Respecting personal choice or washing off our hands?

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

Yahoo! Newsroom

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.


7 thoughts on “Respecting personal choice or washing off our hands?

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 25 Nov 2011 « The Singapore Daily

  2. A “nice” way to minimize spending on welfare. Government spin at work …. again. I would like to know how the survey was conducted, by whom, what were the questions, the sample size, the criteria for sample selection etc, before I accept the conclusion that was dished out.

  3. Actually Old Singaporean, I don’t disbelive the findings, because I’ve had more than one such response when I tried to intervene with the down n out. But that’s only the first self-respecting reply. And in the few instances where I persisted, they did accept help in the end.

    As a kay-poh, I can afford to take the want-want, don’t want done attitude but not if I’m the Government. That’s where I think MOS Cik Halimah and our MCYS could and should be more persistent with cases where the person/s clearly aren’t clear thinking any more. 😆

  4. Wow! Me was in MP Halimah’s shoes in the 50s when me was a kid. My family lived in uncemented floor, bare earth so to say, with firewoods as walls and attaps(palm leaves) as roof.

    My parents necer asked for welfare assistances and our neighbours were just as poor if not worse. They too did not ask for welfare assistance. In those days, the community(fellow villagers) were liked family, we gave each other help whenever and wherever we could. However, me must emphasized here that during those times, we had plenty of foods even the very rich today cannot get even if they are willing to pay.

    We had freshly caught fishes, sea shells and other marine produces, fresh veggies, fruits, poultries, pork and milk(cow/goat} all produced within our district. Though most bought rice and other non-local products on credits, the shopkeepers were more than happy to deliver 5 kathi(about 3 kilos) of rice right into any household. IMAGINE delivery of 3 kilos of rice to your house and thanked you for been his customer!

    While MP Halimah was raised in poverty, her age is not far from mine and me believes that she might have grown up in a kampong(village) liked me and her neighbours were as helpful as mine in the past. As for food, me really would not speculate about her experience when she was young. That said, me MUST SAY to Mp Halimah that she should not have failed to know the difference between now and then in term of social changes and governance as well. Has she not seen the changes?

    Me had read on numerous occasions about politicians talking about their poor(finance) young days and how they managed to be who they are/were because of their resourcefulness and intelligence etc. I say well and and good even exemplary of them! But, for goodness sake, please know your works as representatives of the people, understand the situation, background and most importantly the policies that YOU HELP TO FORMULATE AND IMPLEMENT!


  5. Well times have changed, Uncle Patriot. With nuclear families, exacerbated by declining permanent marriages, globalisation where pple seldom remain long enough in a city, let alone a neighbourhood, to grow roots and 4/5 year term governments instead of a permanent monarchy, the fabric of support for the less able, more unlucky whatever etc can’t depend on informal ties any more. Hence the need for statutorily provided support. If we can provide free universal education for the first 12 yrs for a kid to become self-reliant, don’t see why we can’t provide for 24 or more yrs support for the bottom 20 per cent of adults. But then money spent on the dirty dying aged poor is less glam than building schools of Gardens by the Bay! 🙄

  6. Auntie Lucia;

    must say to You that me am always
    impressed with your sensibility in
    And I guess that You must be one
    conscientious person that Sin has
    for a citizen.
    I do wish that some of our lady
    parliamentarians do have some of
    your wisdom.
    My impression is that none of them
    will be able to have all of everything
    in You. However, just some of the
    quality would make them better.


  7. Haha, thanks Patriot! U r most flattering but I won’t bite 😛 As for your subsequent comment to expand on this, pse excuse me if I don’t approve. Mainly don’t agree with you that our MPs and/or ministers are well-paid. So apologies lah. If you want to say all that, got to start your own blog? K? Have a happy week!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s