbert has already said that the facts have not been disputed by anyone, including Mrs Lim. If you are doubtful about the facts, you should speak to Mrs Lim directly (heed your own advice!) You are trying too hard to defend Mrs Lim.

As far as I am concerned, you could be just another PAP troll.

Ex-PAP supporter said...

I like debating with pro-PAPers because they always end up scoring own goals :-)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"I'm speaking for Mrs Lim because I've met her twice before and Gilbert, all I'm saying is that if you've met her before and spoken to her even for just a minute, you'll know that she's not capable of such a thing."

Okay. You say that you met her twice before and you know that she is "not capable of such a thing".

Can you clarify what you mean by "such a thing"?

Are you saying that the TNP article is false and that Lim Hwee Hua did not reject the apology?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No response from Laura?

Ex-PAP Supporter said...

no lah,

Laura Goh busy commenting on your
marine-parade-grc-nicole-seah-vs-goh post

the pro-PAPers are always fun to debate with---they are so transparent in their motivations :-)

you can see them coming from an universe away.