By Leong Sze Hian
A close friend whom I have known for about 20 years, a 75 year-old widow, has received a registered letter from the HDB, informing her that “HDB had mistakenly paid her the sum of $18,000 under the impression that she was eligible for the said sum under the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme”.
If not for the HDB’s mistake, she would not have given up her hawker stall four years ago.
HDB’s letter ended with “We hereby demand you pay back the sum of $ 18,000 to HDB within 21 days from the date of this letter, failing which we have instructions to commence legal action without further reference”.
Since it was the HDB’s mistake, the HDB should try to give her back the hawker stall which she had been renting for more than 10 years.
About a month ago, an officer from the National Environment Agency (NEA), came to her house at 8 a.m., without any prior notice or appointment, to tell her that she had to pay back the $ 18,000.
After she asked as to whether she could have her stall to rent again, an application for hawker stall rental form was received by her in the mail, without any covering letter.
She duly completed the application form and sent it to the NEA office.
Someone from the NEA subsequently called her to say that no stall was available yet.
I feel that the HDB’s action by sending the registered letter of demand to an illiterate 75 year-old Singaporean, is rather high-handed, considering the chain of events described above.
This has caused undue stress to her.
As she doesn’t mind waiting until a stall is available for her to rent again, I would like to suggest that the HDB consider the possibility of delaying their legal action.
She gave up her livelihood of over 20 years as a hawker, in exchange for $18,000.
Since it was the HDB’s mistake, I think they should be flexible, and try to give her a stall, before demanding a lump sum payment back from her.
If the HDB can take four years to discover their mistake, I think they should at least give more time for her to wait for a rental stall.
By the way, what if she had already spent the $ 18,000 on her medical expenses over the last four years ?
So, no stall, no livelihood, and now no more money too.
Read TODAY's report on the case.
Read also "Why pay?" by The Itch To Write.