[PROBLEMS: The mother (R) hasn't worked since she broke her wrist after falling while cleaning a fan. Her son (C) suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder that leaves him weak and sickly. ]
By Ng Tze Yong
A YOUTH with low IQ has been arrested by police after flying into a rage at a Meet-the-People Session (MPS), upset at what he felt was his MP's cold-shoulder treatment of his mother's financial plight.
The 17-year-old boy hoisted an aluminium foldable chair over his head and slammed it against a glass door seconds after walking out of MP Cynthia Phua's Serangoon North office with his mother.
The boy, who has been released on bail, has been told to report back to the police on 12 May, where he may be charged with committing a rash act.
The offence carries a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500.
The youth cannot be named because of impending court proceedings.
This is the third incident in recent months involving MPs and their constituents.
The boy and his mother, 53, are familiar faces to the grassroots volunteers at the MPS.
The unwed mother with Primary 6 education gets by on a $400 monthly salary as a part-time cleaner.
He attended a special school and suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder that renders him weak and sickly.
The mother said that things went from bad to worse in November 2004 when the boy's father disappeared and stopped paying the $300 monthly maintenance due to her.
As a result, she visited the MPS about once a month for the past few years to request for various kinds of financial aid.
FORGIVE ME: Two days ago, the mother returned to the MPS alone
and with a handwritten letter of apology from her son.
January this year saw a crisis unfold in their lives, when the mother broke her wrist after falling off a chair while cleaning a fan. She hasn't worked since.
She said the HDB was then in the middle of repossessing her flat and giving her a rental unit, but she was unable to pay the $138 in rental deposit and stamp duty.
So last Monday, she went to the office at Block 125, Serangoon North Ave 1, where MP Lim Hwee Hua holds her MPS, hoping to have her sign an appeal letter for HDB.
But that day, Mrs Lim, who is also a minister in the Prime Minister's Office, was abroad. Fellow Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua stood in for her.
The mother's request was granted - Madam Phua signed the letter - but mother and son left fuming, claiming that Madam Phua had put them down.
She claimed that shortly after they had entered the office, Madam Phua asked her son a series of questions:
'She asked him, 'Who are you? What are you doing? Why aren't you working?' she claimed.
The mother said she wanted to explain her son's condition, but wasn't given a chance.
'I felt like we were being scolded,' she said.
The meeting ended after two or three minutes, she said.
As they were walking out, the son snapped.
His outburst with the chair - two blows against the glass door, which didn't break - was 'strong enough to get someone killed', said the Serangoon PAP branch secretary, Mr Poon Mun Wai.
As grassroots volunteers scrambled to calm down the teenager, his mother begged a neighbour to whisk him home immediately.
Later that night, the police arrived at their flat and arrested him. He was released on bail at about 1am.
When contacted, Madam Phua contradicted the mother's version of events, saying she felt that their conversation 'went well'.
She said: 'Like any normal case at MPS, I have to try to understand the case first of all...
'I had to ask some pointed questions about his employment status to understand the root cause of the problem, so that I can be more effective in helping them.'
During the one week after the incident, the mother pondered what to do.
She got her son to shave off his shoulder-length orange-dyed hair to get rid of bad luck.
For days, she said, he couldn't find the courage to face himself in the mirror. He also decided to put on hold a long-time dream to audition for Singapore Idol.
Two days ago, she returned to the MPS again alone and clutching a handwritten letter of apology from her son.
'Please fodgive me for what I dad I am sinelely truely I'm sorry (sic),' the teenager had written in big, neat handwriting.
The apology, however, was not acceptable to Mrs Lim, who was back chairing the MPS after returning from abroad.
'I made it very clear to (the mother) that this is unacceptable behaviour. It is not justifiable in any circumstance. There's no excuse to be violent,' Mrs Lim told The New Paper.
She also explained that she was not in a position to excuse or forgive the boy.
'I was not present and the police are investigating into the matter. I believe the police will take into consideration the mitigating factors,' said Mrs Lim.
'From what I understand, Madam Phua was being very motherly and very helpful inside the room with them.'
Mrs Lim's response surprised the mother, who had spoken fondly of her throughout the interview with The New Paper just a day before.
She said: 'I know what my son did was wrong. But how can I not defend him? He is my son, he is not well and he has a problem with his temper.
'I don't want him to go to jail and have his future ruined.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.