A Singaporean, who wished to withdraw his Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings to pay for the treatment of his beloved wife who is battling terminal cancer, has been forced to defend himself on social media after being bombarded with hateful comments accusing him of trying to stir s!@t and spreading fake news.

Last week, 47-year-old Mr Suriia Das revealed that his wife (also 47) is suffering from stage 4 ovarian cancer and that the CPF Board has declined to allow him to use his own savings that are in his Ordinary and Special accounts for his wife’s medical treatment.

Mr Suriia, who has a son, has been tirelessly caring for his wife since she was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. His wife, Mdm Sarojini Jayapal, has undergone chemotherapy and numerous procedures but is still battling for her life.

Through the years, Mr Suriia exhausted his savings and approached all avenues for help in paying for his wife’s hefty medical bills – he has approached parliamentarians and licensed moneylenders for help in saving his beloved wife.

Desperate and out of options, Mr Suriia approached the CPF Board and requested for the funds in his Ordinary and Special accounts to be transferred to his wife’s Medisave account. The funds in Mr Suriia’s Ordinary and Special accounts were accumulated from part of his salary over the course of his working life.

Human rights lawyer M Ravi took on the couple’s case pro bono and uploaded a video interview of Mr Suriia and Mdm Sarojini to social media. Mr Suriia said that they opted to seek treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (MEH) and Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) because the medical institutions “gave her the hope that she will survive”.

In response to the couple’s plight, the Ministry of Health and CPF Board released a joint statement on Friday (12 July) asserted that “misleading information” has been put out.

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Revealing that Mdm Sarojini received a poor prognosis from PCC and the National University Hospital (NUH), MOH and CPF Board said that the couple were told that Mdm Sarojini’s “cancer is not curable and her illness is terminal.”

MOH and CPF Board said that despite NUH’s offer of an open appointment date should they seek to transfer and take advantage of subsidised care, “Mdm Sarojini chose to continue treatment at PCC, which is a private institution, there is no government subsidy.”

MOH and CPF Board added that MediShield Life paid out about S$60,000 for Mdm Sarojini’s medical and hospitalisation bills and her additional private insurance coverage “has paid out over $300,000 to date, covering close to 90% of her medical bills at PCC and MEH” together with Medishield Life. The statement further asserted:

“Mdm Sarojini has also been receiving $1,100 per month under ElderShield and ElderShield supplement plans since October 2017, amounting to about $23,000. This has reduced the financial burden of her treatment over the past few years. Mdm Sarojini and Mr Suriia Das also withdrew about $9,000 from their MediSave accounts for her treatment.
“In 2017, Mdm Sarojini applied to withdraw all her CPF savings in her Ordinary and Special Accounts (of about $25,000). Based on PCC’s assessment that she was terminally ill, her application was approved. CPF Board’s Home Protection Scheme had also paid out $186,500 to fully redeem her outstanding mortgage loan.
“In sum, arising from Mdm Sarojini’s illness, CPF-allowed insurance schemes have paid out a total of about $510,000 to date, while $34,000 has been withdrawn from the CPF accounts of both Mdm Sarojini and Mr Suriia Das.
“We empathise deeply with the difficulties the couple is facing. We have done all we can to extend support to them through various schemes since 2017. We would like to emphasise again that subsidised care at NUH remains an option for the family. Should they face difficulties with their healthcare bills at NUH, they would be able to seek additional financial assistance from MediFund.”

In the comments section of the post and in response to news reports covering the MOH-CPF Board statement, several netizens accused the couple of being  “ungrateful”, “spreading falsehoods” and being “self entitled citizens”.

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Netizens expressed doubts about Mr Suriia’s side of the story and some even called on the couple to apologise to the Government since Singapore is apparently the only nation where they can get all the help they need.

Amidst the public bashing of the middle-aged couple, one particularly hateful comment stood out – one netizen took the opportunity to make a racist comment against the couple in the comments section of a Mothership article about the case. The netizen is apparently a “top fan” of the page:

Other netizens on social media have speculated that the hateful comments, particularly the racist comment about roti pratas, are possibly the handiwork of the PAP Internet Brigade.

Mr Suriia, however, was so unsettled by the negative views that he defended his actions on Facebook. Asserting that an NUH professor advised him to take his wife on a holiday instead of continuing her medical treatment, Mr Suriia reiterated that they only received hope at MEH.

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Accusing the CPF Board of turning the tables on him and making people think he is ungrateful, Mr Suriia urged the authority to consider releasing his savings to him before the age of 55 to use for his wife’s treatment on the grounds of compassion:

In a separate comment, directed at those who accuse him of spreading fake news, Mr Suriia said that such comments are hurtful and could make him and his wife lose hope in fighting for her life.

He also asked why CPF Board allows such hateful comments, asking his wife to give up her life, to proliferate on their public comments section:

In another comment, Mr Suriia appreciated the waiving of the HDB mortgage due to his wife’s illness but disputed the authority’s claim that it had contributed over half a million dollars to his wife’s treatment.

Asserting that CPF only paid S$60,000 based on medical grounds and the rest is from their own hard-earned Medisave savings and private AXA insurance, Mr Suriia called the CPF statement “misleading” and wrote:

CPF did not release any further clarification. The couple’s lawyer, however, updated on Monday (15 July) that the legal challenge that he filed against CPF Board on behalf of Mr Suriia “is now being amicably resolved with the Board.”

Mr M Ravi added: “We have informed the court at the Pre Trial Conference this morning that the case is being withdrawn. We would like to wish the couple the very best and will pray for recovery.” -/TISG