Sunday, August 13, 2006

When I am 74

Elderly man arrested for hitting MP

AN elderly man was arrested for punching Member of Parliament Seng Han Thong on Thursday evening and leaving him with a bruised lip.

The punch came during Mr Seng's meet-the-people session, when the Chinese man — a former taxi driver — came to seek the Yio Chu Kang MP's help to reinstate his terminated taxi contract.

When it was his turn to see the MP, he reportedly raised his voice at Mr Seng and stunned those present by hitting him.

In a statement, the police said it received a call for assistance at about 9.35pm on Thursday. And when its officers arrived, the staff at Ang Mo Kio's Community & Education Centre — where the session was conducted — had already detained the man, who is in his 70s.

Mr Seng had "suffered a bruised lip and had declined medical attention", the police added. The man, who was arrested for assaulting a public servant, cannot be named as the case is under investigation.

Today understands that the 74-year-old man, who is currently out on bail, was formerly a taxi driver with ComfortDelGro and was unhappy with the company for terminating his contract.

When contacted, ComfortDelGro spokesperson Tammy Tan confirmed that the man's contract was terminated in February 2002 for "rude behaviour and for a threat made against a customer".

Said Ms Tan: "As (he) is no longer a hirer with the company, we are not able to go into details about the case. We however stand by our decision to terminate him based on the threats he made to the customer in a letter he wrote."

On the assault, Ms Tan added: "The police is currently investigating the matter and we are rendering them all assistance."

Mr Seng is currently in Shanghai on business. When contacted, the divisonal director for the National Trades Union Congress' administration and research unit told Today that he was "all right" but declined to comment further. Nonetheless, he said that he was not unduly shaken by the assault.

"I continued meeting the residents until around 11pm and then went to board my flight at midnight," he added.
— Loh Chee Kong
Mr Seng was a journalist with Zaobao before entering politics. He is probably best-known for his role as the editor of MM Lee's memoirs. According to the NTUC, he is also an advisor to the taxi operator associations.

This incident interested me for two reasons.
Firstly, this is probably the first time anyone had ever punched an MP in Singapore.
Secondly, and more importantly, was that a man as old as 74 years old, having been unemployed for the last 4 years, was still desperately looking for help to secure employment.
I would be interested to understand his financial situation.

Is he single?
Or had he been neglected by his children?

Are his children still dependent on him?
Or are his children already financially independent but are themselves also struggling?

Had he been living beyond his means?
Had he exhausted all his savings in the 4 years of unemployment?

Is he mentally unstable?Or driven to rage by his circumstances?
Does he have any other siblings or relatives?
Who else can he turn to for help?
Does he qualify as a 'needy'?
Where is our safety net for people like him?

Until more facts emerge, it would be difficult to comment on his actions.
But, given that this is probably the first time anyone dared to punch an MP, is this a sign of times?

Something must have cracked inside a person to cause him to punch someone whom he is asking for help. I have many questions but no satisfactory answers.

Is there a group of low-income badly hit by cost of living pressures and unemployment?How do they perceive the help that had been given so far?

Had their MPs been helpful?Are they seen as giving voice to their concerns or had they been perceived as being the government's voice instead?

The prevailing assumption is that the support base of the PAP is those born before 1970.Is this an indication that the older generation is also unhappy with the PAP?

For me, this incident is a wake-up call.
Will I be financially independent at 74?
Can I afford medical expenses?

I value my financial independence very much.
Many Ministers had suggested that one should rely on your family as the social safety net.
In an increasingly volatile environment, I think it is unrealistic to expect your children to be able to support their families and you. I had come across several taxi-drivers who resumed driving taxis after a break of 5-10 years when their children went out of work.

Well, as the Ministers urged, we should all continue to work for as long as we can.
Yeah, right.
Not many organisations are prepared to employ people well into their 80s.

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