Last Friday (8 Jun), it was reported on TOC that MP Lim Biow Chuan had made a controversial Facebook posting, explaining why an ex-offender's application to obtain a licence to work as security guard was turned down by the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Lim is the MP for Mountbatten and a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) overseeing Manpower. He is also the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
Lim said, "I think it is easy to say that the police ought to give offenders a 2nd chance. But if you are a resident at a condo, would you be comfortable with a security officer with a criminal record especially if the record was recent (2016)."
"Some of us would be OK but some would not be OK. Just like how many people would be comfortable to allow our young child to be taught swimming by a former child molester. I think the reality is that many of us would err on the side of caution," he further added.
He said that the ex-offender can work in other areas like in the sales service line or F & B industry.
Opposition member highlights plight of ex-offender
The ex-offender's situation first came to the attention of a Singapore People's Party opposition member, Jose Raymond.
In an earlier post, Mr Raymond criticised the Singapore Police Force who had labeled the ex-offender as being "not a fit and proper person" in lieu of his previous conviction, when the SPF turned down his application for a security guard licence.
The ex-offender, according to Mr Raymond, who is active in opposition grassroots work at Potong Pasir, has four very young children to feed. He was a former infantry regular, who was charged for assaulting a construction worker in 2016. Apparently, the worker had accosted his wife, which caused him to retaliate. The worker was said to have suffered from a fractured nose and jaw. As a result, the ex-army regular was thrown into jail for 6 months.
Mr Raymond shared that the Potong Pasir resident has not been allowed to drive a taxi because of his criminal record. And even though he passed the course to be a security officer, his application was rejected by the SPF.
"The SPF's labelling of a fellow Singaporean who has duly served his time for a mistake which he committed is unwarranted and uncalled for. If the SPF wanted to reject his application, it could have been done without having to label him as being 'not a fit and proper person', regardless of how the Act is worded," Mr Raymond said. "Whatever happened to giving people second chances and opportunities to make amends and move on after making mistakes?"
Lim Biow Chuan responds
Lim's defence of SPF was criticised by many netizens. Yesterday (10 Jun), he posted another Facebook message urging netizens to embrace "proper conversation and dialogue".
In particular, he negatively labeled TOC, accusing netizens commenting on TOC FB to be vicious. Not surprisingly, Straits Times took the opportunity to highlight this.
Lim wrote, "I don't reply to comments on TOC because many of those comments were meant to attack, humiliate and destroy. It is not the kind of conversation which helps to make Singapore a better country or to improve the system."
Lim reiterated that there are certain offences where some jobs may not be suitable immediately after the offender's release.
"As an example, I quoted a situation where we would not want a convicted child molester to teach swimming to young children; we would also not want a person convicted of dishonesty to be involved in finances or accounts of a company," he said. "Along the same principles, we would not want a person convicted of assault to be employed as a security officer protecting the residents."
"The concern of police would always be, what if the offender re-offends? What if the security officer could not manage his anger again and hurts someone badly? Someone whom they are supposed to protect? Would the public turn on the police and ask why did they allow a past offender with anger management issues get a security licence?"
Mr Lim also said a former offender's application should be considered if sufficient time has lapsed and they have shown they are unlikely to re-offend. He ended his note with a call for respectful debates, saying, "With proper conversation and dialogue, we can improve policies."
"Cursing or deliberately insulting people whose opinion differs from your opinion is not good for the system," he added, supposedly referring to the netizens commenting on TOC.
Cursing and insults?
Below are some of the comments posted by readers on TOC's Facebook post:
Paul Lim wrote, ""He was charged for assaulting a construction worker who accosted his wife and served six-months of imprisonment. The construction worker was said to have suffered from a fractured nose and jaw." It sounds like he is actually very qualified as a security guard..."
Izack Chee wrote, "My mother in law encountered the same problem a couple of years ago. She was 67 and actually completed her security officer training but was rejected because she was locked up due to supporting the Hock Lee strikers back when she was a night school student. Look at how vindictive our government is."
Tim Lim wrote, "Seem like the yellow ribbon project...are bullshit...and only for show....expect other private sector to give the ex-convict a 2nd chance...but the police itself do not...double standard..."
Nathan Joseph Ramalingam wrote, "lol? i don't think this guy looking for a job did anything wrong if you ask me. which man in his right mind will just stand by and see his wife being accosted without standing up and defending her?"
Bobby Teo wrote,
"As government representative that (especially) the younger citizens look up to, you should understand you have the responsibility to lead by standing for what is right.
There are social stigma but if a past offender wants to put his past behind to feed his family of four, you have done him a big injustice by not speaking up for him. Giving the suggestion that he can work in other industry is just giving an excuse without first understanding if he has bigger challenges in those.
If the person came to you in a MPS and ask for help as he was rejected for the position and assuming you can help him, would you tell him the same? If you do not know how to lead as leader, then don't."
If one were to read the comments above, it is hard to see how they can be described as cursing and insulting to the MP. Is the MP not labeling the netizens with his remarks just like how SPF did with its letter?
Lim Biow Chuan no stranger to courting controversies
This is not the first time Lim has courted controversies while making public statements.
About 8 years ago in 2010 at the height of the Jack Neo's extramarital affair, Lim showed support for Neo saying "Since he (Jack Neo) is remorseful over this incident, he should be forgiven. Actually, a man who has a good career development would find such scenarios unavoidable".
His public statements were published by the Chinese media at the time and immediately came under fire especially from netizens, as he had implied that it was alright to indulge in extramarital affairs.
But later, Lim retracted and blamed the media, saying that he had been misquoted by the press.