The Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF), Tan Chuan-Jin, has sad that the family of an elderly abused woman was put through a “public trial” which he described as “harsh”, according to a newspaper report on Saturday (25 July).
Mr Tan was referring to a video which showed Mdm Kamisah Burel, 58, being slapped by her daughter at a corridor of a HDB flat in Lower Delta Road.
The video, secretly filmed by a neighbour, was posted online and has so far been viewed almost 800,000 times after websites and social media picked it up last week.
Since then, it has emerged that Mdm Kamisah has been repeatedly abused by her family for a long time, including being fed human faeces and urine “every day”, according to another neighbour.
The MSF and police stepped in almost immediately after the video came to its notice, and are looking into the incident.
The reaction of the public, which mainly was critical of the daughter, was a “public jury or trial of the individuals concerned,” Mr Tan said.
“Truth be told,” he said to reporters at the launch of the 20th social service office located in Yishun, “because of the intense public scrutiny, and we understand why, there is a lot of pressure on the family. It has been very stressful, and it’s not easy.”
He added that the information on social media was not always accurate, and that “details may be half-accurate or inaccurate.”
“[It is] not appropriate for various members of the public to chip in and criticise one particular party, or canvass for particular actions, or call for people to visit them,” the minister said. “It will be helpful if some of the scrutiny is mitigated to some degree.”
He also called on members of the public to help identify those in need of help.
“I think it is important that we don’t underestimate how important our roles as citizens are.”
As for Mdm Kamisah’s situation, Mr Tan said that “where appropriate and suitable”, the authorities will provide updates.
In recent months, the family of video blogger Amos Yee was also in the spotlight, with criticisms also levelled at his parents, in particular his mother.
Pro-government social media platforms, in particular, were scathing in attacking her for being a “bad mother” to the 16-year old teenager who was prosecuted for uploading a video online which was critical of Singapore’s former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
The attacks, which also appeared on the teenager’s blog, eventually resulted in a 49-year old Neo Gim Huah assaulting Amos Yee outside the State Court in April. Neo was later sentenced to three weeks in jail for the incident.
The platforms which carried out the attacks on the family of Amos Yee were not criticised by any government minister, and were allowed to continue. So were criticisms from celebrities and the government-controlled mainstream media.
Amos Yee had also posted about how reporters were camping outside his house when the case first emerged.
Singaporeans and activists rallied around the teenager’s family to provide support until the trial was over, and the teenager was released from remand, where he had spent a total of 56 days under police watch.