Thursday, May 07, 2009

17 year-old arrested for public display of anger.

This incident has been reported at various news sources:

Outburst at MP's office
(Straits Times Online - May 7, 2009 by By Sujin Thomas)

Low IQ teen arrested for “violence” at MPS office after meeting PAP MP Cynthia Phua (Wayang Party - May 6, 2009 by admin)

Boy arrested for slamming chair at MP Office!
(Diary of A Singaporean Mind - Wednesday, May 06, 2009 by blogger)

I am very upset by this incident. I do not think this boy (still one year away from serving NS) is being treated fairly. Why was the first response from the "grassroots leaders" to call the police? Was he threatening anyone directly? His family was obviously in distress. Why was the first reaction not to try to calm him down, get him seated down and told that physical violence will not help him solve his family's problems? Are we (staff at "Meet-The-People" sessions, no less!) really so incapable of handling people as individuals?

Something else does not add up. If he were "restrained" while the police was contacted by the staff at the MP's office (as reported on the Straits Times), then what led to his eventual release and then arrest at his home? Why does the blog entry say Miss Cynthia Phua (the MP) asked "pointed" questions and the ST article had no mention of that?

The most troubling quote came from Minister Lim Hwee Hwa (source: Diary of A Singaporean Mind):

There is a clear line between being frustrated or disappointed and being violent. The thrown chair could have killed somebody.

Sure, he could have injured someone with that chair. Kill? Maybe in freak cases. Kill or injure when he did not seem to be directing the attack at any particular person but a glass door? Please ...

Why are our ministers, MPs and hell, our "grassroots leaders" so damn out-of-touch with the real world?

Enough anger ... I had asked if something could be done to help the poor boy ... free legal aid, financial help, anything ... I felt distant and helpless, unable to provide any immediate aid/relief for their suffering. Then I see that the police has declined to reveal any details about the boy to the public. So now I am just frustrated ... frustrated as hell.

EDIT: As pointed out by commenter Vox Leo, the grassroots leaders are mostly volunteers. Please read my reply in the comments section, but I do feel I ought to express some regret sounding so harsh regarding what I consider their professionalism (implied) in the matter.


Kaffein said...

Do you expect less from our 'higher mortals'? What is being hungry or destitute to them when their high pay comes in just like that?

I'm not saying don't give them a godo pay. I'm saying when people are in a corner, hungry and desperate, instead of being of help, the MPs gave more problems to the family.

As someone has told me before - go see MP got use meh?


Anonymous said...

It is one country two system. In Singapore, you can even get away with murder if you are rich.

But if you are poor, you cannot speak your mind about how frustrated you are.

Vox Leo said...

i think you are being overly unfair to the MPS "staff." They're not staff, they are volunteers, and some of them are older aunties and uncles. I've been to my MPS and I can tell you if someone did that it is very frightening. There are dozens of little children there, old people and handicapped folks. Some guy slamming a chair against a glass door would make me jump up and attempt to restrain and disarm him.

I am sorry if you think that it makes me some PAP stooge, but too often armchair critics like to criticise without realising that the real situation can be far scarier than what is reported.

Chee Wai Lee said...

Vox - you are bringing perspective (and direct experience too) and that is good. Anyone who says you are a PAP stooge is simply not paying attention to what you bring to the table. You are also correct. I have never been to an MPS session.

With your input in mind, I would be interested to know if these volunteers were briefed or trained to handle situations of heightened tension (as should be expected in an MPS session). I would also be interested to know if it is standard procedure to restrain a man wielding a chair against a glass door. You have indicated that such an action would be your natural instinct. I would like to share my natural instinct in the same situation - calm him down, get him to put the chair down so people can help him. It is not as if he was carrying a weapon designed to kill (a knife or gun). In the latter case, my fight-or-flight instincts will kick in and the choice will be whether to restrain him or to run away.

Frankly, attempting to restrain someone in that scenario essentially turns this into a fight were the man to resist a hostile reaction. I will argue that this is more traumatizing for the people there than it is for someone to try to calm him down and say "Sir, please, put that chair down and talk. No need for violence."

I've seen the latter at work first-hand at our University gym in the US. A big African-American guy gets upset over what he believed was racial ill-treatment and started shouting at people. First reactions were not to restrain him (heh, you'd be crazy to ... he was huge). The first reactions were to try to calm him down. Was he dangerous? Possibly ... he could pick up a heavy weight at any time to clobber someone. Would it have gotten worse if someone tried to restrain him? Probably. In the end the police were called in because he would not calm down. Did the police tackle or restrain him? No! The policeman essentially used his authority to get him to calm down and walked him to the locker room to talk to the man. When I was done with my exercises, I went down to the locker room and found them still there, the cop telling him (in semi-public but not shouting at him) that he need not be so sensitive and offered to bring him to see someone for counseling if need be. I was told the man was NOT ultimately arrested nor charged (for what? shouting at people?).

So, while I am indeed an armchair critic where the MPS is concerned, I have first-hand experience seeing what I feel is a positive resolution to such matters. If the man had instead started assaulting someone, you can be sure everyone in the gym will then chip in to help restrain him.

Anyway, thanks for your comment. It is definitely a helpful perspective to frame the issue from more angles.