Minister of State for the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports Madam Halimah Yacob believes that most needy families in Singapore won’t ask for help. And her view is that we have to respect people’s desires “to say that they have ownership of their lives. (see Today article reproduced below)
She herself is the result of one such family, she told Parliament earlier this week. Implicitly or explicitly, I guess she’s inviting us to conclude that if she’s anything to go by, people at the bottom of the social heap who refuse help needn’t end up dead or worse.
While Madam Halimah may be one exception who makes the rule, I’m more interested to know what happened to the rest of the kids who were in a similar situation like her family’s?
Perhaps things were different when Madam Halimah was a kid.
What is the reality now concerning those who refuse help or don’t know how to get help has been aptly illustrated by the story of the man who was locked up accidentally in his rented flat by the HDB because he was in payment arrears for more than 3 years! (see story reproduced from Yahoo below).
Despite what Madam Halimah says, sometimes, nay often, when a person is terribly poor, he might not be in the right state of mind any more – due to lack of proper nutrition and/or terrible personal circumstances that leave them divorced from reality.
And just as we don’t leave people who want to commit suicide to execute their desire — if we can prevent it! – by shrugging it off as a “personal choice”, I think we can’t, mustn’t, leave those who are desperately poor to shift for themselves, just because they say it’s what they want!
Most low-income families will not ask for help: Halimah
04:46 AM Nov 23, 2011
by Teo Xuanwei
SINGAPORE – She lost her father when she was just eight. And although her family’s income level was in the bottom 10 per cent of the population, Madam Halimah Yacob’s mother never considered getting social assistance.
“Very often, when I was in school, my teacher always told me: ‘Why don’t you go and ask your mother to get social welfare, social assistance?’” the Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports shared with the House, in response to a question by Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) about the number of needy families who choose to fend for themselves instead of getting financial aid.
Mdm Halimah had shared the findings from a survey of 2,000 low-income families that showed that 60 per cent of them preferred to be self-sufficient.
“But my mother would be terribly horrified with any suggestion that she should go and get social welfare or social assistance. Because when my father died … my mother said that so long as she has two hands and two legs, we will all survive,” Mdm Halimah said, blinking back tears.
Mdm Halimah made the point that we have to respect people’s desires “to say that they have ownership of their lives”.
Copyright 2011 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved
Man accidentally locked in flat by HDB officers
Imagine being locked inside your flat without food or water for a day. At least that’s what a 63-year-old elderly man experienced after finding himself locked inside his rental flat in Bukit Merah.
Officers from the Housing Development Board (HDB) had changed the locks to his two-room rental flat at Henderson Road on Monday afternoon without realising the man, who wanted to be known as Mr Liao, was still inside, The New Paper reported.
Apparently, officers did that to repossess the flat as it had been in rental arrears amounting to $2,000 for more than three years, the paper said.
According to local Chinese tabloid Shin Min Daily, Liao was not able to respond well to questions posed by its reporter.
On this issue, an HDB spokesman told TNP that referrals have been made to the family service centre and Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to assist him but it has not been successful as Liao was not responsive.
When officers first arrived at the flat, they found the main door wide open and, despite repeated calls to find out if anyone was inside the flat, there was no response.
In light of this issue, an HDB said that its internal procedures will be tightened to ensure such incidents do not take place again.
Liao was “released” from his flat on Tuesday afternoon after a neighbor informed HDB officers of the incident.
Throughout the day he was locked in, TNP reported that Liao allegedly had no water for consumption and asked neighbours for water and food.
But even prior to the incident, Liao, who is unemployed would sometimes ask for money and food. A neighbor said she has seen him leaving his flat with a plastic bag, searching for leftover food at coffeeshops, the paper said.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Mar 7 that he “stands corrected” on his comments about how the integration of Malay-Muslims in Singapore.
In a statement issued on Monday night to the media, he said: “I made this one comment on the Muslims integrating with other communities probably two or three years ago. Ministers and MPs, both Malay and non-Malay, have since told me that Singapore Malays have indeed made special efforts to integrate with other communities, especially since 9/11, and that my call is out of date.”
“I stand corrected. I hope that this trend will continue in the future,” MM Lee added.
The statement referred to remarks he made in the book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going. Inter alia he said Muslims are “distinct and separate’.
The book is based on 32 hours of interviews Mr Lee gave to seven journalists from The Straits Times and was launched on Jan 21.
Mr Lee was quoted as saying, “Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.” When asked how they could integrate, he said, “Be less strict on Islamic observances, and say: ‘Okay, I’ll eat with you.’”
He also said: “I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration — friends, inter-marriages and so on – than Muslims.”
The Minister Mentor’s statement was met with a positive reaction from the Malay-Muslim community.
MP Halimah Yacob, who spoke on racial cohesion in Singapore in Parliament on Monday, told ST: “This will go a long way towards assuaging the feelings of the community. … MM’s earlier comments caused a lot of unhappiness because many felt it was not a description of the reality.”
She added, the statement showed Mr Lee’s “humility”.
Chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals Nizam Ismail also welcomed the news. He said the “retraction” was a “necessary” move. ”The issue of integration is an important one especially for a young, heterogeneous and cosmopolitan nation-state. Integration still remains a work in progress,” he said.
“The Malay-Muslim community remains committed to integration and hopes that all stakeholders, including other communities and especially the State, will take part in this process of rebuilding mutual trust and bonds which may have been frayed,” he added.
Given that the people directly affected by MM Lee’s remarks have been gracious in their response to his concession that he is out-dated on this particular matter, I’m astounded that there are the likes of The Online Citizen which insists on continuing to tease the subject like a mad kitten with a ball of yarn.
Can’t TOC even contemplate that the Malay-Muslim community may be embarrassed by MM apologising? Hasn’t TOC ever heard of the word hormat?
Personally I don’t think MM is entirely inaccurate in his views. It all depends whom he had in mind when he made those remarks; what incidents he was dredging from his memory bank.
However, his remarks would be dead wrong if applied to the Malay-Muslim colleagues I’ve had in my working life. In fact some of the best traits I’ve picked up at the start of my career — work ethics, food and dressing preferences — had been instilled by chien peh from the Malay-Muslim community, albeit mostly from north of the Causeway.
That’s the trouble with soft facts or impressions and perceptions humans get from interacting with one another. We often mistake the specific for the universal.
There will always be small groups whether Malay-Muslim or Chinese and Indians of whatever religion who will, out of choice or temperament, not want to integrate with communities outside their own or even within their own.
Continuing to fret about this is just as pointless as trying to set ice cream by turning the freezer thermomter to temperatures that will make polar bears into ice carvings. A delicious dessert needs just the right temperature and time to set!