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Pritam Singh clashes with SPS Chua on insinuations over NCMP Leong’s POFMA-ed post

Eric Chua, SPS for MSF, defended the disclosure of an elderly couple’s finances in a POFMA correction to “set the record straight in the public interests.”. Pritam Singh later clashed with Chua over the alleged motive behind Leong Mun Wai’s post.



The disclosure of an elderly couple’s CPF and Medisave balances in a POFMA correction direction to NCMP Leong Mun Wai was deemed necessary by Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) for Social and Family Development (MSF), to ensure government agencies could “set the record straight in the public interests.”

The Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh, later engaged in a heated exchange with Mr Chua over the Insinuations of the motive behind Mr Leong’s post.

Mr Chua suggested that the aim was to “colour perceptions and make people think negative thoughts about the government,” just before Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong delivered the Budget 2024 speech on 16 February.

During a Parliamentary sitting on Monday (4 March), Mr Gerald Giam, Workers’ Party MP for Aljunied GRC, raised concerns about MSF’s decision to reveal the financial details of an elderly couple.

He questioned whether this level of disclosure aligns with privacy protection standards under the Public Sector (Governance) Act (PSGA) and whether the Ministry considers the detailed personal financial disclosure necessary, given the potential for the identification of the concerned couple.

In response, Mr Chua defended the necessity of disclosing the couples’ CPF and Medisave balances, asserting that it was crucial to dispel Mr Leong’s alleged falsehoods.

He clarified that the POFMA correction direction issued did not identify the couple in any way.

On 15 February, MSF accused Mr Leong of falsely claiming the woman’s Medisave account was depleted, rendering her unable to afford hospital physiotherapy sessions.

Furthermore, Mr Leong, former Secretary General of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) mentioned the low monthly support the couple received without considering their eligibility to withdraw from the CPF account.

Mr Leong later stepped down as PSP Chief on 20 February to take responsibility for the POFMA correction direction he received.

Criticising the incident, Mr Chua said “There is a habit of rushing to publicize cases of persons in need,” urged the public and chamber members to inform social services about such cases instead of using them for public discourse.

Mr Chua emphasized the importance of ensuring individuals in need receive help rather than using their cases to support political arguments.

“When cases are publicized with errors of fact, they create the misleading impression that we as a society are failing those of us who are in need.”

“Government agencies then have to set the record straight in the public interests and this is consistent with the government’s Instructions Manual, and the Public Sector Governance Act on data government standards which provide that among other reasons personal data can be disclosed if necessary in the public interests.” Mr Chua said.

Mr Giam raises concern that MSF’s POFMA action might deter residents from seeking genuine assistance

In a supplementary question, Mr Giam expressed concern about whether the government’s response in this case would create fear among residents, potentially making them reluctant to share their concerns with those genuinely attempting to assist them.

In response, SPS Eric Chua asserted throughout the entire process, the government had been very mindful of ensuring the anonymity of the couple involved.

He emphasized that in both the MSF’s statement and Factually clarifications, the government had done its utmost to reassure the public of the couple’s anonymity.

He asserted that the primary objective of the entire exercise was to present the facts and clarify the situation.

SPS Chua’s insinuations on timing and motive behind Leong’s post

Melvin Yong, PAP MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, raised questions regarding how Mr Leong Mun Wai became aware of the couple’s difficulties and whether there were any information leaks from government agencies involved with the couple.

SPS Chua then assured that there was no breach of information security, but instead pointed out that MSF volunteers later visited the couple following NCMP Leong’s post on 12 Feb.

According to Mr Chua, the couple informed MSF volunteers that they were surprised to find Mr Leong at their door on 12 Feb, as they had neither approached the PSP nor Mr Leong about their situation.

Instead, they had written to Mr Pritam Singh, the Workers’ Party leader, four years ago in 2020.

“Then there was no response from the WP nor Mr Pritam Singh, meanwhile during these years MSF and other government agencies had been helping the couple and the extent of the help provided was set out in the MSF statement issued on 15 February,” said Mr Chua.

Mr Chua said according to the couple, on 11 February, they received a call from Mr Singh, “Mr Singh spoke about the couple getting in touch with him four years ago, and he told the couple that someone would visit them.”

“Then one day later on 12 February, Mr Leong went to visit the couple. The couple told us they were told that Mr Singh had informed Mr Leong regarding the email that Mr Singh had received four years ago.”

“As to why Mr Singh did not do anything for four years and why he then chose to speak with Mr Leong, and whether Mr Singh knew or agreed with Mr Leong that this matter will be highlighted on social media, just four days before the budget statement was due to be delivered on 16 February, that is not clear to us.”

Mr Chua suggested a potential motive behind the timing of the events, happening just a few days before the budget statement delivery on 16 Feb.

He hinted at a possible attempt to negatively influence public perceptions about the government’s assistance to those in need.

Speaker abruptly ended the PQ session despite Mr Singh’s request for further clarification from SPS Chua

This prompted Mr Singh to stand and clarify the matter, explaining that he had come across a letter from a resident without a provided address. Recently discovering the letter while clearing files in his office, Mr Singh mentioned that he was checking in on them to better understand their situation.

Upon learning that the elderly resident resided in an area where Leong Mun Wai and his party were active, Mr Singh inquired if the couple had sought help from SSO. However, the elderly explained that he was blind, and his wife was immobile.

Mr Singh then referred the case to Mr Leong for follow-up.

To counter Mr Chua’s suggestion about politicizing vulnerable individuals’ situations, Mr Singh emphasized that when he receives similar feedback about residents in need, regardless of the constituency, he contacts relevant agencies like MSF to ensure assistance is provided.

“I did not know what Ms Leong Mun Wai followed up after that, but certainly when we know of residents why in trouble why in need why in difficulty, it is not in the WP’s interest to go online and to point fingers at government agencies, point fingers and organizations like SSO for no rhyme or reason.”

Despite Mr Singh’s clarification, Mr Chua instead reiterated the question of whether Mr Singh alerted Mr Leong to the couple’s situation and why Mr Singh waited for four years to do so.

Mr Chua continued to criticize the need to avoid using vulnerable individuals as “Trojan horses,” pawns, or chess pieces.

He argued against adding further stress to these situations by subjecting vulnerable individuals to certain actions, asserting that such approaches were neither in good faith nor beneficial for the individuals involved.

When Mr Singh raised his hand to seek further clarification from SPS Chua, Speaker Seah Kian Peng from PAP abruptly ended the parliamentary question time and proceeded with the Committee of Supply debate.

In a recent Facebook post, Mr Singh added on the exchange he had with Mr Chua during Monday’s Parliamentary session, where he provided a detailed response to questions from the Straits Times regarding this matter.

Mr Singh elaborated on his practice of receiving and addressing letters from various individuals, including non-residents and foreigners.

Mr Singh’s post emphasized his commitment to assisting those in need, irrespective of their background or the source of assistance. He pointed out that his actions were in line with the Workers’ Party’s approach to politics, which avoids politicizing the plight of individuals requiring help.

He also mentioned Eric Chua’s acknowledgment of this stance in Parliament, highlighting a moment of cross-party recognition of the importance of non-partisan support for vulnerable individuals.

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If msf did not want to politicize the event, why did it send MSF VOLUNTEERS to visit the couple following Mr Leong’s post on 12 Feb 2024?
And why is it that the couple did not express any SURPRISE when it was reported they were surprised by Mr Leong’s Visit?

How come there is NO REPORT ON such expression or they were merely STOIC or worse were they THREATENED?

The new norm. PAP dogs standing together like a pack of strays dressed in sheep’s wool.
The holier than thou faces of the PAP pariahs.

Chua getting MSF help but only $120 can only wipe backside with it, Can give more GE I vote for you!!!How??? Deal???Or No Deal???

Pot calling the kettle black. The first people to be pictured handing out financial assistance are the smiling PAP MPs. They need to look at themselves in the mirror if they want to make such accusations of politicising the poor.

It is still wrong to reveal the elderly couple ‘s financial portfolio. The PAP don’t value human rights or privacy of citizens. It is how you put a wrong right that tells much about people and the PAP fail because of their arrogance