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OPINION | If we respect our Singapore elders, then why many still doing backbreaking jobs, and other stories in review

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"While the Government has often said that many old people want to work, is this true? On the part of the general populace, can we do more?" — Ghui, OPINION

The Chinese New Year period is a time for the family. This past week, the heartwarming but bittersweet story of a man who said that he searches for photos of his late grandmother on Google Maps every time he misses her during the Lunar New Year season touched the hearts of many viewers. The photo is from 840 Hougang Central from February 2009 and shows an elderly lady carrying bags and an umbrella. The video has since been viewed over 100,000 times and resonated with many.

Yet, as we all gush over this touching account, there remain many elderly and lonely people in Singapore. Old people doing back-breaking work way past retirement age is sadly a relatively common sight in Singapore. We are a country that respects our elders. But yet, old people doing manual labour is still a sorry sight that has not decreased. Why is that?

While the Government has often said that many old people want to work, is this true? On the part of the general populace, can we do more?

For example, how often do we stop to thank the old workers who clean up after us in coffee shops? Even if we cannot change their financial situation, we can still acknowledge them and make them feel like a part of society. Or, how often do we give a tip to the elderly cleaners? In the same way, we tip our servers at restaurants, shouldn’t we also give a tip to those who keep our public services clean?

Can more of our state’s resources be allocated to help alleviate poverty among the elderly?

Yet, it would seem that quite a lot of resources have been allocated to issues that seem like non-issues.

For example, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam said that the police are still investigating the conduct of Workers’ Party (WP) leaders Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap over the matter of ex-WP member of parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan lying in Parliament. In discussing this matter, it is important to remember that we have already had a full-blown inquiry into this by the Committee of Privileges over a year ago. It is also imperative to mention that it was Ms Khan who told the lie. Not Mr Manap or Mr Singh. With this in mind, is there still anything to investigate?

After all, don’t we have bigger problems in the country?

Singapore is facing inflation, like the rest of the world. The costs of housing and food are all increasing as the country faces rising fuel prices and Goods & Services Tax (GST) hikes. Amid these rising costs of living bread and butter issues, shouldn’t more resources be utilised to solve these problems over investigating something that, in reality, is already well past its expiry date?

As the saying goes, why flog a dead horse?

Further, if the police are still investigating Mr Manap and Mr Singh, why aren’t the police investigating Ivan Lim? While the People’s Action Party (PAP) has cleared Ivan Lim of any wrongdoing, does the party have the legitimacy to clear Mr Lim of corruption allegations? Surely, this should be a police case?

Are we allocating state resources effectively?

Further, one has to wonder – had Mr Lim been from the WP as opposed to the PAP, would he have been referred to the police?

Talking of the PAP, MP for Macpherson Single Member Constituency Tin Pei Ling has garnered press attention for joining Grab Singapore as its director of public affairs and policy. Many netizens were concerned that her appointment with Grab could lead to a conflict of interest with her MP duties.

As an MP, Ms Tin would have an influence in shaping the policies that affect companies in Singapore. Would Grab Singapore enjoy an undue benefit from having a serving MP among its employees?

Ms Tin addressed these concerns in a somewhat vague manner saying the following:

“I am absolutely clear that when I am discharging my duties in my capacity as an MP, my constituents and Singapore come first. When I am working on behalf of Grab, I will have to ensure that Grab’s interests are safeguarded.”

But if we were to dissect this statement, it is about as clear as mud. She is saying both duties are important, but what if there is a conflict between them? Whose interests will be trumped?

What if Grab’s business interests led to policy changes that could negatively affect MacPherson SMC residents? What then?

Ms Tin should never have put herself in a situation where there could be a potential conflict of interest. As Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG says:

It may be possible to wear the two hats – but only if Grab itself recognises very clearly and publicly that she has to have the power to represent her constituents with no fear or favour. Her constituents must come first in any conflict between their interests and those of Grab. Otherwise, it is better for her to step down as MP and pursue her future in Grab.”

Tin Pei Ling: Interests of MacPherson constituents must come first

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