Sunday 5 June 2016

Singaporean woman verbally thrashes deaf and mute cleaner; highlights genetic flaw in local population

Deaf and mute foodcourt cleaner berated by woman intends to quit his job this month
Deaf and mute man says he is 'slightly hurt' by the scolding but has forgiven the woman
By Jeremy Koh, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2016

A cleaner who was yelled at by a woman in a foodcourt in an incident that has caught the public eye has said that he will quit his job.

Mr Png Lye Heng, 64, who is deaf and mute, told reporters yesterday in an interview, conducted through written questions and gestures, that he plans to quit his job at the Jem foodcourt this month as a result of the incident.

Mr Png said he was "slightly hurt" by the scolding but had forgiven the woman.

He said he has been working at the foodcourt for about a year, and does not find the work difficult and enjoys it. He will continue to work in this line, he said.

In the incident last Friday, a woman, who was identified by The New Paper as Ms Alice Fong, had shouted at Mr Png for clearing her food before she had finished her meal.

A video of what happened after, posted by Facebook user Euphemia Lee, showed the woman lashing out at a manager of the company providing cleaning services to the foodcourt. It went viral over the weekend.

She can be heard berating the 51-year-old manager: "If he's (the cleaner) deaf, ask him don't work, go home and sleep. That's for the Government to feed him, go and be a beggar! I don't care, he took my food!"

The video generated wide criticism of the woman's behaviour online, with many calling it shameful and disgraceful.

The manager captured in the film, who wanted to be known only as Steven, told The Straits Times that he had heard from Mr Png's colleagues that the latter intended to quit this month. Mr Png had not informed him of this yet, he said.

He confirmed that Mr Png had been working at the foodcourt for about one year.

Since the incident went public, Mr Png has been pointed at by some customers in the foodcourt, said Steven.

"Besides the reporters, even strangers have been pointing at him. It's not easy to have the public talking about you," he said.

He said the incident surprised him and that it was the first time he had encountered something like this. In the past, cleaners had accidentally cleared customers' food before they wanted them cleared, but such incidents were "settled on the spot", he said.

In Friday's incident, Steven said he apologised and offered to pay for Ms Fong's meal but she rejected his offer and continued remonstrating.

In an interview with Shin Min Daily News published on Sunday, Ms Fong said her remarks were uttered in anger, adding that she told Mr Png's supervisor it was "nothing personal" and she was simply "unhappy that he took my food away".

She said she was not the only party at fault in the incident, calling on Mr Png to wear a tag "so customers know that he is deaf and mute".

"I'm not a bad or evil person," she said, adding that she was having a flu and not feeling well that day.

Yesterday, in the interview at the Jem foodcourt just before he was due to knock off at 5pm, Mr Png told reporters that Ms Fong had taken a gift to his elder brother's house on Sunday.

Steven said Ms Fong called him on Sunday to apologise. He accepted her apology.

He said he had asked Mr Png before the incident if he wanted to wear a badge indicating his disability but Mr Png had refused.

Mr Png was the only deaf and mute staff member at the food court, said Steven, adding that the firm does not discriminate against people who are deaf and mute but assesses them based on their performance. The firm will continue to hire such workers, he said.

Steven said he is able to communicate in a basic way with Mr Png but another colleague is much better at communicating with him.

He said Mr Png was hard-working and patient with foodcourt customers. "Even after the incident, he still reports (to work) on time," he said.


Caught on video: Woman rants against 'deaf and mute' cleaner at Jem foodcourt
By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 4 Jun 2016

A woman seen railing at a cleaner and his manager at the Jem foodcourt was criticised by netizens after a video of the incident was posted online on Friday (June 3) evening.

The woman was apparently provoked after the cleaner tried to clear away her food before she finished her lunch, said Ms Euphemia Lee, who witnessed the incident and posted the video on Facebook.

The woman shouted at the cleaner and at the manager who came to apologise on behalf of the cleaner.

Most of the unnamed woman's angry words could not be made out in the video lasting almost three minutes but she raised her voice at times, shouting things like: "Go and be a beggar, I don't care, you took my food!"

Ms Lee posted the video at around 7.30pm on Friday, and it was viewed 734,000 times and shared close to 20,000 times by Saturday afternoon.


Ms Lee, a 30-year-old business owner, was having lunch at the Jurong East shopping mall foodcourt when she came across the incident.

She told The Straits Times she turned around when the woman raised her voice at the cleaner.

"I didn't see what happened at first, but probably the uncle was just trying to do his job. People were waiting and he may have been a little too enthusiastic."

On Facebook she wrote: "She abruptly exploded into cursing and violent upper body actions. She then told him that he should go and die and should not be given a coffin."

Ms Lee said the cleaner walked away when the woman shouted at him, and she appeared to calm down and continued eating. But when her husband returned, she insisted that her husband bring the cleaner to their table so he could apologise to her.

The manager then came to apologise on behalf of the employee. The online video shows her scolding the manager, who is in a white t-shirt.

The cleaner, who is not in the video, was an elderly man who looked to be in his 70s and walked with a limp, Ms Lee said.

The manager told the woman that the cleaner was deaf and mute and so could not apologise, but the woman was relentless, Ms Lee said.

Ms Lee, who was disgusted by the woman's behaviour, said no one intervened as the manager seemed to be handling the situation.

But she decided to put the video online as "the things she said were... too much for us to turn a blind eye and forget about it".

The manager, who did not want to be named, told Shin Min Daily News that after he apologised, the angry woman continued to berate him for about 15 to 20 minutes.

He said that the woman could have been more understanding, but hopes the matter will die down.

He will not take any disciplinary action against the cleaner, who has been working there for a year, he said.

The video has been widely shared, and some netizens have suggested that the irate woman is a grassroots leader at Nee Soon GRC, but the Residents' Committee (RC) for Nee Soon Central Zone 1 has denied this.

The RC wrote on its Facebook page: "We note there is a post on facebook going around that the lady in the picture is a member of our committee. We would like to clarify that she is neither a member nor volunteer of our committee."

Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and Social and Family Development, Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim clarified in a Facebook post on Saturday evening: "What's a fact however, is that the lady in the photograph is not a member of Nee Soon Central Zone 1 RC or a grassroots leader in Nee Soon Central. She's a Nee Soon resident who has taken part in events organised for her community."

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC.

The Straits Times has reached out to the foodcourt operator Koufu for comments.

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