The Online Citizen

Bedok Reservoir deaths, did we fail them?

September 27
21:30 2011

~by: Tommy Tong~

How difficult must life have been for this family that 4 or 5 of them lived together in a 1 room rented flat? What sort of society do we live in where such poverty exists in a country that can now boast 2 world class casinos amongst countless high-end entertainment venues?

And just how inhuman and disconnected are we from each other that some comments around the Bedok Reservoir tragedy (see HERE) berate the dead mother and child for contaminating Singapore’s drinking water?

The sinking sadness of this suicide has not left me, and I am sure there are many who feel the same way too, especially those who are mothers with young children.

Mothers have the job of protecting their young. You don’t have to go to the wilds of Africa to see this, zoo keepers will tell you to steer clear of even a safe-in-captivity lioness and her young cubs: animals naturally display aggression to guard and defend their offspring.  Label it post-natal depression or whatever other term, the simple fact is, if anyone tries to take a baby off its mother, she will attack, it’s instinct.

In the case of this mother, she attacked by killing herself and her son, she had no other means. Little money, insignificant education, probably not that well connected to access information concerning laws and rights, no friends, and very little help. Life must have been so hard and frightening, particularly when she got caught up in a fine through the custody courts.

I have no clear idea what point I want to make as I write this, it seems so huge and unfathomable that there could be such a lonely and desperate existence in the midst of Singapore’s success on an international scale.  Against the backdrop of a world class night race, the grief of this family is unfolding into the same night air within this city.

Many organisations, government agencies, religious groups, humanity societies and charities will no doubt be feeling sad they were not able to help this family. Some would perhaps be quietly defensive about not being able to take responsibility for an individual’s actions.  I wonder…

I wonder about a collective responsibility because this dead woman and her child are someone’s loved ones, they are someone’s neighbour or neighbours, they must have come into contact with doctors or nurses, for the child at least; there must have been teachers somewhere back in her life, friends, colleagues, bosses. Perhaps, like a butterfly effect, one extra act of kindness may have altered history for her.

Or maybe it really would be easier not to think too much and get on with life, such tragedies being other people’s business, happening “out there” But what is the use of life if, when it is within your ability, you do not choose to make life better for your fellow planet dwellers?

As I reflect on this, I wonder if it is my own lack of kindness that has kept me chewing over this painful misery of two lost lives.

Modern Singapore seldom does kind these days. In the main, we are too busy, because… time is money (?), and somehow in our majority of affluence we have become… shy? …embarrassed? …selfish?

Oh, we like to give to charity, palming off excess clothes, shoes, food, furniture, preferably if it does not involve too much of our own time. We are good at giving things, but how often do we look someone in the eye and give them our kindness? A greeting, a sincere word, and not because we are trying to sell them something, convert them or win their vote.

How many more of these tragic deaths are we going to see before political parties show us they are actively formulating plans for allowing a kinder gentler society? I am sure I do not need to spell this out but here goes anyway, politics is as much about individuals as it is about GDP, isn’t it? If every vote counts then so must the individual casting that vote.

What I really want to understand are these questions: did our education system fail them? Were they the unmemorable 1 of 40 who slipped through every safety net? Should they have been married in the first place if their lives were so separate and unready? Did their schooling and society at large teach them about being prepared to build a home together or did it (and does it continue to) actively encourage speedy marriages with the attractive prospect of a dangly HDB-shaped carrot? Did our economy then in turn fail them? Why were they married and living apart for most of the marriage? High price of home ownership? Long waiting list? And where was AWARE? Where was SAWL? Are their outreach programmes perhaps not far-reaching enough? What about grassroots leaders who keep their ears to the ground?

Thinking back to the reports of this woman’s fierce love, dying with her arms cradled round her child, totally floors me. The detail of her painting their nails red for the purpose of vengeance makes it all the more visceral; what kind of torture must she have gone through to kill her own precious child?

I just hope the end was a quick and painless one for them.

In a way, her quest for vengeance is upon us all; every time we turn on the tap, a little bit of her tragedy filters through. I would like to think that their lives have not been entirely wasted, that this bitter drama will wake us up to the less charming aspects of our society.

And as I go about trying to be kinder to those around me, I hope anyone who reads this will try to do the same. Kindness seems like a bland term, but it’s the only concrete and immediate action I can choose to do at any given moment in order to make some good out of such a sad, bad situation. So, please let this kindness multiplier be contagious, let it filter through our society, let kindness make a difference to all around us, including our policy makers.

R.I.P. Ms Tan and child.

  • Titiana Ann Xavier

    Stalin once declared that a single death is a tragedy but many deaths become statistics. The loss of 2 lives under such tragic circumstances is highly regretable. In the pursuit of material wealth, compassion and kindness gradually lose their appeal and relevance in society. When you laugh, the whole world laughs with you. But sad to say that when you cry, you cry all alone.

  • Speck

    Will the author say the same if the deceased were foreign-born singapore families?

  • yeoman

    it is pathetic to note that our govt and countless who call themselves as ‘GRASSROOT LEADERS’ spend time n energies and taxpayers’ resources on some foreigners thay lovingly expressed as ‘FTs’ via lareg sacel WATER-WASTING FESTIVALS N FREE ENGLAND CLASSES but generally TURN A DEAF YEAR NAD A BLIND EYE to those our own very own countrymen in need?

    are we truly compaasionate and hospitable,always so outwardly welcoming that FT but so cold n harsh and ‘CALCULATIVE’ to our very own poor nad marginalised singaporeans?


  • Poper@SG

    It’s a tragedy that two lives were lost.. However, in the midst of our sympathy, we must know that the act by itself is wrong. While the blame may be shifted to the husband, marital issues is often complex to judge. Such thing will happen to any society and yes, modern Singaporeans are hardly generous in kindness.

    It’s a tragedy that two lives were lost..

  • June lim

    I think this matter has absolutely nothing to do with policies & the economy, but everything to do with the environment their families have provided, and most importantly, the values inculcated since young.

  • William li

    It is time the pap focus on helping needy Singaporeans instead of on getting more foreigners into our country to raise GDP growth.

  • Halima Gose

    @June Lim, I disagree with you. I think the author’s point is that maybe it does not have EVERYTHING to do with policies and economy, but it certainly cannot have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with policies and economy. And it definitely has something to do with just practising that one more act of kindness to a stranger one meets daily in one’s busy busy busy life.

  • chou Ah Lian

    Family that 4 or 5 of them lived together in a 1 room rented flat and you may call that poverty. So now can you name me a country that does not have such family?

  • ahkong

    The PAP government under the leadership of LKY and LHL got to be blamed for such sad incidents.

  • Jackson

    It was a sad view for me when I passed by Bedok Reservoir that Thursday morning. The mum was of same age as my brother and the son was only 3. Much more needs to be done.

  • popcorn

    Ever since the casinos are opened, dead bodies floated around in water, either on the seas or in reservoir.
    A kind of omen?
    This woman died for nothing. The Women’s Charter protects women. Just divorce the husband, share custody or request Court for full custody, and look for another father for son. No big deal.

  • serwei

    Urr, watch TV8′s dramas and see what they’re perpetuating.

  • Energy

    It is easy to provide comments and analyze. Action speak louder than extend that helping hand and make it happen.. Set up support groups, dont just wait for things to happen, make it happen…

  • Heartless

    @ Chou Ah Lian

    Do let us know when any of your family member kick the bucket hor. I will professionals to perform dragon and lion dance on the funeral.

  • James


    Why juxtapose the inhumanity of Singaporeans against our supposed “success”? What “success”? Everyone in the know can tell that Singapore has an inherently unsustainable economic model that is extremely shaky right now and in imminent danger of toppling.

    The disease of Singapore is simply this: Singapore has become a nation of people who love things and use people, instead of the other way around. Singapore is not my country.

    As long as Tony Tan sits in the Istana, as long as Tin Pei Ling is in Parliament, as long as Singaporeans laugh at their less fortunate fellow citizens to make themselves feel superior… this is not my country. I am not a Singaporean, and I will die before I consider myself one.

  • xlandjy

    I share your sentiment. You have corrected my initial wrong perception over such incident.

    You covered quite widely in your write up. Most of all, what has the local MP been doing before and after the death?

  • joker

    sad story..

  • Sickapore

    They say singapore lacks this thing called ‘quality of life’. seems true, when human beings are treated as economic digits.

  • Godwin

    “Did their schooling and society at large teach them about being prepared to build a home together… Did our economy then in turn fail them?”

    If “schooling”, “society at large” and “economy” are to blame, then how come there are so many million of people have happy families? How come so many million of people not killing themselves?

    Same education system, right? Same society we live in? Same economy we subject to?

    Or is there a country, a society, an economy, an education system where nobody is poor, no family fails, and nobody commits suicide?

    It’s a tragedy, no doubt… but it’s a travesty when TOC exploits this tragedy to score anti-gahment points.

  • Crazy

    For those who like to help, start by eg volunteering to distribute food to those needy people especially those staying in 1 room flat. There are alot of vacancies

  • Father of Steven Kho aka Sissy Kho

    @ Devil

    Singaporean Are An Ugly Bunch, Opposition Supporters More So is just another clone of my bastard son Steven Kho. Their writing style is so similar. Please forgive him, he is sick mentally.

  • Devils

    Pardoned ….. Hope he takes his meds regulary

  • Libran

    We must build a more inclusive society, not the winner-takes-all society which the PAP govt. is erroneously pursuing. The policies of pushing up the cost of living (sky-high housing costs) and suppressing real income through the opening of the floodgates to cheap foreign labour, is causing severe hardship on Singaporeans, especially the young. How could the young afford to get married and start a family? A large number of them are already saddled with student loans before they could get a job.

  • wtf

    Singapore state controlled newspaper Straits Times of June 26, 2011 reports “Marriage: don’t wait for stars to be aligned”. Chan Chun Sing, a Singapore minister said “Singaporeans should not wait till “all the stars are aligned” such as owing a HDB flat or car, before they get married”.

    This is what you get when people listen to this kee chiu PAP minister. Lesson: never take what our ministers say too seriously.

  • Wilfred

    Ya… all of you are right!

    Everything that happens in Singapore, first thing to do is to blame the government. How Pathetic… Sigh…

  • lim

    Its a misunderstanding of what suicide really is to blame it entirely on society or any party. Depression is often an illness that includes being schizo, having bipolar disorders etc.

    What is deplorable is people using suicides to play politics.

  • Ck


    is there another country where the government let in huge waves of foreigners at the expense of the livelihood of citizens who have to spend two years and longer of their previous lives to pretect these foreigners,

    and when these citizens look for jobs to make ends meet, they are being discriminated against because they have to go for in camp training?

  • Godwin

    “What is deplorable is people using suicides to play politics.”

    The Chinese have been doing this for millenia… since Qu Yuan jumped into the river.

    “Lesson: never take what our ministers say too seriously.”

    Aber then? Life also need politicians to teach you how to live issit? What this country needs is a sense of personal responsibility. Dun everything expect gahment to do, take the lead, or tell you what to do – like that only give them more excuse to control us.

  • Godwin

    “is there another country where the government let in huge waves of foreigners at the expense of the livelihood of citizens who have to spend two years and longer of their previous lives to pretect these foreigners”

    So the mother killed herself and her child because of NS and FTs?

    Please lah. Dysfunctional families and suicides occur in every society, NS or not, FTs or no. You think if we abolish NS and ban FTs today no one in Singapore will kill himself or herself, and everyone will be married and live happily ever after together issit?

    Not say I like to do NS or compete with FTs, but everything pin on these things a bit lame hor…

  • aziz kassim

    we should set up commitee, there is more crimes committed after settind up of the two casinos, even ahlon admitted, their customers increases after setting up the casinos.

  • lim

    If people are using suicide to play politics, then the ISD will have to arrest those responsible, and also investigate the causes of the suicide.

  • Godwin

    Suicides already routinely investigated by police lah; dun everything bring in ISD/gahment, can?

  • beachbum

    The government created a crowded environment due to wrong polices. The struggle for existence is intense in limited resources.Depression takes its toll. The weaker ones succumbed due to the environment.


    I honestly believe your article is too long, out of context, lack of depth and extremely boring. Most of all, it is directionless and I dont know what you try so painfully to deliver.
    Let me sum it up for you this way, short, sweet and sharp.

    1. If we confront every suicide or death in Singapore with your question “Did we fail them?” we will all be guilty just by being Singaporeans.
    2. Death is inevitable because it is part of life. In suicide, whatever the prevention or safety net available, it is unpredictable. Nothing can stop a person from jumping off a flat.
    3. A vibrant and world class society has nothing to do with people wishing to end their lives. Japan has the highest number of suicides even though it is the richest country in Asia.
    4. Equating that animal instinct in the zoo analogy with the deaths of Madam Tan and her son is unintellectual and misplaced. What she did to herself is suicide and what she did to her son is murder, both classified as criminal acts!

    So you see, Tommy, you dont need a lengthy and long winded piece to impress your readers. It is the quality of your ariticle that should be short and simple and above all, make intellectual sense.

  • doppelganger

    Tommy Tong, the point you must make is that societal norms encourage the mother to kill herself and her infant son. I tell you how. Before the woman’s liberation movement some 50 years ago, children of a marriage automatically belong to the father. If a woman is divorced then, she would have been driven out of the house without her children. This is bad. Today, with the advent of Woman’s Lib, Courts automatically give the children to the divorced wife and in some cases give no access of the children by the father of the children. This is the situation adopted by Western influenced societies around the world. Judges take no account of the capacity of the mother to work and indeed to work and rear their children, depending too heavily on maintenance payments which in some cases are not forthcoming. Commonsense says that the parents should have equal access and share in the upbringing of the children. But our newfangled schemes deny the father from coming near his children except that his money can approach them. In the cases of the Malay disrupted families much in the news the last few years, where the child was left with the mother, tragedy befell the child resulting in her/his death. We do not know how many children of such families are abused short of being killed.

    Yea, we did fail them at Bedok Reservoir, because we have been politically correct in an effort to ape the fashion of the West, the Spirit of the Age, taking on their laws without modification to our societal circumstance where there is no safety net for the distressed, unlike in the West. We have in fact aided and abetted and encouraged the grotesque suicide cum murder of mother and child, no less, by the stupidity of our family laws and societal arrangements.

    You would have guessed the conclusion I am coming to. Judges should give equal weight to both parents in a divorce in respect of the children of the union. This simple arrangement sanctioned by the Courts will obviate all the custody battles, all the maintenance squabble that crops up in every divorce. Talk to any children of divorced parents and invariably their fathers are absent in their lives. This is due the genius of our divorce judges.

    Groups like AWARE should be aware of such cause and effect of laws and societal behaviour. But I see them struggling perversely for the supremacy of the female sex, not aware that defeating the male sex will willy nilly be the defeat of the female sex in the long run. Because the killing of children is unsustainable behaviour in evolutionary terms. Victory of the female sex that leads to the death of children is repugnant to the Evolution of Life.

  • calibri


    I disgaree, period.

    Tommy’s article is one of those few written with a heart. Keep it up!

  • Stevenkhorfather

    Things will change when LKY passes on ,that will soon see Pappy start losing majority.

    Have faith in Lord .

  • Hardeepak

    Start a VWO. Get mothers to visit other new mothers. Assess if they are suffering from post-natal depression. If so, refer them to relevant dept in KK or report to FSC for further help.

  • lim

    I have spoken to psychiatrists before (thankfully not on a client basis). It may not be that easy to recognise depression, esp when temporal. So getting help isn’t that easy.

    Everyone faces stress. Some deal with it. Some think they can deal with it, and do. Some think they can deal with it, but can’t. Some think they can’t deal with it, but ultimately do. Some think they can’t deal with it, and can’t.

    Only the last, a minority, normally get help.

    Easy to talk. Every society has suicides. It would be naive to think Singapore is different or that every suicide can be prevented.

  • Jasoel

    It is indeed our failure. Do not deny the fact we all have the part to play. Actually it is us who have murdered them with our style of living. Love have no boundaries or marking or even timing. The court and the honourable Judge failed. they failed in reconciling but indeed separate them. Now that they have died….what happen to all those summonses, writ and Judgement. Aren’t there a more tactful way to handle it. Isn’t there more a cohesive way to get around it rather then Fine, Imprison or force custody. All of you who are blogging and netizen who are commenting this… Please think of the agony of a person who have none but only the love for the Son would feel. I am speaking on my true life. I am taken away from my mother and until today have not seen her by the Goverment…LKY ones….

  • Kindness

    There is no right or wrong about this article. If there is kindness and love in your heart, then you will understand truly what the author is trying to say. Enough said.

  • Tight slap

    Darwin said the toughest survive. To kill herself and son over that wanker of a guy, they spared many others of potential crap in future. Imagine her son was given a chance to go to school. With an unstable mother who was foolish enough to believe she could return as a scary ghost to hsunt that heartless cad, she was a joke. Time for singaporeans to wake up and realise there are hungry foreign talents to replace them.

  • doppelganger

    One point about this tale of death which haunts me deeply is this. The father of the three year old had been trying to gain access to his son, even calling the police to aid him but probably he was completely prevented to see the infant after he allegedly caused the child to have a nose bleed. Then the bizarre grotesque thing happened. The son is no more.

    The wife did not leave him any address for him to ever see his son again. I think this woman went beyond the bounds of human decency. She gave him a blow such as the Devil Incarnate himself would be unable to do.

  • Awaiting TOC’s Response


    Please let Singaporean readers know if this sort of comment is encouraged on your website. I am looking for just a little accountability. Curious to see how you respond. =)


    Father of Steven Kho aka Sissy Kho

    @ Devil

    Singaporean Are An Ugly Bunch, Opposition Supporters More So is just another clone of my bastard son Steven Kho. Their writing style is so similar. Please forgive him, he is sick mentally.

  • Harry

    I am praying hard for the mother and her son. Personal opinion: She loves him so much. He is her everything. Trying to take away her son…
    I am praying hard for both the mother and her son. Let’s be kinder to the people around us.

  • eaglefly






  • Soccerbetting

    Greedy Money Monsters Ms Liau Lai Eng (director of NEA)’s man known as the “K-named” Singh stationed at Woodlands custom checkpoint catching vehicle smoke and checking passport for identification will tell you this “NO MONEY, NO PAPER, YOU UNDERSTAND” . Did passport has the word “NO MONEY, NO PAPER, U UNDERSTAND” printed on it ? And Greedy Money Monster Ms Liau Lai Eng will tell people this – this is LAW ,pay your fine MONEY ! They are real Greedy peoples . With these NEA Greedy Money Monsters , life will be hard for the people .

  • agongkia

    I am sad over this unfortunate incident.

    Not here to discuss whose fault,as its too late ,but you people must learn a lesson here,if the allegation is true,from the senior Chin :
    Never keep a condom in your vehicle.A condom can indirectly cause 2 lives.
    Be sensitive to those with pre or post natal blue as a husband.Court official should be professionally train in delivering documents to such addressee.

  • Linda


    I disagree with you too!

    The writer delivers it perfect.

    We can’t stop anyone from jumping down the flat but at least if we live in more forgiving society and knows that we are not alone, one may think twice before taking that next step to jump off the building!

  • Chicharito

    @Awaiting TOC’s Response,

    Father of steven kho was chastising Singaporean Are An Ugly Bunch, Opposition Supporters More So.. suspected to be steven kho.

    If only you have read his original comment (by singapore are an ugly… aka steven kho) before it was seemingly removed by TOC, you will understand why..

  • Oh Tham Eng


    The above is truly a very sad sorry to read–a mother drowned herself with her son in Bedok Reservoir. Some months ago, it was a well-educated woman PR from China whose husband is also a PR and a researcher in A*STAR; and she jumped down with her innocent daughter from a block of flats in Bt Batok, because she could not adjust to living in Singapore.

    I see these problems as spiritual. Obviously, Singapore’s society has still a long way to go to develop spiritually, where the lost or the despondents can have caring people to freely confide in; who can help them to find a way out of their serious emotional, financial or other existential problems.

    Now that our new MOE Mr Heng Swee Keat has embarked in a big way to develop our society’s moral strength, starting with our youths, I feel we all need to rally behind him and support his noble endeavour and aspiration for Singapore. It is not only our youths, but all of us who need to continue developing our spiritual strength to cope with life and help others to do so as well.

    Now is not the time to play political games to score brownie points for our punditry in what ails our society. So no point blaming AWARE, or PAP or organisations which have committed themselves to looking after women, and yet ‘allowing’ such tragic cases of suicide-cum-murder to take place.

    That is why I recently wrote an email to MOE Heng Swee Keat to share my thoughts with him and with many other people on how to move our society forward spiritually, and hence morally; and to rally support for his great, difficult and noble endeavour, as he would need all of us to help him to succeed.

    In this way, I do hope our beloved Singapore can be transformed into a place where the dreams of our citizens and of people who come here can find fulfilment. Wouldn’t it be nice if Singapore can become God’s most beloved nation on planet earth as well? Then Singapore can become an island of miracles too, as what one young MP Mr Baey Yam Keng had first envisioned for us some 1-2 years ago. So we need to pull together, look up to God and move forward, regardless of our ideological persuasions—-the PAP, Opposition or whatever.

    Can we do it? Yes, we can, if we are willing to let our political activism be subservient to our spiritual development.

    Read on please. Thank you!

  • Oh Tham Eng


    27 September, 2011/A

    To: MOE Heng Swee Keat
    From: Mr Oh Tham Eng

    cc – Prof Lee Wei Ling, PM Lee HL, MM Lee KY, MCYS MG Chan Chun Sing, DPM Teo Chee Hean, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Others

    Dear Sir:

    I wish to join others to applaud you and your team in MOE for your bold and visionary attempt to arrest the declining moral strength of our young before it is too late. For many years, Prof Lee Wei Ling said she had been complaining to her father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, that MOE had failed in character building. She opined that her dad’s ‘wrong’ reply had always been that this was the responsibility of parents and family (ST 25/9/2011, p. 35).

    And finally you have the gumption and foresight to do it! Bravo!! So last week on 22/9/2011, you unveiled your visionary Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum to promote a “student-centric and values-driven education” to imbue in our young a strong moral resolve, confidence and self-awareness as to what it means to be a Singaporean (ST 23/9/2011, p. A1 & A8).

    So this is a marked and welcomed change to “move Singapore’s education system away from emphasizing quantifiables to qualitative factors” that will better protect and enhance our social cohesiveness (ST 26/9/2011, p. A23), as “Singapore’s long-term survival depends on it” (re Prof Lee, 25/9/2011). Agree. For “At the end of the day, life is about helping one another to make for a better world [for others and for the animals too],” said our sagely former MOH Khaw Boon Wan in his letter to me dated 6/7/2005.

    But this endeavour must be underpinned by a spiritual impetus in order to be truly successful because human nature is innately animalistic, as MM Lee had observed: “I always thought that humanity was animal-like” (ST 5/1/2010, p. A16).

    “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one…All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10, 12.).

    So as a fundamentalist Christian, it would perhaps be appropriate for me to help refresh ourselves with what the Great Buddha had exhorted in order that you/we can be successful in this endeavour—towards helping our youngsters and ourselves to: “Guard against evil deeds and thoughts; control your mind and body from evil thoughts and deeds. Cultivate good deeds and thoughts. Control your speech. The wise are controlled in deed, in speech and in thought. Indeed they are perfectly self-controlled.” (Dhammapada 17:231-234).

    For “Transient are all compounded things. Strive on with diligence [towards moral perfection],” exhorted the Great Buddha to his bhikkus before he expired (re Mahaparanibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya). Right, as only moral values and attributes will endure through all eternity for they represent the very character and nature of our Creator who made the heavens and the earth and everything in His vast universe.

    “Repel evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your bosom friend.” (Fusilat 41:34 in the Quran). And “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility [try to] count others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3. “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peacefully with all…and in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:18,17). For “We can see our beautiful image through the surface of the water only when it is tranquil, not when it is turbulent,” the ancient Taoist sage Zhuang Zi rightly declares.

    In Singapore’s last few decades, however, the obsession with grades, ranking and streaming has engendered an unhealthy focus on materialistic values, leading to a lack of compassion and public spiritedness. The unhealthy and unbalanced inculcation of individualism and individual success in turn engenders in our young a disease of narcissism, which Prof Lee Wei Ling once opined had afflicted many Singaporeans (re ST 17/1/2010, p. A35).

  • Oh Tham Eng


    Sadly, Singapore’s material success has bred a generation of pampered children who disdain and are intolerant of any hardship in life. Indulgent parents exacerbate the situation by often rushing to shield their pampered children from suffering or criticisms, so unwisely preventing their young from developing emotional strength and character. Hence we have a faddish culture developing in many of our youths a desire to imitate and adulate hip and young celebrities in the pop culture as a filler for the spiritual void in their being. So our young and ourselves need to “Look carefully how we walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15)

    Speaking from her personal experiences of the terrible setbacks in her health, Prof Lee Wei Ling rightly avers that “Some degree of hardship, whether [environmental] or self-imposed, helps the individual develop resilience, perseverance, diligence and concentration….Yet, without those [very difficult] experiences, I wouldn’t be as resilient as I am now. [So] what good and innocent fun I can now enjoy, I will do it now for there may be no next moment.” (ST 25/9/2011 p. 35). Agree!

    And we have in our good and caring PM Lee Hsien Loong a very inspiring example of what is meant to be resilient. “He lost his first wife soon after she gave birth to their handicapped son. Ten years later, he faced down lymphoma with neither fear nor self-pity. He does not need to do anything more to prove his resilience.” (ST 25/9/2011, p. 35). “So because he himself has suffered and tempted, he is able to help [and empathise with] those who [suffer and] are tempted.” (Hebrews 4:18).

    What a re-assuring thought! Thank God for PM Lee and his good and hard-working ministers. Thank God for people like Mr Chiam See Tong, Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Yaw Shin Leong, etc, for trying to do what they can to help PM Lee look after our people, and not always engaging in childish quarrels to score political points. May God bless them all! Majulah Singapura!!

    Unfortunately, teaching true grit will be much harder and often slower to show the desired outcomes than striving for academic excellence as it requires great patience and a leap of faith in the innate goodness in a human being (that is often referred to as “the God’s image in us.”) This is why Prof Lee had rightly observed, and we all will agree with her, that “Most people [naturally] know what is right or wrong…[And] children one year or older [have shown] that they intuitively prefer cooperation, fair play and helping the group they identify with over doing the opposite. Yet later in childhood, some would be willing to ignore what their moral compass tells them is right, and then do the opposite… feel[ing] no sympathy for [others] and hence are willing to hurt [their targeted victims].” (ST 25/9/2011).

    So they need to be disciplined and re-assured that “For the moment, all discipline seems painful than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). So we will succeed, with perseverance and with everyone of us putting our hearts and souls to help out in the great endeavour you and your team have mapped out for our young. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished. For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:6).

    “The rod and reproof [will impart] wisdom [when reasoning and persuasion fail]; a child left to himself brings shame to his parents.” (Proverbs 29:15). Thus the child also needs to be instilled a healthy and soul-saving fear of God. “Fear God and obey His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Psalms 111:10); fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and reject not your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head….If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us wantonly ambush the innocent; [and] we shall find all precious goods to fill our houses with spoil. Throw in your lot with us. we will all have one purse”—-my son, do not walk in the way with them, hold back your foot from their paths.” (Proverbs 1:7-15).

    “For the Lord’s curse in on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous.” (Proverbs 3:33).

    So “Inspire me, Lord, to be thankful to Thee for Thy favours to me and my loved ones to do good deeds which will please Thee. Admit me, through Thy mercy, to be among Thy righteous.” (An-Naml 27:19). “For the noblest in ALLAH’s sight is he/she who is the most righteous.” (Al-Hujurat 49:13). Ameen!


    Oh Tham Eng.

  • beachbum

    I’m curious what these VIPs’ * replies would be like.

    VIP*- Heng Swee Keat,MCYS MG Chan Chun Sing, DPM Teo Chee Hean, Mr Khaw Boon Wan etc


    I don’t think anyone can understand the sheer desperation that drove this young mother to kill herself and her child. May she and her son rest in peace.

  • Thks Tony Tong

    Thanks for sharing your reflections on this tragedy. I appreciate and share with your sadness and hope the MCYS can set up a suicide hotline at the national level for desperate people.

  • Alamak

    Dear Christians

    your holy love is needed
    to come down from yr ivory tower
    to the gutter where we not so blessed like you

    where r u ?
    enjoying yr middle class air con comfort?
    can you see the poor dying?

    hv you ever been to a 1-room flat?
    still enjoying yr $20 lunch after church service?

    Jesus asks you to save the poor n sick
    not to build yr HDB castles in the air n landed castles in s’pore

    you upgrade upsize with yr blessed prosperity

    you lose out to the buddhists eg SOKA with their utmost compassion n peace

    Jesus died a ‘poor’ man without a grave
    you people die with millions vested in yr property, bank, cpf n to yr children

    where is yr love to the lost, the poor, the suffering?

    end of the world?
    Jesus really coming back?
    i see you people still enjoying life like nobody’s business…

    cakap only…

  • Clear eyed


    In “summing” up Tommy’s article, you have distorted it into the opposite of what he is conveying so as to meet your agenda. This is intellectual dishonesty and arrogance.

  • Oh Tham Eng

    {beachbum 29 September 2011 – “I’m curious what these VIPs’ * replies would be like.

    VIP*- Heng Swee Keat,MCYS MG Chan Chun Sing, DPM Teo Chee Hean, Mr Khaw Boon Wan etc”}

    THANKS FOR ASKING, “beachbum”

    I am pleased to tell you MOE Heng Swee Keat had responded to my long email above with his email to thank me for my support and great thoughts.

    I am delighted to tell you that newbie MP Tin Pei Ling of Marine Parade GRC also wrote to thank me for sharing my thoughts with her. So it can be seen that one day, she will end up being an outstanding MP too, if she always keep her mind open for great ideas like these, and never taking herself off from her learning curve.

    And from the Opposition camp, there was an email to me elevating me to the honorific “Eminent Oh”. Well, I feel very flattered to be so highly honoured and undeserving as I was not the author of those great thoughts for us. So I felt somewhat embarrassed too, as I was just re-circulating and sharing ancient wisdom—to get our people to look back to the ancient sages in order that Singapore can go forward to become a great nation, even though we are so physically insignificant.

    What a way to go, really—looking back to go forward!

    Majulah Singapura! May God be always with us!

  • Frustrated

    Thank you Tommy Tong for the thoughtful and heartfelt piece.

    I 100% agree with the statement of motherly protective instincts. My sister is going through a divorce right now and that has been dragging on for more than a year. The husband committed adultery in China (where he works) and the emotional toll on my sister is heavy.

    Despite the fact that the husband previously only came back every other weekend to be with the kids (they have 2), the judge has ordered interim access up to 4 times a week. This incongruent to the status quo and shocks me as I believe some stability is needed in the children’s lives. Liberal access should be considered in light of status quo, stability of children’s schedules and protection for the mother.

    Emotionally, a mother needs time and space with the children, especially when the husband committed audultery and intends to start another family with his China mistress.


    ow on earth do we the peasant$ start a charity drive? when we, ourselves is livin on a day2day adhoc earnin$? even if this whatever you called single/abandoned mother would to come to me for $$$$ a$$i$tance$.. i too would had to stand firm and let her down..
    i also hav an aunt(who is by the way same aged as me) is a single mother with a grown up teenage daughter..she asked me for assistance in lettin her sleep by me front mpty room in me hdb castle(p.s. she used to be a potential possesive diehard gambler who would dig/robb/steal every cents you hav in your house) i too had to decline citin..i DON’T TRUST YOU…
    my uncle her brother tried to pleabargain with me for a sympathy caused sinced we are related.. i says right..when me belated pop(her broinlaw) passed away..where was she or her elder sister?
    both too busy to attend the last rites of a brotherinlaw?

    last butt not least..who did this poor mother vote for? lightning or alternatives?
    only she had the sympathies

  • agongkia

    To those who tend to believe easily that husband use to committed adultery have to be very careful.There are cases of wife with possessive disorder out there and always imagine that their hard working hubby having a mistress when they are outstation,such wives may appear normal and start their allegation and is capable of convincing everyone but only those who are observant will be able to tell.

    and hehe…@Ivoteahmeng
    SUmtine dun matter they vote for lightning or alternatives.Help those within our will cut down from 1 meal to haf meal a day if moiknow of such case,you Onlee need to cut down on your cebu trip once nia n can sape 2lives .gip your aunt a chance n i teach youhow to change her habit of gambling@casino to buying ibet only.orstop totally..


    and hehe…@Ivoteahmeng
    SUmtine dun matter they vote for lightning or alternatives.Help those within our will cut down from 1 meal to haf meal a day if moiknow of such case,you Onlee need to cut down on your cebu trip once nia n can sape 2lives .gip your aunt a chance n i teach youhow to change her habit of gambling@casino to buying ibet only.orstop totally..
    a diehard gambler is a pest and a leech
    they will used every xcuses in the world to dig for FREE money from you…
    trust me on that…

  • liberte

    this type of thing happens everywhere and everyday. many such cases are never reported. this is a very sad world.

  • dintor

    Maybe it is time to change the law to protect the women more against the husbands.
    1 Let all divorce be completed in one year. This will save on legal costs and allow the divorced woman to apply for a small HDB flat with her child.
    2 The woman will be granted full custody of the child and the man will not be allowed to visit the child for the next ten years. This will make all divorced prone man to have second thoughts.
    3 The man will be required to pay a minimum of $1,300/- monthly to the woman whether he can afford to or not. He will be jailed for 3 months for any default.
    By having more protection for the woman, hopefully we dont have to see more of these sad endings. By the way, I am a man born and bred in Singapore.

  • Katie

    Dintor, you are absolutely right… good suggestion to changing the law to protect the women more against the husbands.

    It’s simply very sad to learn from some that the man can’t committ to family as they are not earning enough, but actual fact, the man’s simply clearing their loan debts, providing for their loving mistresses for their lodging, school fees as they are on student pass. What’s all these?
    Its really sadden that the SG women are really feeling very disappointed.

  • ah Kow

    Really, looking at Govt for help is good to have. It is best that we all contribute a little to our Singapore that we all love. As compare to many countries, we are still quite lucky. I think Singaporean are generally helpful in crisis, just that they are bit blur in response. We are not short of kind people, just that those who need it don’t ask or don’t know how to ask. Many charities are around to lent a helping hand. Therefore, each of us has a task. We must be on a look out for them. Never take a threat/hint of suicide lightly. Becos, after a few rounds of hints, they will attempt and even rehearsed it until, when all conditions are in place, the final domino will drop. Therefore, help them. Don’t pretend that things will be OK. Help them or find help for them. Cos, when it happen, you will be depress, you will not forget and stick to you throughout your life. You could have help and change their destiny. You can save a life. Be sensitive, as those who intend to do it will tell/hint to you. Help them and don’t wait for others/govt to do it. And whenever you can, whenever good fortunes happen to you, donate a little to a good charity that contribute directly to the happiness or alleviate the pain of someone out there.

  • doppelganger

    Society must recognize that there are two sexes and they interact to produce offspring and both sexes should have equal rights to the child of the union. Woman’s Lib movements which belittle the role of the male sex is promoting a bad view of family life, where only the mother is important and is the rightful owner of the child in a divorce. This sort of background idea must have contributed to the conviction of this sad mother who having the notion that she and she alone owns the child can see no logic why the father should ever have access to the child. Our social institutions and the Law pertaining to divorce should clearly have the message that the child has two parents and any mother who is divorced should understand this and make way to the father to have access to the child. AWARE should be able to understand this biological truth and not strive to drive away the father thinking that it is the politically correct behaviour in the Age of woman’ liberation movement initiated some 50 years ago.

    If this sad mother was not inculcated by society, the Law, her own family that the father has no part in the child, she would not have been motivated to kill the child to prevent him from ever seeing him again. False ideas do kill.

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  • jerry

    my god. not another one. how sad.

  • Happily Remarried

    Just too many sg women using their children against their ex-husbands. It's really time for society to get a reality check….. the one that pays the highest price is the children.
    Much has been written in literature about the pride, jealousy and spite of a woman, yet so many still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge this growing trend in sg.
    The day when society starts judging more justly is the day when men get due recognition and sympathy too.