Elfy confronting the Caucasian
Elfy confronting the Caucasian

On Tuesday, Law Minister K Shanmugam posted on his Facebook page about the incident involving a Caucasian on the MRT train who was verbally abusing a younger man for wearing a t-shirt the former somehow disagreed with.

The bully had also made threats against the youth, threatening to “throw you off” the train when it pulled into Ang Mo Kio station.

Later, a Malay man, now known as Elfy, stepped forth to defend the youth from the abuse.

The police were called in and both men (the Caucasian and Elfy) got off the train.

From subsequent status updates on Elfy’s Facebook page, it appears that the police had let the bully off, without taking any action against him.

The lady who recorded the incident in the train and uploaded the video online, Nabilah Nasser, also later said the police even allowed the bully to take the same train as them to continue his journey.

Facebook post by Nabilah Nasser
Facebook post by Nabilah Nasser

In his Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam called on the employer of the Caucasian to “take some action” against him.

“Unacceptable bullying conduct,” Mr Shanmugam said. “People like this are sick in their mind. And try and take it out on others. I hope his employer will take some action, against him – he brings his organisation into disrepute.”

Shanmugam Facebook post
Shanmugam Facebook post

It is unknown who the employer of the man is, and what “action” Mr Shanmugam hopes it will take against its employee.

It is interesting to note that the Law Minister asked the employer, and not the police, to “take some action” against the man for what some see as rude behaviour, and nothing more.

Indeed, one comment on the Law Minister’s post says “being an a**hole is not against the law.”

Nonetheless, Mr Shanmugam’s remarks raise questions of another almost similar incident – this time involving 16-year old Amos Yee.

Yee was in the limelight the last two months for having posted a rude video of the late Lee Kuan Yew which the authorities found to have “wounded the religious feelings of Christians.”

A day after he posted the video in March, a man – reported to be a grassroots leader in the Telok Blangah area – posted a threat online directed at the teenager.

The grassroots man, who was later identified as Jason Tan, had posted the following, referring to Yee:

“For me, I would cut his dick and put in his mouth for blemish Jesus Christ.”

Subsequently, a police report was made and police began investigations.

Two months later, the police said it was closing the investigation and was issuing a “stern warning” to Mr Tan “in lieu of prosecution.”

Police letter on Jason Tan
Police letter on Jason Tan

It is thus quite clear that the police had thought Mr Tan’s conduct was unacceptable and possibly also criminal, but it decided to give him a “stern warning” instead.

Be that as it may, one would be curious about what the People’s Association (PA), which oversees all grassroots organisations and which ultimately approves the appointments of grassroots leaders such as Mr Tan, would think of the whole affair.

Indeed, should such a person who clearly thought nothing of resorting to violence, or threats of violence, even against young persons, be in a position of influence in a grassroots organisation?

It was with this question, and others, in mind that this writer wrote to the PA on 3 April 2015, asking the organisation the following questions:

Jason Tan with minister
Jason Tan with minister

1. Is the PA aware of the incident and the threat made by Mr Tan?

2. Can the PA confirm that Mr Tan is indeed a grassroots leader under the PA?

3. What action has the PA taken with regards to this incident, if indeed any action has been taken?

3. If no action has been taken so far, will the PA be doing so? If not, could you explain why?

4. Would the PA be issuing a statement on the incident, especially to remind all grassroots leaders that such threats of physical violence are unacceptable?

5. Will the PA be getting in touch with the family of the 16-year old boy and the boy himself to assure them that Mr Tan’s conduct is not condoned by the PA?

The PA has not replied to date.

If verbally abusing and taunting a young man on a train is considered “unacceptable” behaviour, as Mr Shanmugam correctly declares, what then of a grassroots leader making physical threats against a similarly young man online?

Isn’t such a person similarly “sick in [the] mind”, to have even contemplated such a violent act?

Is Mr Tan’s threat any less serious than the MRT bully’s?

Evidently not, as even the police found it necessary to deter such behaviour with the “stern warning” issued to Mr Tan.

So the question is: why is the PA keeping silent about Mr Tan’s status as a grassroots leader?

Wouldn’t this, to paraphrase the Law Minister, bring the PA into disrepute too?

Does the PA condone such behaviour of its grassroots leaders?

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