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Robiah [Photo: The New Paper]

Woman fined for curry puff factory in rental flat – most empathise with her

Robiah [Photo: The New Paper]
Robiah [Photo: The New Paper]
Robiah Lia Caniago.

Does that name mean anything to you? Probably not.

Robiah, 40, is an Indonesian woman, who is married to a Singaporean man. They have two children together – a son, nine-years old, and a daughter, seven.

When her husband was jailed in 2012 for drug offences, Robiah had to find a way to feed her children and herself.

So, she decided to make curry puffs from her two-room rental flat in Lengkok Bahru to sell to nasi padang stalls, The New Paper reported on Monday.

Her puffs were apparently so good that in October 2013, a man she had recently met offered to go into business with her.

“He bought cooking pots and pans for her kitchen,” The New Paper said.

Soon, she was doubling her production of the puffs, selling not only to the nasi padang stalls but also to private customers.

But perhaps of the popularity of her curry puffs, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) came to know about it.

Eventually, the authorities fined her S$3,000 last Wednesday.

Unable to pay the fine, Robiah was sent to jail for five days.

Her relatives had to care for her children while she was incarcerated.

She was released early yesterday morning.

You can read The New Paper’s report here: “She ran 2-room flat curry puff 'factory'”.

So, what do Singaporeans think about it?

Well, from what can be gleaned online, many are sympathetic of what she did – that while she may have contravened the law, she was nonetheless trying to feed her children while her husband was in jail.

On The New Paper’s Facebook page itself, the comments mostly criticised the authorities for bringing the legal action against Robiah.

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And this one from Allan Tan:

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The support for Robiah has also spilled over to the SGAG Facebook page, where the page's admin posted:

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And some who commented said:

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And at least two bloggers have written to support Robiah.

Over at the “Singapore Beacon” blog, the writer says, “The NEA should have some compassion in just issuing her with a warning rather than taking her to court. As a result she was fined $3,000.”

The blogger added, “It was not like she tried to sell off her children in order to make ends meet.”

Another blogger, Alvinology, said, “She did not steal, nor did she harm anyone directly.”

“Here’s someone who would work hard to earn her own living rather than leech off public assistance; but sadly, she broke the law doing so,” the blogger said.

“By Singapore’s law, she is definitely in the wrong for running an illegal kitchen, evading taxes as well as food and safety inspections to ensure hygiene.

“Morally, if she kept her kitchen and operations clean, there is not much harm done to society. After all, she is earning an ‘honest’ living.

“You know those grandmothers and aunties who make pineapple tarts and other goodies at home to sell during the Chinese New Year festive period? What Caniago did is the same as what they do, except that they are not caught.”

What can we do to help Robiah and her children?

Alvinology suggests this: “Savvy businessmen who read about this news report may want to invest to set up shop with her. If she was to move back to Indonesia, her two children will be estranged from their mother.”

Let’s hope the authorities will have mercy on the poor woman who was just trying to feed her children and perhaps help her find a more sustainable – and legal – way to do so.

The above article was first published on Public Opinion.