Benjamin’s death: Out of The mouth of ministers

By Law Kim Hwee

Out of the same mouth of the PAP cabinet- eerie silence and empty words.

As a father of two sons and a daughter, I have had the good fortune of seeing and watching all three grow and blossom in their own special ways – and live – past their tender teen age of 14. I can’t say that I can identify or adequately empathize enough with how Mr & Mrs Lim, parents of Benjamin, must be going through since their son’s painful, untimely death.

I hope that our ministers in the current cabinet – with children of their very own, especially those who are of Benjamin’s age and especially, the Minister of Home Affairs, the 2 newly-appointed young Education Ministers and, not least, the PM himself, as their leader, with his own bevy of grown-up children – will pause to think more deeply beyond their party’s desire to project a mythical image of flawless leadership, of not admitting to mistakes in a timely manner as befits an unfortunate event such as the death of a boy, a son of Singapore. That they would look deeper into their own hearts, their own souls to reflect on the even deeper anguish of Benjamin’s father, mother, sister and brother. And the heartfelt sadness of us Singaporeans.

No one is blaming anyone in the police or the school to have intentionally wished Benjamin his death. Nor, for that matter, any ministers or the PAP.

Neither has anyone remotely suggested that the police not be allowed to do a thorough, hopefully, objective review to improve on the protocols that have resulted in a precious, young life lost forever. And whilst they are at it to, hopefully, call to account any lapse or heavy-handedness or neglect by those whose actions or inactions might have contributed to Benjamin’s unacceptable death.

Likewise, the MOE and its protocols.

What is so profoundly inexplicable, is for the ministers whose responsibilities the police and the school come under, to be completely silent over Benjamin’s death.

No word of comfort. No word of solace for Mr & Mrs Lim and Benjamin’s sister and brother? No signal to Singaporeans that any such incident or such death is just plain irrefutably unacceptable of Singapore society, whether we are Third or First World?

In place of silence from the relevant ministers, listen to what the PM himself preached, not just this CNY but in 2015, too:

In a Chinese New Year message on his Facebook account, 18 Feb 2015, PM Lee ostentatiously begins with

“Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with our families. It is a time to reflect on the blessings of having a family – to thank our elders for what they have done for us, to appreciate our spouses, to shower love on our children. It is a time to enjoy the simple goodness of family.

….The Government is doing all it can to help people build strong families.

….Strong families are the bedrock of our society. Family members not only take care of each other. They laugh and cry together. Every member is shaped by every other. Our families inspire us to be better, not just for ourselves but for each other. Our families are always there for us, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.”

Again, in his 2016 CNY message, he sings a similar refrain,Besides babies, family is also about living a full life, experiencing joys and sorrows over a lifetime together with our loved ones – from being a child, growing up, finding love, starting and bringing up a family, growing old together. So when I watched this video, I thought it encapsulated what family really means. This is why the family is such an important building block of society. It is the model of how we should relate to one another as fellow citizens, seeing one another as members of an extended Singapore family.”

Only the irredeemably deaf or daft will not hear the deafening, empty hollowness of PM Lee’s words in the context of his colleagues’ total silence over Benjamin’s death and all our sorrow.

What are we as citizens looking to Ministers for leadership in times of grief at Benjamin’s horrifying, devastating death to make of the ministers’ silence on the one hand (it’s been 16 days since) and, on the other hand, the platitudes of the PM’s preaching? How can it be that out of the same mouth of the PAP cabinet proceed eerie silence on Benjamin’s life lost but wonder words on the importance of family members?

We are not suggesting that unfortunate happenings cannot befall one’s life. But surely we are not solely homo economicus or Benjamin just another brick in the wall. A leadership devoid of emotional underpinnings cannot hope to grow and lead citizens with emotional bonds to the land or be unified. Or is the message here, ‘Be self-reliant, Mr and Mrs Lim!’?

What does it take for ministers to come forth with words of comfort, of solace for Benjamin’s parents and sister? Was PM Lee’s only takeaway, from watching the video, the beautiful-sounding words and idea of “seeing one another as members of an extended Singapore family”? Is that all? Is that it? Only inspiring words. But, but, BUT, Mr Prime Minister, Sir, why have you not a kind word to Benjamin’s grieving ma, pa, sister and brother – your, our extended Singapore family members?

Do and can ministers only cry when a Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on in his ripe old age? But not for a 14-year old who took his own life?

Or, God forbid, will that only come about if and when one of your minister’s or MP’s own child meets with a similar fate?

Justice for Benjamin can wait. Comfort, to be meaningful, cannot.

RIP, dear Benjamin.

We are all truly, madly and deeply sorry for you, Mr & Mrs Lim and Benjamin’s elder sister and elder brother.

Mr Law also blogs at