Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blue on Blue: Part 6(a) - A Father's Pain

The Hurt Locker: A Father's Pain
This is a true story. I wish it wasn't.

In February 2001, the Loh family made a supreme sacrifice when their eldest son, Second Lieutenant Daryl Loh, died in a training accident while serving his country. He was just 20 years old.

Daryl’s father, Lawrence, shares his thoughts on why the system needs more heartware and compassion when dealing with family members of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel who die in training accidents.

The letter you see below was sent to The Straits Times Forum Page. It never saw the light of day in the 90 cents newspaper.

Mr Loh then sent it to Today, a Singaporean English language free sheet. Today published it in its online Voices page, which is a section set aside for readers’ letters. Online letters have less visibility compared to those that appear in the print edition.

I received the letter from Mr Loh recently.

I am sharing the letter here with the hope that Singaporean society will – someday - show proper respect to fellow Singaporeans when the occasion demands. If you're a person in authority, or a young SAF officer who will one day rise to one, please bear this incident in mind should you have to deal with next-of-kin someday.

I’ll share my thoughts in a follow-up commentary.

I thank the Loh family for their courage in speaking up. Stout hearts.



VIOLENCE AT MEET-THE-PEOPLE SESSIONS

By Lawrence Loh
It started with MP Seng Han Thong being set on fire. Then came MP Denise Phua who was threatened by a rag-and-bone man. Now it is MP Cynthia Phua who was subjected to a display of violence by a constituent.

Although these incidents are disturbing and a cause for concern, I wonder whether the constituents are solely to be blamed.

Allow me to relate my personal experience.

In February 2001, my older son died in a naval accident whilst serving National Service. In that year, my younger son was due for enlistment. A friend, a very active grassroots member, suggested that I approach my MP, for help in exploring the possibility of getting an exemption for my younger son. I was reluctant but he went ahead to fix an appointment for me at the Meet-The-People Session (MPS). I subsequently relented and he accompanied me there. It was in March 2001. That was my first appearance at a MPS, and it was to be my last.

I waited until midnight before I could meet the MP. Prior to this, he was given the case paper which detailed the objective of the meeting and the circumstances of my case.

When I entered the room, his first remark was “Yes, what can I do for you?”. There was no attempt at offering a word of sympathy or condolence. I then related my situation and said that both my wife and I were very traumatised.

His next remark was:“What traumatic? After two months, you won’t be traumatic.”.

With that, I decided to end the meeting. And with that, my respect for him hit ground zero. I was too stunned and grief-stricken to react. Someone who was less-controlled and less-measured than me could have flown into a rage and become violent.

MPs are elected or appointed to serve the constituents. People who attend the MPS are those who have real problems and need help. In a lot of instances, they are stressed, distressed and troubled.

What they need is a caring soul, a helping hand, a gentle voice, and words of hope and encouragement. To dispense these, MPs need good interpersonal skills and a high EQ. Arrogance, a patronizing, chiding and belittling attitude, aloofness and lack of empathy will only trigger acts of rashness and violence.

Many of our politicians have a high IQ, some are scholars. However, a high IQ is not the only attribute needed in a political career. A high EQ is equally, if not more critical, especially when it comes to dealing with the constituents.

In my case, I would have felt good if my MP could have been a warm and caring person. If he could have been empathetic, consoling and helpful. All these qualities can only come from the heart, not from the mind.

How many of our MPs can stand up and be counted for this?

6 comments:

John said...

There are however politicians with low IQ. The so-called non scholar, farmer ones. Have you heard Lee Bee Wah and Yu-Foo Yee Shon speak? They should be shot.

I suggest that PAP clean up its weak links of that calibre.

I fully understand the political necessity of having such people in the fold, to "engage" the grassroots. This is a political mechanism that is indispensible and it is used by political parties the world over.

But it would be prudent to keep them out of ministerial positions when they obviously do not command the intellect required of a minister.

Chee Wei said...

Can you let us know who was the MP at that time?

goat89 said...

My god. He ought to be shot on the spot. WTF seriously. WTF????

David Boey said...

During the interview, I discovered that the Loh family's MP is also my MP. They live across the canal from where I'm at.

I didn't vote for Chan Soo Sen at the last GE because of this incident.

I support a strong defence policy, but could not vote for that man with a clear conscience.

Jayne said...

They probably should choose MPs who had a "hard life" so to speak, as most MPs are most probably from the "high caste", ie ppl born with golden spoons. Then they'll understand the people who are really helpless and have no one else to turn to.

Anonymous said...

That is sad. I saw nurses who are empathetic in hospitals and old folks home in similar situations as well. It appears our system just channels people into whichever jobs are in demand or pay well without regard to whether they are suited for the job or not.
It would be easy to attribute the MP's lack of empathy and low EQ to being born with golden spoon (so called "elite"), but regardless of your background, I think there is no grounds to speak like that, assuming that was what the MP said verbatum. The loss of a child affects the affluent as much as the less well-off.