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Elderly female cleaner punched in foodcourt

Husband says: 'It hurts my heart to see my wife beaten like that'. -TNP
Fabian Koh

Thu, Jun 07, 2012
The New Paper

Left: Mr Ong Sim Ho, husband of Madam Lim Geok Kim and also a cleaner at the Kopitiam foodcourt in Tampines Mall, showing how his wife was punched. Right: Madam Lim Geok Kim

She had told the foodcourt patron not to leave the used trays on the floor.

For that, 72-year-old cleaner Lim Geok Kim got a volley of vulgarities from the woman and a punch in the face.

The incident took place at the Kopitiam outlet at Tampines Mall on Sunday afternoon and left the elderly cleaner with a cut near her left eyebrow.

One of her colleagues, Madam Poh Beng Chu, 52, saw the attack and told The New Paper that the patron had earlier called for the cleaners to clear her table.

But they could not attend to her as there were many patrons and it was a busy day, she said.

"She (the patron) then impatiently put the used trays on the ground. Madam Lim went to tell her not to do that, as we would get scolded by our manager," said Madam Poh.

According to her, the woman, whom they described as big and plump, then unexpectedly started scolding Madam Lim in English, calling her "stupid" and using vulgarities.

Madam Lim walked towards the tray return station and told the other staff about it.

The woman, who was with a man and another woman, allegedly became even more aggressive and stomped after her from her table about 10m away.

She allegedly continued to hurl abuse at Madam Lim and then suddenly threw a punch at the elderly cleaner, said Madam Poh.

Madam Lim suffered a small cut near her left eyebrow and it bled.

More than 10 patrons rushed to split the two up and held the female patron back, while Madam Lim was escorted to the office to get her wound treated.

Someone then called the police, who arrived and spoke to the parties involved.

A police spokesman confirmed that they received a call at 2.05pm.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it sent an ambulance to the scene and took one woman with bruises and a small cut on her forehead to Changi General Hospital.

Foodstall holders told TNP that the patron was about 1.8m tall and appeared to be in her 30s.

One of the workers from the chicken rice stall, who declined to be named, claimed: "To begin with, she broke the 'no outside food' rule of this foodcourt. She wanted the table cleared just so she could eat the food she brought in."

Madam Lim's husband, Mr Ong Sim Ho, 75, also a cleaner at the foodcourt, told TNP that what the customer did was not right.

"It hurts my heart to see my wife beaten like that," said Mr Ong in Hokkien.

He said that Madam Lim is expected to be discharged from hospital today.

During the commotion, Mr Ong was at the other side of the foodcourt cleaning tables and could not reach his wife's side in time.

"The woman was wearing a ring, and the blow caused my wife's eyebrow area to bleed and swell," he said. "I'm so glad people stepped in to help her, if not, I don't know what would've happened."

He added that his wife is definitely returning to work. "This episode is not going to keep her away," he said.

The couple have worked there together for close to two years and live in a three-room flat near Tampines Mall.

They have three sons and a daughter.

A regular at the foodcourt, Madam Qiu Zheng, a 78-year-old retiree, said she recognised Madam Lim as she provided "great service".

She said: "She's very good. She will smile and greet me whenever I eat here, and she's never glum."


She was also angry that the petite Madam Lim was punched.

Ms Goh Wee Ling, the corporate communications manager of Kopitiam Investment, told TNP that it would leave it to the police to handle the case.

She said: "On our end, we cannot condone the use of violence under any circumstances."

She added that there were proper channels for customers to go through if there was anything they were dissatisfied with.

"We wish to remind customers to approach our outlet managers if they need assistance or want to give feedback," she said.

According to Madam Poh, unreasonable customers are not uncommon in their line of work.

"You can't reason with them. Whether you talk to them nicely or not, they will still give you a black face," she said.

"We are not dirt. We work here. We don't owe anyone a living. We even ask nicely whether we can clear your plates before clearing them."

Fortunately there are still some who will be appreciative and say "thank you" when their tables are cleared, Madam Poh said.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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