In 2014, elderly cobbler Mr Ng Ah Bah won the admiration and sympathy of Singaporeans for his love and dedication to his wife, Madam Yap Guek Neo, who had become immobile and increasingly ill after suffering a stroke.
At the time, Mr Ng had brought her along to work every day as he could not bear to leave her at home, but as her condition worsened, he had to put her in a nursing home while he carries on making a living with his shoe repair business.
This year however, more problems have struck Mr Ng after the management of Katong Plaza, gave him two weeks to leave his work space after complaints about a “drunkard” found sleeping outside his stall.
Friends and customers of the cobbler regard the mall’s action as unjust and have tried to reason that the elderly cobbler should not be forced to leave.
The drunkard was reportedly causing problems for other tenants, who lodged complaints against Mr Ng. However, Mr Ng reportedly said he does not know the drunk man at all.
After making a police report, the mall’s management asked Ng to leave by 26th Nov.
However, this ignores the fact that Mr Ng has been running his business in the Katong neighbourhood for over 11 years without incident and has many regular customers. Saddled with bills from his wife’s medical expenses and nursing home costs, which amount to $1,000 per month, as well as his $300 shop rent, Mr Ng can scarcely afford to lose even more business.
He still manages to make around $1,000 every month from his business, but this looks set to change as he will be forced to seek rent elsewhere.
In response to queries, a senior management personnel at Katong Plaza claimed that Ng knows the drunk man and that the mall has helped him in the past by decreasing his rent in half.
Chairman Mr Tang, 60, said that CCTV footage showed that the drunk man and Ng know each other, and the former visits him regularly.
He added that the unidentified man once spent the night at Ng’s stall and even smoked in a non-smoking area.
“He once got drunk in the day time and hid in the toilets and refused to come out. His feet were sticking out of the toilets and he shocked many people,” said Mr Tang. “We are very sympathetic with his situation. We gave him a rent discount from $600 to $300. But the issue with the drunk person has gotten us many complains from the other shop owners.”