MacPherson SMC Member of Parliament (MP) Tin Pei Ling on Thursday (3 December) cleared the air on allegations made against one of her grassroots volunteers, the latter of whom was accused of “intimidating” and “humiliating” a resident during the MP’s Meet-The-People Session.
Ms Tin branded the allegations “untrue”, stating that they have “caused hurt” to her volunteer.
In an article titled “Bossy PAP Grassroots Volunteer Intimidates & Humiliates Resident Seeking MP For Help” on the All Singapore Stuff website, published on 30 November, the author recounted accompanying her friend Mdm Tan to Ms Tin’s MPS on 5 October to seek help from the MP, as Mdm Tan was repeatedly turned down by the Social Service Office (SSO) for getting medical fee assistance and NTUC vouchers.
The author, who identified herself as “J Ten”, claimed that a “female athletic grassroot volunteer” spoke in a “condescending tone” to Mdm Tan while they waited in line to see Ms Tin.
Ms Ten said it was “humiliating” for a resident to be called out in such a manner.
The writer also accused the volunteer of acting in “belligerent manner” when she provided feedback to the volunteer about “not “talking down” to residents.
Mdm Tan’s situation
Referencing Ms Ten’s article, Ms Tin acknowledged that she and her team have known Mdm Tan and her family since 2011 and have been offering assistance to them over the decade.
“Usually, Mdm Tan would be accompanied by her son (and hence, we were unfamiliar with Ms “J Ten” who came with Mdm Tan in Oct 2020). Mdm Tan and her son come to our Meet-the-People regularly to seek assistance for a wide range of issues,” Ms Tin explained in her post.
Claiming that she and her team have offered the NTUC vouchers to Mdm Tan earlier this year, Ms Tin said the vouchers could only be offered to every eligible household once per year, as the NTUC vouchers are given to help residents tide over tough periods and as they have to seek public donations to fund the vouchers.
She also said that Mdm Tan and her family have been receiving ComCare Financial Assistance from the SSO since 2010.
However, the assistance was retracted by SSO this year after SSO had assessed her to have sufficient stable income from a stable job.
“Nonetheless, the SSO referred her to the Medical Social Worker at TTSH for financial assistance with her outstanding medical bill.
“I appealed to the SSO for Mdm Tan in April 2020 and August 2020 and came to know that TTSH already gave a one-time 100% Medifund assistance to clear her outstanding bills as she had no further medical follow-ups there,” she asserted.
Allegations against volunteer
Responding to the allegations against the volunteer, Ms Tin said she has asked the volunteer, identified as “CY” as well as other volunteers who were present that day for an account of what happened.
Ms Tin then shared Ms CY’s account of the events.
According to Ms CY, when Ms Ten approached her to ask how long her friend will need to wait, Ms Ten referred to her friend — Mdm Tan — as “Lucy”.
However, the name was not found in the list, which prompted Ms CY to asked Ms Ten what her friend’s name is as stated in her NRIC.
“Not knowing this information, Ms Ten started shouting, “Tan ah Tan! What is your name on your IC,” said Ms CY.
Ms CY later realised that Ms Ten’s friend was Mdm Tan and greeted Ms Tan.
She also explained to Ms Ten that they have seen Mdm Tan and spoken to her before, seeing how “protective” Ms Ten appeared to be of Mdm Tan.
“It was the first time I had seen Ms Ten around Mdm Tan. I reassured Ms Ten that Mdm Tan knows us. Ms Ten did not express displeasure at my explanation. I then said to Mdm Tan, “Your turn will not be so soon. We are trying to avoid having a crowd outside MPS. You might want to wait in the comfort of your home, and we will call you when your turn is near,” she said.
After accepting Ms CY’s explanation and complying with it, both Mdm Tan and Ms Ten left without expressing any displeasure.
However, later in the evening, Ms CY was informed by her fellow volunteer that Ms Ten was shouting for her at the entrance and that they were unsure of why Ms Ten had called for her.
Ms CY claimed that when she came to meet Ms Ten, Ms Ten said that “she would like to provide her feedback and asked that I sat down with her”.
“I stood at ease – my left leg slightly in front of my right leg, my elbows touching my waist, both hand palms facing inwards, placed on top of each other and resting on my abdomen,” she asserted, adding that she did not take a seat due to COVID-related safe distancing considerations.
As Ms Ten accused her of speaking to Mdm Tan in a condescending manner, Ms CY said she “expressed disagreement” towards Ms Ten’s accusation and then said to her: “I did not speak in a condescending manner.”
“In hopes to deescalate the situation, I did not respond further to Ms Ten’s accusation. Unable to solicit further response from me, Ms Ten continued to accuse me of standing in a belligerent manner.
“At this point, I was still standing at ease. I said, “I am standing at ease ma’am. It is unfortunate that you perceive my standing posture as belligerent,” said Ms CY.
Before she went to update the team about the commotion, she told Ms Ten that she will speak to her only if she calms down and stop shouting.
However, according to Ms CY, Ms Ten continued to be seated and demanded her to return.
When Ms CY finally returned to Ms Ten, Ms Ten was still shouting, but she listened to her in silence.
Ms CY noted that a male resident who was seated at the waiting area shouted at her, saying that she was “bossy” without giving any reason. She had asked him to calm down and take a seat.
She explained that the man had earlier “shouted aggressively” at a volunteer for asking the purpose of his visit to MPS, as the man assumed that the volunteers were immediately aware of his problems.
Ms CY claimed that “Ms Ten rode on [the man]’s accusation”. The volunteer also claimed that Ms Ten had said to her that “two instances form a legal pattern.”
“After Ms Ten said her piece, I said thank you to her for her feedback and took my leave,” she noted.
Volunteer says she sought police assistance to prevent “dissatisfaction” turning into “public disorder”
However, Ms CY said that at that point, she could still hear Ms Ten “shouting her displeasure about (the) MPS and stirring dissatisfaction among other residents who were waiting outside the premise”.
As such, the volunteer called the police for assistance.
“There was a shortage of experienced volunteers that evening to conduct effective crowd control should dissatisfaction turn into public disorder and compromise the safety of other residents,” said Ms CY.
Following Ms CY’s account of the events, Ms Tin said she hoped that the detailed account from her volunteer “would provide clarity to what really happened.”
She also backed up Ms CY, saying that Ms CY assists her at her MPS every week and would stay until they finished their MPS, most often in the wee hours.
“She would then make her way back home and get ready for work the next morning, often with very little sleep,” Ms Tin added.
“I am thankful that we have sincere and committed volunteers who come to help us at our MPS every week. They do their best to listen, to understand and to help.
“Sometimes, residents get upset over the issues they face and some could get abusive. But my volunteers continue to try and help. And this does not mean that they deserve to be abused,” Ms Tin stressed.