On 5 Oct 2020, I accompanied my friend Mdm Tan, to see her MP Ms Tin Pei Ling. This is because Mdm Tan had told me of her failure to obtain assistance from the branch and SSO Geylang Serai, which repeatedly refused to provide assistance to her and her desperate emails to the MP for a “medical fee assistance card” and NTUC vouchers often went unanswered. She was feeling very demoralised and so I thought some companionship and support at the MPS would be helpful.
We arrived to the MPS premises around 7:00pm. A grassroots volunteer took down her name and asked us to wait at the void deck of the HDB block.
After waiting for some time, I went and asked the grassroots volunteers standing at the door on Mdm Tan’s behalf for an estimate of the time we have to wait before she could meet her MP. They asked for the resident’s name. As I did not know her official name in the IC, I called her to come over from where she was seated at the HDB void deck. Upon seeing her, an athletic female grassroots volunteer immediately expressed loudly at the fact that they (at the MPS) knew Mdm Tan because she went to the MPS regularly and they knew her problems very well, in fact they knew her problems better than I knew her. I was surprised by the condescending tone and content of what she had said. I felt it was already very embarrassing for a resident who had to approach her MP for help, and to be called out in this manner made it even more humiliating.
I kept quiet at this point and went to have coffee with Mdm Tan because it was going to be a long wait and the grassroots were going to call Mdm Tan on her phone when it was time to meet the MP. After an hour, we returned to the MPS premises, I approached the counter to ask for the person in-charge so I could provide feedback to the MPS volunteers about not “talking down” to residents. The same female athletic volunteer then appeared and I was told that she would hear my feedback.
As she looked rather defensive, I invited her to take a seat more than once so that I could give her the feedback in a more relaxed atmosphere. She refused to sit down and remained standing while I took a seat on the sofa and provided the feedback about her condescending tone when referring to Mdm Tan earlier on. It was inappropriate because some residents are already very embarrassed about seeking help from their MPs, so the very fact of approaching an MP for help is already a rather daunting experience and there should be more sensitivity in interacting with these residents. She disagreed with me that she had spoken in a condescending manner earlier on. As she was behaving in a rather uptight and somewhat belligerent manner when talking to me – she was standing and shifting her weight from left to right while I remained seated, I told her not to act in such a belligerent manner. She denied it. I could sense that she did not welcome my feedback. In any case I had done my civic duty so I got up to go out to wait at the void deck until it was Mdm Tan’s turn. As I was stepping out, a resident who was inside the premises waiting to see the MP stood up from his chair and told me that it was a good thing to give feedback to the female athletic grassroots volunteer because she had been “bossy” to him and had tried to cut him off when he tried to talk about his difficulties. Feeling justified in my feedback, I turned to the female athletic grassroots volunteer to tell her that my observation was not a one-off and two instances made it, arguably, a pattern. I walked out and sat at the void deck.
As I was just hanging around and talking to the other residents who were also hanging around and waiting to be called into the MPS premises, I saw 4 policemen walk up and soon two of them came up to me and asked me for my IC as some one had made a police report and I was part of the investigation. I was really surprised as this was the first time in my life where I was the subject of a police investigation. At first, I refused to give my IC as I had no idea what was really going on but the police insisted that I had to show them my IC. I put two-and-two together that someone must have called the police on me, and it was probably the female athletic grassroots volunteer.
In time, two more police officers arrived and one was a female. The female IO (Chia Kaiting) said that she was going to record a statement from me. In the process, I was shocked to hear her querying me if I had used vulgarities, or if I had behaved in an intimidating manner. I said “no.”
During the investigation, I heard the police telling people not to record what was going on with their phone-cameras. However, someone had taken a photo and video of my engagement with the police and female athletic grassroots volunteer earlier. A resident asked what was going to happen to me after this and IO Chia informed him that the police would let the AGC look at the statement and decide on the next step (if any).
Frankly, I was very upset that four policemen were immediately dispatched to investigate the scene when it was a non-event at all because I often hear people complaining that the police don’t show up in time for whatever complaints that are made by the public.
I was also appalled by the fact that whoever had called the police on me must have probably exaggerated the gravity of the situation — perhaps how disruptive I had been to public order, to warrant the speedy arrival of numerous police officers to the MPS.
I am genuinely concerned to learn that residents, especially vulnerable elderly ones whom MPs are unable to assist, end up getting humiliated by grassroots volunteers, as my friend Mdm Tan had been.