Sunday 9 June 2013

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin shares experiences: 'I've been misled before'

By Foo Jie Ying, The New Paper, 8 Jun 2013

As an MP, one of his responsibilities is to make sure the residents in his constituency are well-taken care of.

While far and few in between, it becomes inevitable that a handful end up taking advantage of the helping hand the MP for Marine Parade GRC extends to them.

On Thursday afternoon, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin shared one such encounter, with a Mr Z, on his Facebook page and contrasted him with a self-sufficient rag-and-bone man.

Mr Z first approached the Acting Manpower Minister for help at a Meet-The-People session (MPS).

Mr Tan, who described him as "a youngish middle aged man", said the resident had painted his situation in a sorry light.

Mr Z's cancer-stricken wife was skipping treatment as they could not make ends meet. His daughter was diagnosed with a serious heart problem and his son's frequent nosebleeds and headaches were a constant worry, wrote Mr Tan on his Facebook page.

Touched by his plight, Mr Tan provided the resident with immediate assistance - groceries, vouchers, ez-link card - and had even tried to help him find a job.

But a surprise house visit by Mr Tan's colleagues saw Mr Z at home playing computer games even though he was physically fit. There were many electrical appliances in his house as well.

Mr Tan found out through the Community Development Council that the resident was actually using his family's medical conditions to "elicit sympathy".

In the same post, Different Stories, Mr Tan mentioned another resident, Mr Chia, a 73-year-old rag-and-bone man he saw on the streets.

Mr Chia makes up to $30 a day from items picked up from dustbins, newspapers and other "barang barang" collected from residents.

When asked if he needed help, he flatly refused, saying he did not want to be of any trouble.

While the encounter with Mr Chia left him "edified and encouraged", Mr Tan had stronger words for people like Mr Z.

"Many stories are tossed around these days. It is hard to discern on face value what is real and what is not," Mr Tan wrote on his Facebook page.

"(Mr Z's story) is not the first nor will it be the last story of this kind. I've been misled before. But as always, if in doubt, on the ground, we err on the side of being generous. But that is where follow-ups will help us ensure we either do more or do less."

Sound genuine

When asked about the cases, Mr Tan told The New Paper yesterday: "(We) can't prevent people from cheating. Some are very practiced. (They) sound very genuine and hop from MP to MP."

He added that he is sometimes a victim of their lies until he is shown the case history.

While Mr Tan wants to make sure the needy receive help, he does not want to "create dependency unnecessarily".

"I have seen how some have just begun to depend on handouts instead of helping themselves. These are folks who we have provided job offers, but don't want to work," he said.

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