The CPF Board has rejected a 47-year-old man named Suriia Das’s request to allow his CPF savings in his Ordinary and Special accounts to be transferred to his wife’s Medisave account. This is so the couple can use the money to pay for further treatment and medical expenses that had occurred as his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016.
This news was revealed in a video posted in RAVIsion, a personal video channel by international human rights lawyer M Ravi, which was recently launched to educate and discuss pertinent legal and public interest issues.
In the video, Suriia’s wife Sarojini Jayapal, also 47, revealed that she was “devastated” when she first heard about her diagnosis three years ago. Sarojini who is suffering from 4th stage ovarian cancer said that she hopes to overcome her disease, mainly due to the love and support that she has been receiving from her family, especially her husband.
Although she wants to get better and live a healthier life with her husband, Sarojini pointed out that she has no more money left in her CPF account, especially Medisave to pay for her treatment.
“I’ve no more CPF (savings) with me, especially Medisave. It’s all drained out because of my sickness and hospital (stays). We have utilised my husband’s Medisave as well. It has been fully utilised. Now we have no resource to pay those bills in the hospitals,” she said.
Sarojini also stressed that the reason why she chose to receive her treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and not a public hospital is because the former was the only one who gave her the hope that she will survive.
Noting that the couple went for a second opinion at National University Hospital (NUH), Sarojini said that the doctor told her husband to bring her somewhere nice and make her happy, indicating that they can’t do anything to fix her condition.
“So that means they have no hope to cure me and they also claim that they have no medicine to cure me after they’ve discussed whatever medicine I’d taken at Mount E. So we had no choice but to go back to Mount E, to the same doctor,” she expressed.
As an operation manager who earns only about S$3000 per month, Suriia noted that life has been tough till the extent that he ran out of cash to pay for his bills, resulting in his house’s electricity being cut off in on a few occasions.
“It’s very tough. But I don’t mind this toughness. I just want her to live until the age of 79, until she sees her grandchildren. And I don’t mind if God takes my life and give it to her. That is what I always pray,” Suriia said in sadness.
However, Suriia’s undying love for his wife is what that keeps him going. In fact, in June 2017, about six months after Sarojini was diagnosed, he organised a surprise birthday celebration for her where he renewed his wedding vow, especially the verse that mentioned that they “will stay together in sickness or health”.
Not allowed to use Ordinary and Special accounts
In an attempt to fund for his wife’s raising medical bills and treatment, Suriia wanted to take money out from his Ordinary and Special accounts in his CPF savings but was not allowed to do so by the CPF Board. Instead, CPF suggested that he uses his Medisave, which is unfortunately empty as well.
“Why (do) I need to keep the Ordinary and Special Accounts when my wife is suffering? My wife is everything to me. She’s my life, she’s everything I’m living for,” he said.
As such, the man had no choice but resorted to borrowing money from various other parties like moneylenders, family, friends, his company, as well as through crowdfunding online.
He also said that he really wants to continue with Sarojini’s treatment so she will have a chance to be cured and be the bubbly person that she used to be once.
“I love her very much but I want her to be very happy. I want her to be cure because (I’m) very sad seeing her suffering every day… Sometimes, I feel like jumping down, you know. Feel very hopeless and helpless. I still got hope that God will cure her, so God must cure her,” Suriia noted.
Legal issues involved
Mr Ravi who is representing Suriia said that there are a few concerns with this case.
The first being that it engages section 18 (d) of the CPF Act which allows a CPF member (like Suriia) to transfer a portion of his fund from the Ordinary and Special account to his loved one’s account. However, there’s a catch here because according to the CPF Board’s policy, the money can only be transferred to someone who is 55 years of age and above.
“Now, to me, this policy is irrational. A policy which is irrational in the administrative law sense becomes unlawful. In other word, what CPF Board is saying is that though they’re sympathetic to the fact that Sarojini is suffering from 4th stage cancer, but she has to wait until 55 for Suriia to then transfer the money out, with the Board’s consent, from his account to Sarojini’s Medisave account. To me, this is mindboggling and to say the least, it rankles the soul,” he explained.
Mr Ravi also highlighted that this policy deprives Sarojini her right to life, under Article 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.
Article 9 said that no one should be deprived of his life or liberty in accordance with the law. However, CPF’s action of not allowing Sarojini to receive the money from Suriia’s account to pay for her medical expenses basically “deprives her of her right to life”, Mr Ravi argued.
TOC has contacted CPF Board for their comments on this case.