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Alfrescian (Inf)

Police's Anti-Scam Division busts 16 transnational syndicates​


In 2019, the police set up the Anti-Scam Centre to centralise investigations into scam-related crimes, disrupt scammers' operations and help mitigate victims' losses. PHOTO: ST FILE

David Sun

JAN 28, 202

SINGAPORE - In just minutes, the money that victims transfer to a scammer will be quickly divided and dispersed to dozens of accounts in overseas banks.
As the scammers are also based outside Singapore in most instances, they can also withdraw the cash within hours, making recovery challenging.
"Once the money is out of Singapore, it will be very difficult for the police to recover the funds," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap, assistant director of the Commercial Affairs Department's Anti-Scam Division.
Speaking to the media on Thursday (Jan 27), she said that while the police have built strong links with overseas law enforcement agencies, money transferred out of Singapore is as good as gone.
"While we have built strong links with overseas law enforcement agencies, recovery can still be very challenging because different jurisdictions have different legislation," she added.
In the recent case involving OCBC Bank customers, a couple related to The Straits Times how it took only 30 minutes for scammers to pilfer about $120,000 of their savings in a phishing scam.

DAC Yap said it is possible to claw back some of the funds if the monies are still in Singapore. But the odds diminish with each passing minute.
In 2019, the police set up the Anti-Scam Centre to centralise investigations into scam-related crimes, disrupt scammers' operations and help mitigate victims' losses.
Working with other stakeholders like banks, the police were able to claw back more than $160 million of the $700 million scammers took from victims in Singapore. They also froze more than 24,000 bank accounts believed to have been used by scammers.

Fund recovery has been a key task for the centre's officers, but with the increasing number of scams, DAC Yap said this has proven extremely challenging.
She said officers have had to work round the clock and make many personal sacrifices. This happened recently on Boxing Day last year, when the centre received a surge of reports.
"The centre is operating 24/7, but that day almost all my officers were recalled to handle the sheer load," she said.

Fund recovery has been a key task for the Anti-Scam Centre's officers, but with the increasing number of scams, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap said this has proven extremely challenging. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The centre comes under the Anti-Scam Division, which was set up last year amid a continued rise in scam cases year-on-year. The division is part of the Commercial Affairs Department.
DAC Yap added: "They were recalled away from their families and plans so that we could help recover as much funds as possible. It is really not an easy job."
She said scammers are often part of organised syndicates that operate overseas and under the radar, making it almost impossible to track them down.

Last year, the police embarked on Project Icons (International Cooperation On Negating Scams) to deal with the problem.
This project focuses on intensive intelligence-sharing with overseas law enforcement agencies, she said.
Through protracted collaboration, 16 transnational syndicates were successfully busted and 230 syndicate members arrested.
"This is unprecedented and can be considered as a very big breakthrough," she said. She credited the strong partnership with overseas agencies including the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of the Royal Malaysia Police.
DAC Yap, who has been in the force for 21 years, urged members of the public to play their part to fight scams.
Those who suspect they are victims of scams must immediately alert the bank and lodge a police report.
“Fighting scams is a whole of community effort,” she said.
“Your vigilance is our first line of defence.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Investor confidence in SGX needs to be restored​

Jan 29, 2022

Last year, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) saw only eight new initial public offerings (IPOs) that raised around US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) in proceeds (More options for S'pore companies pursuing IPO, Jan 26).
This accounted for less than 0.5 per cent of the worldwide total of 2,388 IPOs that collectively raised US$453 billion.
Companies list either because they can get much better valuations as a publicly listed company, or because of the ease with which they can raise additional capital to advance growth prospects.
If neither of these conditions is met, the listed company is better off being privatised, and that is what has been happening to the Singapore market over the past several years.
Many good-quality SGX-listed companies, such as Roxy-Pacific Holdings and SingHaiyi Group, have been taken private or have announced plans to go private as the market did not accord them the valuation they truly deserve, resulting in the hollowing out of the Singapore market.
So, Singapore needs to first address why fundamentally sound companies want to delist from SGX.
Also, more than half of SGX-listed companies are trading below book value. Many are in fact giving decent dividend yields of 3 per cent or more.

Why then are investors not participating in this attractively valued market? In the 1990s and 2000s, Singapore had a roaring stock market and provided much-needed liquidity for many small and medium-sized enterprises to grow and thrive.
Over time, however, many SGX-listed companies ran into trouble and had trading suspended or even ended up being wound up. The large sums of money that were wiped out have shaken the confidence of thousands of investors.
We need to rebuild this confidence and provide an undertaking that investors' interests will be well protected, adequate recourse will be provided and timely action will be taken against fraudulent companies.

S. Nallakaruppan
Society of Remisiers (Singapore)


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Dad had hard time submitting particulars to police​

FEB 1, 2022

Recently my dad, who is 74 years old, received a notice for a traffic offence and was told to submit his particulars through the Traffic Police website. Not knowing how to use the Internet, he asked me to assist him.
The first thing I noticed is that there is no way to provide the information other than via Singpass login. However, as he did not know those details, I had to request a mailed copy of his Singpass password.
After receiving the password, I tried to log in again but was notified on the website that a one-time password had to be sent to a mobile number. As my own mobile number was used for my Singpass login, I could not use it for him.
My dad does not own a mobile phone and now I have to get a phone for him just for this purpose.
It has been a frustrating process just trying to submit simple information to the police.
The system does not seem to consider the needs of the older generation of users who may not be literate or tech-savvy. There should still be an option for providing this information via a more traditional method, like filling up and mailing back a form.
The older generation should not be made to feel lost and out of touch over such matters.

I hope that government agencies will be more sensitive to such situations and not leave people behind in pursuing technological advancement.

Elaine Soong Siew Kim


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Companies can do more in meeting the needs of seniors​

Feb 4, 2022

I read with interest the letter, "Dad had hard time submitting particulars to police" (Feb 1), which raised the issues faced by the older generation who may not be literate or tech-savvy.
There are seniors who face health challenges such as being hard of hearing, having dementia or being generally unwell.
Therefore, family members have to assist them in official matters such as filling forms and submitting information.
Last year, my father's Integrated Shield Plan was cancelled due to a missed payment.
When I called the insurer's hotline to find out how to reinstate his policy, a customer service executive insisted that my father, as the policyholder, had to verify his particulars on the phone.
After explaining a few times that he was unable to do so as he is hard of hearing and has Alzheimer's disease, I asked to speak to a manager so I could resolve the issue more expediently. It took several e-mails and phone calls over a number of weeks for that to be done.
The point I want to make is that first-line operators tend to enforce company procedures rigidly, and in doing so may not listen to a family member who is trying to rectify the matter.

Companies need to be more understanding and empathetic towards the elderly in meeting their needs.
In an ageing society like Singapore, perhaps organisations should spend more resources to train their staff and teams to be more flexible, adaptive and understanding of the needs of the elderly, instead of strictly enforcing set rules and procedures.
Digitalisation should not marginalise or penalise those who cannot be on board due to reasons such as age, health and disability.

Christina Lim Khiau Mui

A Singaporean

Gahmen has no time for Sinkies. If you are a foreigner then and only action will taken to protect you. Sinkies please fuck off and die.


Alfrescian (Inf)

MOH investigating death of 103-year-old who was erroneously given 4th Covid-19 jab​


MOH said it takes a serious view of the incident and is carrying out a thorough investigation. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Linette Lai
Health Correspondent

Feb 4, 2022

SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry (MOH) is investigating the death of a 103-year-old woman who was erroneously given a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by a mobile vaccination team.
The woman, a nursing home resident, was admitted to Changi General Hospital on Dec 16 - three days after receiving the extra dose.
She had pneumonia and low sodium levels, and was subsequently diagnosed as having had a stroke.
The woman died on Jan 10.
An autopsy found that the main cause of death was pneumonia, with other contributing factors including stroke and coronary artery disease. The coroner has not determined if these were linked to vaccination.
However, these are natural disease processes common in seniors, said MOH in a statement on Friday (Feb 4).
MOH said it takes a serious view of the incident and is carrying out a thorough investigation, which is likely to be completed this month.

"Our preliminary findings were that the vaccine was erroneously administered due to possible irregularities in vaccination procedures and poor communication between the nursing home and the medical service provider handling the vaccination," it said.
The woman was a resident at Econ Healthcare's Chai Chee nursing home, while the vaccination was administered by a team from PanCare Medical Clinic. Both have co-funded the woman's hospital bill as a gesture of goodwill, MOH said.
The ministry added that this is the first case of mistaken identity leading to erroneous vaccination by a mobile vaccination team.
Some 152,000 such mobile vaccinations have been carried out to date.
It added that it had originally planned to announce the incident in December.
However, the woman's family had requested to withhold details which could have led to her identification.
"We have since consulted the family further and are releasing the information to provide clarity on the incident."
Both the nursing home and the mobile vaccination provider have reviewed their processes to prevent such an incident from recurring.
The Agency for Integrated Care, which facilitates vaccinations in nursing homes, has also reminded the homes to ensure proper communication with mobile vaccination teams.
"MOH has also reminded all mobile vaccination teams to perform independent identity verification and authentication before administering any vaccination," the ministry said.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Be mindful of giving teachers too many administrative duties​

Feb 22, 2022

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced last week that it will facilitate vaccinations for Primary 1 to 6 pupils by bussing them to paediatric vaccination centres under the School-Facilitated Vaccination Exercise. I read with concern that teachers will help by accompanying pupils for their vaccination after parents have given consent.
A teacher's primary job is to educate and mould a future generation of capable people, but this pandemic has shed light on how teachers are expected to go way beyond their primary duties and take on multi-faceted roles.
There should be a more distinctive line drawn between educators and people who take on administrative duties such as accompanying children for vaccination, as these additional duties could severely compromise teachers' physical and mental well-being, as well as their quality of teaching.
More than 80 per cent of teachers surveyed in a poll released in September last year said that their work amid the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health (Over 80% of teachers say pandemic has hurt their mental health, Sept 23).
Long working hours, additional responsibilities and unexpected scenarios caused by Covid-19 were some of the issues identified.
Pre-schools are also struggling to cope with the sudden surge in cases as well as constantly changing health protocols (Pre-schools grappling with Covid-19 rules as cases rise, Feb 20).
These are extremely worrying trends, as teachers play a vital role in a child's development and holistic education. We should never take them for granted.

I hope that MOE will pay more attention to the plight of teachers, and work hand in hand with schools to improve their well-being in this challenging period.

Lynn Neo Si Jie


Alfrescian (Inf)

Budget debate: Cost of making public transport free for seniors and the disabled will be significant, says Iswaran​


The cost of such a scheme would mean a 15 to 20 per cent increase to the $2 billion in public transport subsidies. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

Kok Yufeng
Transport Correspondent

Mar 9, 2022

SINGAPORE - A proposal by Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim to make public transport free for all seniors and people with disabilities here sparked an exchange between Transport Minister S. Iswaran and the opposition party on the cost of such a scheme and how to balance the books.
Mr Iswaran said making public transport free for seniors and people with disabilities here would mean a 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase to the $2 billion in public transport subsidies that taxpayers here are already shouldering each year.
If this cost is borne by commuters instead, adult fares would have to go up by 30 to 40 cents on average, said the minister in response to Mr Lim (Sengkang GRC) during the debate on his ministry's budget on Wednesday (March 9).
Mr Iswaran said this financial burden "is by no means insignificant", and it will only increase as the number of seniors and people with disabilities holding concession cards here rises from 975,000 now to about 1.2 million in 2030.
This is why the authorities take a different approach, which involves softening the blow of fare hikes for this group of vulnerable commuters, he said.
"When Associate Professor Jamus Lim suggests making public transport free for seniors and persons with disabilities, we understand where he is coming from, yet don't necessarily agree with where he suggests we go," Mr Iswaran added.
Prof Lim had argued that free public transport for seniors would allow those who want to keep working to do so without having to worry about transport costs, and encourage them to engage in social interactions.

He estimated that such a scheme would cost $300 million to $400 million a year, which he claimed would only be a 3 per cent to 4 per cent increase in the Transport Ministry's budget.
The ministry's estimated budget for financial year 2022/2023 is $10.9 billion.
A compromise would be to allow free rides only during off-peak hours, when there is usually spare capacity in the bus and trains here, he said.

"I wonder, instead of ferrying air, could we instead ferry the elderly and the disabled," Prof Lim later added, referencing comments made in March last year by then Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung about excess bus capacity.
He also suggested that Mr Iswaran was making a strawman argument when the minister had discussed the impact making public transport free for some would have on other commuters, as this was not what he had proposed.
Responding, Mr Iswaran pointed out that two-thirds of the Transport Ministry's total budget is for development expenditures.
"What you are proposing is a recurrent operational subsidy of $300 to $400 million. So in other words, it is on the lower base that we should be looking at," he said.

Mr Iswaran added that his ministry's operating budget has also gone up in the past two years because of Covid-19 specific measures.
"So if you discount that further, what you're actually proposing is an increase in subsidies - if I use my $2 billion reference point - of about 20 per cent. That is a significant increase," he said.
Whether to incur such an increase is a matter for debate, he said, adding: "But I think then, we should also, to be intellectually rigorous, examine where the Member and his party stand when it comes to sources of revenue."
Mr Iswaran noted that Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh had previously made a point about how fare increases are contributing to cost of living, while the WP had also taken a "dim view" of some of the revenue sources proposed by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.
He did not elaborate, but the WP has objected to the Government's move to raise the goods and services (GST) tax from 7 per cent to 9 per cent.
"In other words, the Workers' Party looks askance at increases in fares, and yet, we are also arguing for spending more. And where do we cut them from?" Mr Iswaran said. "We have to square the circle, and it is by no means a strawman."

Mr Singh rose to clarify that the WP had put up four alternatives to raising the GST, including higher taxes on the wealthy and raising corporate tax.
"It's not as if the money is going to come from an unknown source," Mr Singh said.
To this, Mr Iswaran said proposals that incur additional expenses cannot be made under one ministry's budget with the expectation that it will be taken care of at the macro level.
"Every year, we have to address this issue of the balance between quality service, affordability and financial sustainability and this is not going to go away," he said.
"We do need the discipline of also addressing how, within that particular ministry's budget, we are making every effort to find the appropriate balance."

On Prof Lim's suggestion to provide free rides during off-peak hours, Mr Iswaran said he would not rule it out, but noted this would change the concession fare system. He added that seniors and people with disabilities with concession cards already receive a discount of up to 55 per cent.
Mr Iswaran said the Government has always sought to keep public transport affordable, even as operating costs rise.
This is why public transport subsidies are tilted towards vulnerable commuters, he said, citing the $20 million in public transport vouchers set aside each year to help lower income households defray the cost when fare were raised in 2019 and 2021.

When fares rise, adult commuters bear more of the increase than concessionary commuter groups, the minister said. "Everyone pays a share, and those who can pay more, do so. This is a more equitable and sustainable approach, which has served us well over the years."
Looking ahead, Mr Iswaran said shifting work and travel patterns, an ageing population and volatile energy prices will affect public transport over the next decade.
Hence, it is important to have a fare formula for long-term financial sustainability, he added. A review of the current fare formula will start this year and conclude next year.
"The PTC will continue to strike the delicate balance across cost pressures faced by public transport operators, the burden on taxpayers of public transport subsidies, and fare affordability for commuters," he said.


Alfrescian (Inf)

NUH probes case of pregnant woman who was allegedly left unattended for 2 hours and lost baby​


Facebook user Mee Pok Tah said that his wife was left "bleeding profusely" for two hours after she arrived at NUH on March 15, 2022. PHOTOS: ST FILE, MEE POK TAH/FACEBOOK

Nadine Chua

Mar 22, 2022

SINGAPORE - The National University Hospital (NUH) is investigating an incident where a woman, who was 36 weeks pregnant, was allegedly left unattended for two hours at the hospital's Emergency Medicine Department and later lost her baby.
In a Facebook post on Monday (March 21), the woman's husband said no one attended to his wife for two hours after she arrived at NUH in an ambulance on March 15 and was left "bleeding profusely" for about two hours.
In an update of his post on Monday afternoon, he said he received a call on Monday from NUH which informed him that investigations into the matter are ongoing.
He did not respond when The Straits Times tried to contact him on Facebook.
When asked about the incident, NUH directed ST to its Facebook post.
NUH said on Facebook on Tuesday morning (March 22) that it is aware of social media posts and reports regarding the incident and is in touch with the family to provide support during this difficult time.
The NUH post said: "Out of respect for the family, we seek the public's understanding not to speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident."

The woman's husband, whose Facebook name is Mee Pok Tah, said he called an ambulance after his wife started "bleeding profusely from the birth canal" as she was showering at 9.30pm on March 15.
According to him, paramedics arrived within 10 minutes and his wife was attended to immediately. She was subsequently taken to NUH and reached the hospital at about 10.30pm.
He added that upon their arrival at NUH, a nurse was informed about the condition of his wife, who was still bleeding at the time.
He wrote: "The nurse came and only set up the monitoring device to check on my (wife's) vital signs and left. She was left there bleeding profusely and left unattended for an estimated time of two hours.
"No doctors and nurses came to check and attend to my wife for two hours and no one informed her that there (was) no bed in the maternity ward."

He said his wife was sent to a maternity ward after two hours where she was attended to by doctors and nurses, adding: "After checking on my wife and the baby, the doctors told my wife that the (baby's) heart structure was there but there was no heartbeat and hence he has passed away."
According to Mee Pok Tah's earlier post on March 16, the baby was cremated at Mandai Crematorium.



Alfrescian (Inf)

Woman turned to private sector as she had to wait 5 months for colonoscopy at SGH​


Madam Tan (not her real name) went to the polyclinic when she found blood in her stools in January 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Salma Khalik
Senior Health Correspondent

MAR 22, 2022

SINGAPORE - Madam Tan (not her real name), 73, went to the polyclinic in January 2021 when she found blood in her stools. She had been constipated for some weeks and laxatives had not helped.
The doctor feared she might have colon cancer and wanted her to do a colonoscopy - where an endoscope is inserted into the rectum and large intestine to check for polyps and other signs of cancer.
She was referred to a specialist at Singapore General Hospital, but the appointment for the scope was five months away, in June.
Public hospitals have had to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, which led to non-urgent elective surgery being deferred while they attended the rise in Covid-19 cases.
At the last multi-ministry task force media conference, director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that public hospitals remain stretched as they a deal with a backlog of non-Covid-19 patients.
It “reflects a debt that we had incurred over the last few months”, he said, adding that hospitals are now focusing again on providing care for these patients.
Fearing cancer, Madam Tan did not want to wait, and turned to Dr Desmond Wai, a specialist in liver and gastrointestinal diseases who has a clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre. He saw her on Feb 3 and did the scope within the week.

Her worst fears were realised. Not only did she have colon cancer, it was quite advanced and had spread to her liver.
Dr Wai suggested she return to the polyclinic with the results so that she could be referred to a public hospital for subsidised treatment. He assured her that other patients diagnosed with cancer whom he had sent back to the public sector were given priority and seen within a fortnight.
But Madam Tan, who is single and has only the basic MediShield Life, feared any delay might cause her cancer to spread further.
At that time, she already had one tumour in the liver, and it was big at 5cm.
Dr Wai said a five-month delay in diagnosis could have resulted in more tumours, making it more difficult to treat. But he felt an additional two weeks to get it treated would not make much material difference.
Madam Tan's younger siblings, whom she had looked after when they were young, all agreed that she should get treated immediately in the private sector, and they and their children chipped in to help defray the cost.
Dr Wai suggested she opt for the cheaper six-bed ward at Mount Alvernia Hospital, which she did. The total bill came to $50,000 to $60,000. MediShield Life, meant for subsidised care, paid only a fraction of the bill.

After a few rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumours in her liver and colon, she was operated on in June last year and is now doing well. No further spread of the cancer has been detected.
Shortly after her surgery, she received a letter from SGH telling her that her colonoscopy had been rescheduled to November - another five-month wait.
Madam Tan told Dr Wai in Chinese: "Luckily I came to see you or I'd have to wait so long to find out I have cancer. And the cancer could have become worse."


Alfrescian (Inf)

KKH investigating pregnant woman's claim that she waited four hours to be treated and lost her baby​


KK Women's and Children's Hospital said it is aware of an online account of the incident at its Urgent O&G Centre. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Nadine Chua

Mar 24, 2022

SINGAPORE - KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) is looking into a pregnant woman's claim that she waited for four hours to be treated for abdominal pains at the hospital and eventually lost her baby.
Prof Tan Hak Koon, chairman of the Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) at KKH, told The Straits Times on Thursday (March 24) that the hospital is aware of an online account of the incident at its Urgent O&G Centre.
"We take patient feedback seriously and are looking into this," added Prof Tan.
The woman's claims about the Feb 28 incident have been making their rounds on social media.
She said she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time, and had tested positive for Covid-19 and tried to get treatment at two private hospitals after experiencing severe abdominal pains.
She claimed she was denied treatment at both hospitals, which were not named, as she needed to be attended to by an infectious diseases gynaecologist because she had tested positive for Covid-19.
The woman subsequently arrived at KKH at 2pm to seek treatment but was told to wait at the drop-off area.

She said that at 5pm, she started to bleed but was still not attended to.
When a doctor eventually saw her at 6pm, she said she was told that she had lost her baby.
KKH is urging the patient to contact it at [email protected]
Said Prof Tan: "Despite our best efforts, we are still unable to identify the patient based on the information that is publicly available.
"We are concerned about the patient's well-being and seek the opportunity to address her concerns, and provide the necessary support."
News of this alleged incident follows a separate case where a 36-week pregnant woman who was bleeding had to wait at the National University Hospital's (NUH) emergency department (ED) for two hours and later lost her baby.
In its statement on Wednesday night, NUH apologised and said it should have done more to provide closer monitoring and care to the woman during the March 15 incident.
The hospital said it is reviewing its process of managing expectant patients admitted into the ED so that such incidents do not happen again.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Engineer dies after falling 7 storeys while doing maintenance work in CapitaSpring building​


The engineer was working on the maintenance level above the 16th floor when she stepped on the false ceiling panel. PHOTO: CAPITALAND

Syarafana Shafeeq

Apr 8, 2022

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean engineer has died after falling seven storeys while doing maintenance work at office building CapitaSpring on Friday (April 8).
The 48-year-old woman was working on the maintenance level above the 16th floor of the building when she stepped on a false ceiling panel.
The panel gave way under her weight and caused her to fall about 30m, landing on the ninth floor, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it received a call for assistance at about 10.55am on Friday. The engineer was pronounced dead at the scene by an SCDF paramedic.
MOM said the woman was an employee of Dragages Singapore, and the site occupier is Ascott International Management, a wholly-owned business unit of CapitaLand, which is the co-owner and project developer for CapitaSpring.
CapitaSpring is a 51-storey integrated development in Raffles Place that received its temporary occupation permit in end-2021.
It houses a 299-unit serviced residence under the Citadines brand owned by Ascott. The apartments occupy levels 9 to 16 of the development.

MOM said it is investigating the accident, and has instructed Ascott to stop all access to the maintenance level.
"As a general safety measure, fragile surfaces should be marked clearly and conspicuously to warn of the risk of falling from height," said the spokesman.
The fatal accident means the total number of workplace deaths in Singapore this year is now 11.
ST has contacted CapitaLand for more information on the accident.



Forum: Be mindful of giving teachers too many administrative duties​

Feb 22, 2022

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced last week that it will facilitate vaccinations for Primary 1 to 6 pupils by bussing them to paediatric vaccination centres under the School-Facilitated Vaccination Exercise. I read with concern that teachers will help by accompanying pupils for their vaccination after parents have given consent.
A teacher's primary job is to educate and mould a future generation of capable people, but this pandemic has shed light on how teachers are expected to go way beyond their primary duties and take on multi-faceted roles.
There should be a more distinctive line drawn between educators and people who take on administrative duties such as accompanying children for vaccination, as these additional duties could severely compromise teachers' physical and mental well-being, as well as their quality of teaching.
More than 80 per cent of teachers surveyed in a poll released in September last year said that their work amid the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health (Over 80% of teachers say pandemic has hurt their mental health, Sept 23).
Long working hours, additional responsibilities and unexpected scenarios caused by Covid-19 were some of the issues identified.
Pre-schools are also struggling to cope with the sudden surge in cases as well as constantly changing health protocols (Pre-schools grappling with Covid-19 rules as cases rise, Feb 20).
These are extremely worrying trends, as teachers play a vital role in a child's development and holistic education. We should never take them for granted.

I hope that MOE will pay more attention to the plight of teachers, and work hand in hand with schools to improve their well-being in this challenging period.

Lynn Neo Si Jie

Bestest way is to gather all the people working admin jobs all over the country and get them to do the admin work in schools. I guarantee you they will still have plenty of free time. :biggrin:


Alfrescian (Inf)

11 Years of Noise Terror: How One Man Holds a Hougang Block Hostage​

by Zat Astha
May 23, 2022

11 Years of Noise Terror: How One Man Holds a Hougang Block Hostage

Top image: Zat/Rice Media
All names have been changed​

Faye recalls the Wednesday afternoon on 6 February 2013 when she was spat on by Shi-jie’s mother as she was walking past the unit to get home. “It was the first time I was spat on during this long dispute. Previously, apart from the noise Shi-jie inflicts, his mother would just stand by the door and hurl vulgarities at me.” Faye was 19 years old then.
Still, that would not be the only time when Shi-jie’s mother would assault Faye in this fashion. It would happen again three years later, almost to the date of the first incident, on 17 February 2016 at 10 p.m. Faye was on the way back to her university dorm when Shi-jie’s mother spat at her while she was waiting for the lift, rounding up the assault with a string of colourful expletives.
“I didn’t make a police report this time around because I was too shocked by what had happened and, having just come back from a university exchange, was in a rush to go back to school,” she wrote in a 27-page document compiled in 2016 on her mother’s behalf to the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT).
The evidentiary tome was submitted in support of a claim filed by Faye against her neighbour, 41-year-old Shi-jie, and his mother, who has been inflicting noise nuisance, verbal assaults, and outright harassment on Faye and her family since 2011.
It’s a story that spans over a decade from when Faye was a teenager taking her ‘O’ level exams through to her undergraduate studies at NUS, and now as a working adult at 28 years old.
The banging happens throughout the night and echoes around the estate (Video: Claire)

A predetermined, predictable schedule of banging

The intense banging Shi-jie inflicts on the block occurs every night, set to a predetermined, almost predictable schedule that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. Only when he’s away at work as an employee of the Republic of Singapore Air Force or out running errands would the neighbourhood enjoy some peace.
The brief respite lasts until 6 p.m., when he would come home, announcing his return with raucous and sporadic bursts of banging from within his 4-room Housing Development Board (HDB) flat. Faye is most affected by this because she and Shi-jie share the common wall from where the banging sounds are made.
The hammering would last throughout the evening, echoing within the estate, made up of long blocks of flats arranged in parallels, creating a natural acoustic chamber that further amplified his antics.
The banging from the corridor outside the house
Then, just as suddenly as it began, at 10 p.m. (on most days), an unnerving silence descends upon the residents of this estate as Shi-jie, a 5th Dan Aikido Sensei with Aikido Shinju-Kai Singapore, makes his way out on his white motorbike, chugging along major roads and expressways at a snail’s pace of 40km/h—sometimes slower.
When we followed him on this nightly outing to better understand the behaviour of a perennial troublemaker, we found that he would ride to Bedok and park on the pavement outside Block 529, Bedok North Street 3.
Here, he would whip out his Nintendo Switch and play games on it as he stood leaning against his motorbike, spending the entire three hours plugged into the console before riding back home. Shi-jie would reach at 1 a.m., and the banging would start all over again, sporadically but methodically throughout the night.
There’s a pattern to his banging—ten rapid successions of thuds, ending with one definitive hit that brings the etude to a close—that seldom deviates.
On weekends, the banging knows no concept of time, as Shi-jie bangs throughout the day, pausing at 7 p.m. when he would make his way out of the home. He would then come back, as always, at 1 a.m., and the banging resumes.
Rinse and repeat. Everyday.
“I’ve been hearing this for five years already.”
Mr E

The 8th floor neighbour

Curious to hear the intensity of the hammering on the weekend, I decided to visit the block one Sunday noon after being alerted by Faye that Shi-jie was home and up to his usual raucous. He had been at it since 10 a.m. she adds.
I was a few metres from the block, nearer to the multi-storey carpark, when, clear as day, I heard the unmistakable bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-BANG echo around the estate. I hurriedly took the lift up to Faye’s floor to observe the goings-on inside the flat when this hammering sound was made, only to be greeted by scores of neighbours from other levels who had to take this lift due to the common lift being down for servicing.
As this was a shared corridor floor, residents had to take the lift to this floor before taking the stairs down to their respective units.
The lift repair notice (Image: Rice Media)
At the floor of Shi-jie’s and Faye’s units, I saw neighbour after neighbour gesturing and pointing Shi-jie’s flat out to me every time the hammering started. As if to say, “This is the unit you’re looking for. It’s this one.”
Then, I saw Mr E from the 8th floor, a resident of the block for five years, dressed in blue T-shirt and shorts, appear at the end of the corridor, his ears craning to know where the noise was coming from.
I gestured to Shi-jie’s unit, which then saw us taking up station outside the flat’s bedroom, its windows half drawn, the thick and suffocating smell of chlorine wafting past our N95 masks. I’ll explain the chlorine smell later.
“I’ve been hearing this for five years already,” Mr E shared. “Every night, I hear it, and I’ve endured it throughout. But this is the first time I decided to come up.”
Through a stroke of luck, there was a delivery for the unit on that day which meant Shi-jie’s mother had to open the door to receive the parcel. That’s when Mr E took the opportunity to ask Shi-jie’s mother some pointed questions in Chinese right at her doorstep.
Mr E confronting Shi-jie’s mother about the noise
“Can you don’t make so much noise, ah?” Mr E asked, his rage rising.
“It’s not me,” Shi-jie’s mother replied, defiant.
“Everyone here says it’s you,” Mr E went on. Shi-jie’s mum ignores his allegation.
“What noise are you making? If you’re not making noise, then why I can hear the noise from your unit? I’ve been hearing for so many years, five years. I’ve had it. I know it’s coming from your unit. What the hell are you doing inside?”
Unfazed, Shi-jie’s mom retreated and closed the door, leaving Mr E with none of his questions answered. It’s not uncommon for Shi-jie to deploy his mother to fend off annoyed neighbours. Perhaps he thinks no one would talk down to an old lady.
Unsurprisingly, almost immediately after the door closes, the hammering resumes.
Until today, and even after many nights of observation of the unit at different times of the day, I still cannot ascertain what Shi-Jie is doing behind the walls.
Perhaps a clue can be gleaned from a pink-coloured plastic stool Shi-jie places at the wall where the noise is made, though there’s no concrete proof that that is what he’s persistently hitting.

The death of a patriarch

I first learned of Faye’s predicament through her TikTok account, where she keeps keen video documentation of the banging that occurs throughout the day.
Still, to catch Shi-jie in the act was difficult, especially since there’s no absolute certainty as to when the banging would occur, predictable as his schedule came across.
Strangely enough, during my first in-person interview at Faye’s house, when she showed me a trove of documentation to support her claims of police reports made and mediation sessions attended, Shi-jie deviated from his usual schedule, which meant I couldn’t hear for myself the kind of sound assault Faye faces daily. “I think today he is on off; that’s why he left the house earlier than usual,” Faye explains.
Faye has been living in this 4-room flat with her hawker parents and older brother for 16 years, having moved from an estate nearby, mere minutes away from where they currently live.
At the start, Faye and Shi-jie’s family enjoyed an amicable relationship, often greeting each other if their paths crossed at the common areas. But all that changed a few years before Shi-jie’s father passed on in 2012.
“His father was a very nice and considerate man. He always apologises on their (Shi-jie and his mom) behalf,” Faye recalls. “We will often see him sitting downstairs in the evenings. When we ask why he’s not at home, he would say his wife and son are very sensitive to noise, so he would come down to the void deck and while the night away, reading the newspaper until it was time to go back home and sleep.”
“The father also shared that Shi-jie and his mom both had mental health issues, though we can’t know if it’s true,” Faye added.

Privacy, breached

Things took a turn for the worst in 2010 when Faye was in the thick of ‘O’ level preparations. Shi-jie appeared at her doorstep one afternoon and accused Faye of playing with marbles, stomping her floor, hammering objects, and playing with the doorbell. She categorically denies this.
“In the time we lived here, we’ve never owned a doorbell. My mum thinks it’s noisy. So we’re not sure what he’s talking about. We suspect the sound came from the door chime at the 7-11 store nearby, but we can’t be sure what he heard.”
Shi-jie would also often linger outside Faye’s flat and look in. As their flat shares a common corridor with eight other units, it was something Faye and her family couldn’t control, save for installing a CCTV camera to hopefully deter Shi-jie from further invading their privacy.
Shi-jie looking in to Faye’s room (Image: Faye)
Shi-jie loitering outside Faye’s room shirtless (Image: Faye)
Once, on 5 March 2015, Shi-jie was caught on camera approaching the home while shirtless and without wearing shoes to reprimand Faye. Three years prior, in 2012, the CCTV also captured Shi-jie loitering outside Faye’s room, acting suspiciously.
To counter this, Faye has put up quarter-height PVC boards flushed against her room window to block any prying eyes from looking in. This proved to be especially useful during Circuit Breaker in 2020, when she worked from home and was at the mercy of Shi-jie’s harassment at all hours of the day.

A Circuit Breaker breaking point

“During the Circuit Breaker, the banging became an everyday occurrence. Before, it was just one-off hammerings, but now, it’s getting more frequent,” Faye recalls. “It’s also getting much louder. A follower of my TikTok account who lives at the opposite block managed to record the noise he’s making. That’s how loud and how brazen he’s being now.”
The allegations Shi-jie made towards Faye increased several folds too during Circuit Breaker.
“When neighbours confront him, he would tell them that my family was the one making all the ruckus, that I like to kick the shared wall and that there’s water seeping through the walls on his side—an impossibility since such a phenomenon would affect my side of the wall too.”
“Even then, Shi-jie never asked HDB to come down and check to see if it’s true. But when I found out he was making such allegations to the other neighbours, I took the initiative to ask HDB officials to come down and check to see if what he says is true. Of course, when they checked his unit to ascertain what he said, they couldn’t find anything.”
Shi-jie would also complain of toxic odours and a burning smell coming from Faye’s room. Firefighters from the Singapore Civil Defence Force had been summoned before to investigate, reacting to Shi-jie’s complaint, but they couldn’t find anything, proving, once again, his allegations baseless and without due merit.
We’ve reached out to HDB to ask, amongst other things, what HDB can do by law to compel the occupant to stop such noise nuisances and, as landlords of public housing, what is HDB’s responsibility in ensuring residents deserve to live in a home with peace and quiet?
The ministry did not reply to our queries.

A thick, suffocating odour of chlorine

Still, if there were a smell being emitted, it would be the thick blanket of chlorine that wafts through the air, coming from the room in Shi-jie’s house that is directly beside Faye’s.
The odour is strong enough to be picked up by a person wearing a mask from about 50 meters away.
During my visits, the smell would linger along the corridor if Shi-jie was home and can only be described as intensely suffocating. The odour is further exacerbated with the use of a small desktop fan angled to face Faye’s room that serves only one purpose: to diffuse the smell in the direction of her premises.
It’s an intentional act of harassment that Faye tells me HDB officials who visited her home to ascertain her concerns have acknowledged.
One of the many emails where Faye was told to live and let live. (Image: Faye)
“Once, an HDB official sat down in my room for around half an hour, heard the banging and told me, “I don’t think there’s much annoyance caused to you”. I was fuming! I said the banging happens mostly at night. All he could say was, “Well, I can’t be here at night.”
Faye then asked him if he could smell the chlorine. He replied that he couldn’t really ‘smell well’ and asked a colleague to check if what she said was true. “The colleague eventually confirmed what I said but told me to ask the National Environment Agency (NEA) for assistance instead,” Faye shares.
“I did go to NEA, but they said there’s nothing they can do if the smell comes from inside the house. They only deal with matters happening outside the home.”
“I’ve also emailed MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) for help since I’ve seen him leaving the house while wearing the blue uniform, asking them to step in and take Shi-jie to task. But their reply to me was that they don’t get involved with private matters,” Faye explains.
The reply after Faye sent an email to Ng Eng Han for assistance (Image: Faye)

The Community Mediation Centre sessions

As with most neighbourly disputes, the first, most approachable and immediate cause of action would be to attend a mediation session at the Community Mediation Centre (CMC). The CMC is an agency with the Ministry of Law created under section 3 of the Community Mediation Centres act with the aim of providing an informal, friendly, and efficient way to settle inter-personal social and community disputes between people.
The outcome of the first mediation session in 2012 was that Faye’s mum would agree to withdraw the complaint made against Shi-jie and decide to ‘let bygones be bygones and be good neighbours’. Still, that did little to coerce Shi-jie to stop the assault against Faye and her family. Vulgarities kept being lobbied to the family, and the verbal abuse towards Faye did not abate.
A second mediation session three years later, in April 2015, was arranged after Faye’s mum decided to file a magistrate complaint against Shi-jie. This time, an email sent to the Prime Minister’s Office requesting assistance prompted CMC to extend the invitation to mediate.
Again, a settlement agreement from that mediation was drawn up and accepted. This time around, the terms were that both parties agree not to interfere in each other’s affairs, not walk past each other’s unit unless absolutely necessary, and exercise care to ensure that there is no consistent excessive noise from their units that may disturb each other. Shi-jie would also advise his mother not to hurl any strong language against Faye or her family.
Similarly, as before, the settlement agreement had no effect on Shi-jie and his mother, who, mere weeks later, continued their daily barrage of verbal insults, expletives, and banging throughout the night.

The CDRT trial that wasn’t

“At the pre-trial conference at the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT), the presiding judge said there was no point for me to proceed to the official CDRT hearing because I will definitely lose due to insufficient evidence,” Faye shares, frustration mounting in her voice.
Faye decided to go the CDRT route in July 2020 on the advice of HDB and the Singapore Police Force (SPF), hoping this final legal move would put an end to her suffering.
Image: Faye
According to the Singapore Courts website, the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) hear disputes under the Community Disputes Resolution Act (CDRA) between neighbours involving acts of unreasonable interference with the enjoyment or use of places of residence. The pre-trial conference allows the parties to resolve their dispute amicably before bringing the case officially to trial.
If found guilty, the judge may grant, amongst other things, an order of injunction, damages or apology. Suppose the respondent fails to comply with the order. In that case, they may be subject to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both. In the case of a continuing offence, the respondent will be imposed a further fine not exceeding S$1,000 for every day or part of a day during which the violation continues after conviction but not exceeding S$10,000 in total.
This was where Faye found herself stuck in a legal conundrum with no possible way forward. At the pre-trial conference, the judge told her that even if there is a legal exclusion order enforced, Shi-jie can still breach it, thus further dragging this issue out. The pre-trial, he says, was the best way to end things amicably.
“So I withdrew,” Faye explains, “because I know there is no progress from the pre-trial conference. The judge is also unwilling to move me to the next stage and insists that I will lose with the current evidence. When I asked him what evidence I needed, he refused to tell me citing the need for him to remain impartial.”
“I felt very disgusted when I saw Shi-Jie at the pre-trial conference at the CDRT,” Faye recalls, her face scrunched up in annoyance. “He looks like a normal person. I remember the judge saying he looks like a nice person, and I look like a nice person too.”
During the pre-trial conference, the judge asked Shi-jie what he was hitting—what was all the noise he was making. “He said sometimes there are caterpillars in the house, so he hits them. Other times he alleges that needs to shift his furniture, which is obviously a lie.”
The banging on a weekend afternoon; 0:02 and 1:16 (Video: Claire)

The 22 police reports

To date, Faye and her mother have filed 22 police reports against Shi-jie and his mother. The earliest documented was in 2011, with the latest one being filed in 2021. Many others exist, though these were not kept or adequately documented.
The police reports are crucial in the grander scheme of things as they put in clearer perspective the type of harassment Faye and her family faced for over a decade.
When asked for comments on the problems Faye is facing, a spokesperson from the Singapore Police Force declined to comment on account that “Police investigations are confidential in nature”.
Of note is a report filed on 11 June 2016 at Hougang Neighbourhood Police Post. Filed by Faye’s mother, the report stated that while she was watering her plants along her corridor, Shi-jie ‘walked behind me and purposely bumped onto my butt area’, causing her to fall forward. The report went on to say that ‘I (she) shouted at him for his behaviour, but he ignored me and left’.
“I can say that there is zero support from the government, our MP, and the grassroots leaders. It’s such a disgrace especially since I thought I’m in a reputable Town Council.”
Amongst the 22 police reports, almost half were reports made due to verbal assaults lobbied against Faye and her family. Incidents of expletives hurled and insults in Hokkien lobbied were commonplace and, in many ways, were the least of the issues. However, one can imagine the type of toll that could take if exchanged almost daily.
An instance of the type of insults the family received was laid out in another report filed on 4 July 2014. It was 10.30 a.m. and Faye had just reached home when Shi-jie’s mother shouted across the corridor, calling Faye a ‘bastard and crazy dog’ in Teochew.
Other more micro passive-aggressive gestures, many caught on CCTV, include pulling the leaves of their potted plants in broad daylight, stealing a pair of slippers, and observing the family members from behind a wall at the void deck.
They may seem inconsequential, but, as with most micro-aggressions, it gnaws at you slowly but surely until you don’t even realise the wound is inflicted.

The neighbour upstairs: Claire and Joel’s story

Upstairs, newlyweds Claire and Joel greet a colleague and me warmly and offer us a glass of water. I noticed a framed picture of two bulls on the floor upon entering. It looks completely out of place in Claire’s and Joel’s home—spartanly furnished, walls knocked down to facilitate an open floor plan, and whatever little home decorations they have, kept to a minimum.
“It’s on the advice of a Feng Shui master we consulted,” Joel explained when I asked about the bulls. “He said that the pictures will keep the noise from Shi-jie downstairs to a minimum.” Did it work, I asked. “I mean, the sound is softer now,” Joel shares as Claire nods fervently in agreement. “So, I guess, yes?”
Claire and Joel started living together in this newly purchased house in September of last year. Joel moved in first in August and was joined by Claire a month later after tying the knot.
Still, it was only in the middle of the month, on 13 September, that the couple started hearing a loud and persistent banging occurring throughout the night. In an email they shared with me addressed to their Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Darryl David, the couple “tolerated the noise for a week as we assumed it was a one-off situation.”
A week later, and realising that the knocking sound was not abating, Claire and Joel started to keep timesheet records of when the knocking noises began and when they stopped. They also sent over several video clips filmed from within their master bedroom of the sounds they heard.
The banging Claire captured from her room at 2.53am. The banging can be heard at 0:07, 0:12, and 1:25. (Video: Claire)

“We were convinced that the noise was coming from the rooftop,” Joel says. “So we kept asking the Town Council and EMSU to send engineers down to check if the noise was due to the recent installation of solar panels. A representative even stayed in the master bedroom to observe the sound.”
After the representative acknowledged that there were knocking sounds heard from the master bedroom and the adjoining room, they sent engineers up to the rooftop again to check the lift and the water tank, but to no avail—they simply cannot verify what the noise was.
It was only after a Town Council staff spoke to residents on the 10th, 11th, and 12th floor of the block that they suspected the noise was coming from one of the units on the 11th floor.
The shared corridor of Shi-jie’s and Faye’s unit. (Image: Rice Media)

The confrontation

It all culminated one fateful night on 30 November 2021 at 2.53 a.m. Unable to tolerate the noise nuisance anymore, Joel and a fellow resident, Alice, from the opposite block decided to go down to the unit to confront Shi-jie about the knocking noise bothering them at all times of the day and night.
“When I approached the unit, Shi-jie’s mother was at the door while Shi-jie lingered at the back. I asked both of them why they were making so much noise, but both denied doing anything.”
Shi-jie’s mother went on to tell Joel that he had no right to be here in front of their house, and neither did he have the authority to record the exchange on his mobile phone.
Worried that the tense situation would escalate, Joel brought Alice down to the void deck to discuss the issue only to be joined by Shi-jie mere minutes later.
“Shi-jie said we don’t have any evidence that he was the one making all that noise and not to talk nonsense,” Joel recounts. “I told him that we don’t need evidence and that we know it’s him. He simply brushed us aside and walked away.”

Baby plans on pause

As newlyweds, Claire and Joel are planning to have a baby, but given the current situation they’re in, they’re now seriously reconsidering that decision. “The MOP (minimum occupation period), as you know, is five years. So if we have a baby next year, then will my baby have to tolerate this noise for four years? That’s not very fair right?” Joel explains.
Claire and Joel also shared how disappointed they feel towards the Ang Mo Kio grassroots community of the estate. “I can say that there is zero support from the government, our MP, and the grassroots leaders. It’s such a disgrace especially since I thought I’m in a reputable Town Council,” Joel elaborates.
One of the MPs for Ang Mo Kio town council is Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.
He continues, “I previously stayed in an estate run by Worker’s Party and they were incredibly responsive when it came to residents’ feedback. Within two working days they would contact us, tell us what they intend to do, and assist us the best they can throughout the whole situation. We feel heard, you know?”
“And here?” I asked. “Here, the grassroots are not supportive. At all. I don’t see them visiting the unit, visiting us to update on the next steps, or sending the residents here reminders against excessive noise. Nothing.”
RICE has reached out to Mr David and Ang Mo Kio town council for comments but they have not replied our email as of the time this article is published.
A potential buyer looking to buy a unit at the block (Image: Rice Media)

“My life is just one huge joke.”

Something about Faye and her mom perplexes me during our interviews through Zoom, Telegram, and in-person interviews.
“How are you so positive about this whole issue?” I asked. “There’s nothing I can do, right? Faye replies in her typical jovial manner. “So might as well just be happy. After a while, I feel like my life is one huge joke.”
“It helps that I’m quite a deep sleeper although when it gets too unbearable, I will still stir in the middle of the night,” Faye admits when I ask how she can sleep through the night with the constant banging permeating through the wall. The intensity of the sound is such that it can be heard very clearly even from the multi-purpose hall at ground level, a good 90 metres away.
“I can’t even sleep in on weekends because he will be at home.”
Moving out isn’t an option for the family for now. Given the financial constraints, if they were to move, the preferred option would be to purchase a government-subsidised Build-to-order (BTO) flat. It’s a cheaper option, given the age of Faye’s parents, which means they cannot take up the maximum loan usually accorded to younger applicants.
However, since this would be the second time the family applied for a BTO unit, they would have to pay a hefty resale levy of S$107,300 (as of July 2015, when the appeal letter of waiver to HDB was sent). This amount must be paid in full and upfront before the keys can be collected.
The good news was that HDB was willing to ‘explore the possibility of allowing them to pay a lower resale levy of about S$57,900 in one cash lump sum instead’. However, this was subject to special approval because it was a significant deviation from HDB’s usual policy.
HDB’s reply to Faye’s request for levy waiver in 2015 (Image: Faye)
The reduced resale levy, while appreciated, was of little concession to Faye and her family, especially since moving homes would also mean spending more money on renovations, however minor, to make the place liveable.

A surprise visit

Recently, on Thursday, 12 May 2022, Mr David, along with representatives from HDB and SPF, paid a visit to Faye. “He said he came out here to visit me because I was unhappy with him,” Faye replied over Telegram when I asked about the visit.
I feel compelled to mention this visit because it was the first time that a Member of Parliament (MP) had ever visited Faye’s home since her mother launched a series of complaints and feedback regarding the noise nuisance by Shi-jie back in 2011. One decade and two MPs later, finally, the story of an inconsiderate neighbour in Hougang gained enough traction online to warrant a visit.
Image: Faye
SPF, Faye tells me, shared that they were powerless to do anything to Shi-jie because the noise comes from inside his house and not outside. The oft-cited ‘no noise after 10.30pm’ rule applies only to public spaces.
According to Faye, Mr David took pains to ensure Faye knew that “he took time out to see her amidst his busy schedule”. Still, the visit felt rushed because Mr David visited Faye’s home moments before his Meet-the-people session for the week.
“When he asked me what they (HDB, SPF, Town Council) can do for me, I said fine Shi-jie. Charge him. Evict him.” To that, Mr David said currently, there’s no law that the government can use to compel Shi-jie to stop.
“I told him to table it out in Parliament. There are so many loopholes that would allow someone like Shi-jie to carry on causing such prolonged nuisance to this entire block of residents without so much of a consequence,” she says.
Needless to say, the moment the authorities left, Shi-jie resumed his nightly banging as if absolutely nothing had happened.
Captured video after Mr David left (Video: Faye)

Forgotten and ignored by government ministries

More than just a frustrating case of one man and the noise he inflicts on an entire HDB block at odd hours of the night and day, what drew me to this story was witnessing the utter helplessness of the various Singapore government agencies in helping Faye and her neighbours gain back control of the peaceful domestic life they deserve.
In a country as highly regulated and efficient as Singapore, it boggles the mind that one man is allowed and given a free pass to harass his neighbours consistently and without fear of reprisal for eleven long years. This free rein is perplexing given the rise of neighbourly disputes in the press—and these are only the ones that were reported. Many like Faye’s, I’m certain, have gone unnoticed, possibly due to homeowners preferring to let sleeping dogs lie and hope that Singapore’s signature long arm of the law will eventually catch up.
Ultimately, the question government agencies such as HDB, SPF, Ministry for National Development, and the Town Council need to answer is what does it mean to have a home? Should a home be a place for undisturbed rest? If it is, then the neighbours of this Hougang estate have long relinquished that expectation.
Should a home be a place where occupants feel safe? Certainly, safety does not require a person to video-record the short 10 metres journey past a neighbour’s home for fear of untoward retaliation.
Safety encompasses several aspects—some physical, but most excruciating are those that plague the mind. What are life and living if coming home every day means steeling yourself for a night of unprovoked assault, desperately lulling yourself to sleep, and hoping that tonight will be different—that tonight will be a good night.
CCTV capture of the first time Mr David and several representatives visited Faye’s unit (Video: Faye)

Prolonged noise nuisance is still harassment

What’s worth remembering is that neighbourly disputes don’t have to be bold and unabashed, involve water being sprayed in one’s direction, orchids unscrupulously plucked with nary a provocation or interrupting a prayer session with a gong. What’s more insidious than one major act of harassment are several small gestures of assault unravelled over years, serving as a reminder that there’s only one person in control of this situation—and it’s not you.
“I just want the government to install a CCTV outside the unit and catch him in the act,” Claire said when I asked what outcome they hope to get from sharing their story with me. “That is the concrete evidence we need to charge him for nuisance in the court.”
Claire and Joel want Shi-jie and his mother to know that there’s a CCTV camera watching them every day. “HDB should be taking care of this. They’re the landlord. Or send someone to observe what’s happening for at least 24 hours, so they understand what we’re going through.”
For Faye, understandably, the whole thing has been affecting the mental health of everyone at home. “It’s really sad that I can only get undisturbed, peaceful sleep when I’m away from home. Right now, I just want to get proper rest. That’s all.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Health insurance shifted to new plan twice, with premium spikes​

June 9, 2022

In early 2015, my family of three bought a health insurance family plan which had an annual premium of $5,000.
We were transferred to a different family plan in 2017, and the annual premium increased progressively to $11,500 this year.
It was up for renewal in March this year, and we were moved again to a different plan. To our shock, the annual premium more than doubled, to $25,000.
We made anxious calls to the insurance company, but were told to take it or leave it.
We will likely have no other option if we reject the new plan, as other insurance companies will probably reject us due to pre-existing conditions. My wife had breast cancer in early 2018.
Should insurance companies be able to act in this way? There may be other people who are in a similar predicament as my family.

William Loh Hong Lee


Alfrescian (Inf)

Elderly woman lived with dead son for a week in Commonwealth flat​


The police had to call in a locksmith to enter the flat, as the woman did not respond to knocking on the door. PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

Tay Hong Yi

June 22, 2022

SINGAPORE - Laundry was left hanging outside the three-room flat for a week.
It was a departure from the daily routine that neighbours knew about a private mother-son pair who lived in a fifth-floor flat in Block 85, Commonwealth Close.
On Tuesday (June 21) afternoon, the 54-year-old man, said to be the son, was found dead in the flat.
He had been dead for around a week, while his mother in her 80s grieved, according to Chinese-language publication Shin Min Daily News.
"A pair of leather shoes was also left to dry in the sun for a whole week, yet he never took them in, which I found strange," fifth-floor resident Boey Sook Kam, 68, told The Straits Times on Wednesday afternoon.
The part-time cleaner, who lives with her son and husband, said the man, who was about 1.8m tall, would hang laundry to dry every morning at around 8.30am.
Occasionally she would see him leave the flat and come back with food or groceries.

His mother would come out of the flat to water her plants in the corridor.
The police had to call in a locksmith to enter the flat, as his mother did not respond to knocking on the door, according to the Shin Min report.
Wails were reportedly heard when the police managed to gain entry, and found the man lying on the living room floor.

Ms Boey, who has lived in her flat for 27 years, said both mother and son kept to themselves and avoided interacting with neighbours.
She added that she had occasionally caught the whiff of a foul stench when walking to the lift lobby in the last two days, but thought nothing of it.
Most other residents on the same floor, as well as those above and below, told The Straits Times they had smelt nothing amiss and only found out about the death when six police cars and an ambulance arrived at the block on Tuesday afternoon.

Police officers at the fifth-floor flat in Block 85 Commonwealth Close on June 21, 2022. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
But a next-door neighbour, who declined to be identified, said that both she and her husband had detected a stench coming from the unit for about a week.
She added that her husband, who was at work when ST visited the block, called the police on Monday as he found the smell unbearable.
"At first, I thought there was a rat infestation or a sewage pipe leak, but the smell only got stronger," said the neighbour, who has lived in the block for a decade.
The Singapore Police Force said it was alerted to a case of unnatural death at Block 85 at 12.38pm on Tuesday.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic.
Police do not suspect foul play, and investigations are ongoing.

A woman who identified herself as the dead man's sister was present at the flat on Wednesday and said the family was still in shock.
Looking distraught, she requested privacy to grieve and declined further comment.
A grassroots leader in the Buona Vista ward of Tanjong Pagar GRC, under which Block 85 falls, said community leaders in the ward had offered assistance to the family.
Mr Thomas Phun, chairman of the Buona Vista Citizens' Consultative Committee, added: "In our regular community engagements (such as weekly house visits and Meet-the-People sessions), we encourage our residents to look out for another, as well as to inform us if they know of anyone who may need assistance."


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Residents in some places at the mercy of high coffee shop prices​

June 24, 2022

Mr Jonathan Wong's contention that we should let sky-high transaction prices of coffee shops be, as these are purely commercial decisions that would be tempered by supply and demand, is an oversimplification of the real issues (Not Govt's business to intervene in commercial decisions, June 22).
HDB incorporated neighbourhood coffee shops into estates to serve the social purpose of giving nearby residents easy access to affordable meals.
In places where there are many households and no alternative coffee shops nearby, the residents are at the mercy of the high prices charged by the coffee shop stalls to recoup the high prices paid in rent.
And when one coffee shop starts charging high prices, it might embolden nearby coffee shops to raise their prices as well. The losers in the end are the residents.
In the days when there was less wealth inequality, a hawker would be very wary of raising his prices for fear of losing customers because everyone was very price-sensitive.
With rising wealth disparity, there is now a sufficient pool of willing payers for raised prices, leaving the lower-income groups out in the cold. And we're talking food here, not luxuries.
We are living in a country, not a pure commercial entity, and every person must feel that he has a place in it. In areas where the lower-income feel powerless to fight rich asset holders, the authorities should step in to look after their interests.

Peh Chwee Hoe


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Many seniors rely on hawker centres, affordable food prices​

July7, 2022

I share Forum writer Muhammad Dzul Azhan Sahban's concerns about rising food prices (Stallholders, consumers can take steps to mitigate rising food prices, July 4).
Singapore is a rapidly ageing society. As seniors age, they are less able to cook for themselves due to physical deterioration. Many live alone, which leaves hawker food as their only choice.
While the Government is building more hawker centres to ensure residents have access to affordable food (HDB ensures a good supply of eating houses with affordable food options, June 30), it will take time for them to be ready.
For now, privately owned coffee shops are the best alternative for some seniors who live too far away from a hawker centre, even if the food is pricier.
Landlords raising coffee shop stall rental rates seem to go against efforts to promote the hawker trade in Singapore. I see coffee-shop stalls changing hands often.
Perhaps the Housing Board could consider taking back the leases of privately owned coffee shops. Lower rental would help hawkers make a living, and provide seniors unable to cook for themselves with affordable food.

Ang Chiew Leng