I know that old man posted on Lim Tean FB very well. Let me give some life history of that old man. He was born in 1938 in Johore. He was the youngest in a family of 3 brothers and sister. His eldest brother passed away more than 20 years ago. When the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, he was barely 7 years old. His father died during the Japanese occupation due to an infection on his leg leading to severe gangrene and a slow painful death. There was hardly any food to eat, not to mention medical treatment. If the same were to happen today, the doctor simply had to amputate his leg and he would have survived to old age! I was told that his father was buried without a coffin and had nothing to offer on his grave except some tapioca plucked from the wild.
Out of desperation, the old man’s young mother fled to Singapore on foot with all the 4 children. There was no transport system then. It was just after World War II with the defeated Japanese army retreating and the British returning to Singapore. Like so many desperate families, they simply crossed over the Woodlands causeway on foot and found themselves settled somewhere off Lorong 17 Geylang Rd – the present day Sims Ave HDB estate. In those days, the whole of Geylang district was kumpung and squatters. As a matter of fact, my birth certificate from KK Hospital stated that I was born at Lor 3 Geylang Road. Yes, we were living on top of the Malay cemetery then at Lor 3 Geylang Rd.
How to survive in the darkest period of our history? They resorted to selling home made ice cream. The whole family was involved in the production of ice cream. Some of you may have seen those long squarish ice cream tubes with durian, red bean, vanilla milk flavours chopped to small pieces with sticks poking on them as holders. This old man in the picture did not like doing business especially the ice cream trade. All the daily takings from the sale of ice cream on their bicycles or motor-cycle were collected by their mother. She was the matriarch of the family when subsequently the brothers got married and had children. The old man – youngest of them stole some money from his mother to learn driving. He was a quick and fast learner to get his complete set of license. When his mother found out his intention to leave the family ice cream business to drive lorry using the stolen money for the driving lessons, he got a good beating. Later on in life, the old man proved to be the most filial son amongst all.
The old man then started his driving career from small vehicle to huge trailer working nearly every day without break except on CNY or important occasions or when his 40 foot trailer broke down. He would leave home before sunrise and return after sunset. Day in, day out from his early 20s till the age of 65 when LTA seized all his driving classes except his class 3. He started a family on his own without any formal education – he only self-taught few hundred Chinese characters. He brought up 3 children (all boys) single handedly handling the huge monster trailer. He also bought 2 flats directly from HDB.
He bought a 3-room flat in 1980 at Blk 614 Bedok Reservoir Rd for only $21,000. The same flat is still there. It’s already more than 40 yrs old yet it could fetch in today’s market at more than $250,000! He sold it 14 yrs later in 1994 at $110,000 when he upgraded to a 114 sq m 4-room A model flat in Pasir Ris at only $101,000. At that time, one could profit entirely from the sale of flats. He kept some in the bank whilst spending some on renovations for his new 4-room flat and his 2nd son’s Executive flat in Tampines. Both flats bought from HDB at the same time.
Through hard work, grit and sheer tenacity and living a simple life of thrift, he accumulated much savings. He was never a businessman nor a gambler of stocks or properties. Even after LTA seized all his driving licenses, he continued to work as a cleaner until last Sep 2021 when he fell seriously ill. He never took any MC nor leave at all. All his leave sold to the company. As such, his only hobby and happiness is to work and make himself useful. So when he fell ill about 4 years ago, he decided to retire for good. He declared that he’s not going to work anymore due to poor health. He was 80 then.
Due to the quality subsidized health care at Changi Hospital where he was warded for 2 weeks, he was given a clean bill of health. So he stayed at home doing nothing but eat, sleep and eat and sleep! Any other activities to him is a waste of time. He refused to leave the house. He would cook instant noddles for himself if no cooking is done. This carried on from 2018 Aug till sometime 2019 Mar. He then decided to go back to work again cuz he felt that he’s getting senile by not doing anything other than sleeping at home. So he landed on the above job as seen on Lim Tean FB.
The above is just a summary of the old man’s life. I believe it’s the typical life style of that pioneer generation where he came from – a simple life that finds enjoyment and happiness working until he can no longer contribute to society.
Was he a destitute?
The answer is obviously no. He may not be a millionaire, but he did not owe people money. Unlike Lim Tean, he was never sued in court for failing to pay any loan. He’s a law abiding citizen earning an honest living doing what he liked without disturbing others. He was independent and never begged for handouts from the government.
Did he need the government to take care of him?
He knew that he had benefited immensely from this government. He made some fortune from the sale of his 1st HDB flat. Now he’s living in a fully paid 4-room flat worth more than $450,000. He brought up 3 sons single handedly without any handouts from the government. 2 of his 3 sons are graduates. When his 2nd son migrated to Canada 10 years ago, he supported him by giving $60,000 hard cash. His other son got scholarships all the way from polytechnic to university in UK earning himself a PhD. The latter is quite outstanding in the marine industry.
The old man had lived a long and fruitful life. People of his generation know what is good governance and a better life for himself and his children. Did he need Lim Tean to tell him what sort of life to lead? No matter how much Lim Tean and his ink may say, this old man would simply give his vote to the current government. Fact is he had been doing that on every GE. Was he not thankful to this government when all his children are doing well? He didn’t have to worry his next meal, plenty of savings in his bank account. On that note when he was very ill in Aug 2018, together with his 2 sons, he entrusted $60,000 to the eldest son for funeral expenses thinking that his days were numbered. He kept another $20,000 telling us that he would spend less than $1,000 for his personal expenses to last him for another 2 years! He would be grateful if he could go on living for another few more years.
By now, some of you may have guessed my relationship to this old man. Yup, this old man is my natural father.
To Lim Tean I say this to him. Pls do not use my father’s picture without his explicit permission to post on your facebook and score political points. I’m not against you taking pop shots against this government but pls don’t stoop so low and demean yourself by infringing on my illiterate father’s right to privacy. Who are you to show my father’s face to the whole world and posed this question, “Is this the life Singaporeans deserve in old age? Or do we deserve better?”
I say to Lim Tean again. Did you interview and talk to my father why he’s earning an honest living collecting dirty plates in a coffee shop despite his advanced age? When Speaker of Parliament Tan CJ commented that old people like to work because they like to exercise, you all mock him. My father was one of them he’s referring to.
Sometime in Sep last year, he fell ill again. He was not able to walk steadily and was breathless. He had no choice but to stop working for good. When he stopped working, his supervisor personally came to visit him with the balance of his salary and NTUC voucher. Every now and then his working colleagues and supervisor would call him to check on his condition.
Sensing that his days are numbered, I brought him to CPF to make his nomination. He was able to withdraw all his CPF money of about $36,000 except his Medisave of about $49,000 which he nominated my mother as beneficiary. During the last few months, he was in and out of Changi and Singapore general hospitals.
On that fateful day – 16 Jan 2022 @3.30 pm, he had a fall when he went out to buy something. I had warned him in the morning not to move around and be more careful when I came back from night shift. I had to steady him few times when he was wobbling around in the house. I told him if he had a fall, he would be bed ridden and it’s going to be a big problem. He just smiled.
When CGH called me around 5.15pm to come down urgently regarding my father whilst I was sleeping after night shift, I knew it’s going to be serious. When I reached CGH, the doctor broke the news to me that my father had passed away @5.09 pm. It was so sudden and shocking that I was in a daze. I did not expect him to go so suddenly. I kept telling myself if only he had not left the house or I did not sleep, he would not have gone. It saddens me that I did not do much more for him when he was still around. Whenever I bought some food for him, he would eat very little or not at all preferring his white plain porridge with salted vegetables or olive vegetables. In the end, I just bought him Chinese newspapers so that he could read to while his time. He refused to listen to the radio or TV when I switched on for him. He just wanted to lie down and enjoy the quietness reminiscing his younger days etc. He’s always so quiet and did not talk much. I sensed his depression for not able to work. Someone ever said the day you stop working you’ll die sooner?
There’s much more I could say about him. Suffice to say that he led a dignified and full life working till the last days of his life which he had chosen on his own accord to live such a life. Farewell my dear beloved Papa. May you go to the netherworld in peace.
PS: I would like to thank FairPrice Casket especially Zhang Mingliang and his team for doing a great job. They are efficient and highly professional.
I would also like to thank all my relatives, colleagues, friends and neighbours for their condolences, donations, wreaths and kind words. Thank you 🙏
Read related article here. https://gintai.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/mos-tan-cj-singapore-ederly-do-not-want-assistance/
Some updates from my cousin Kwee Meng after reading my blog post. He’s the 1st born of my father’s eldest brother.
“As far as I could remember as a little boy, you (referring to me) came to stay a few days as a baby in this non-addressed house, somewhere at the place where it is now across Pipit Road and opposite Block 54, Pipit Road. This house did not have an address and had a small pavement (which was wide enough for tricycles only) that led to a wider link which is Lorong 27, Geylang Road. The family used to borrow a shop address at Lorong 27, Geyland Road for corresponding. The above was the place of abode in Singapore for our grandmother, our fathers, another uncle and an auntie after leaving Johore Bahru. (Family of 5 including my father). Initially, it was a small attap house built on this piece of land and later on after the family had made some money, it was upgraded to a new and bigger zinc-roof house. It was slightly re-located and re-positioned for better Feng Shui.
By the way when I was born, I stayed in that little attap house without electricity or piped water supply. My mother used to fetch water from the public standpipe at Lorong 27, Geylang Road. Later on, the time when your mother married your father, an additional public standpipe was installed nearer to the home. The whole family were very happy. By this time the family also arranged and paid a “electricity provider” to install a “four-feet” fluorescent lamp at the living room. The electricity that provided for lamp was from 6 PM to 12 AM. Only Chinese New Year the electricity provided was from 6 PM till next morning but I could not remember for how many days it was lighted during this CNY festival. Most probably until the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year. By the way the fee for providing the electricity to light a 4-feet fluorescent lamp was five dollars per month and three dollars per month for a 2-feet fluorescent lamp.”