Man fined for insulting public officer

Pressed for details by a public officer on how he used up $147,538 in retirement funds within five months, a ComCare applicant passed a snide remark that humiliated her and insulted her modesty.

Chan Kong Thoe, 56, showed further disrespect when making reference to Ms Elizabeth Aw being "a low-class officer".

He was charged under the Protection from Harassment Act with using insulting words towards Ms Aw, a public service officer with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), during a July 27meeting last year with her and another officer, Mr G. Kumaran, at the Social Service Office in Bukit Batok.

The part-time security officer was found guilty after a two-day trial in March and fined $3,000 by a district court.

District Judge Lim Tse Haw, in judgment grounds released yesterday, said: "There was simply no excuse for (Chan) to behave in the way he did in this case." The judge added that "public service workers must be protected from such abuse in the course of their work".

Chan was previously placed under the MSF-run ComCare scheme, which provides financial aid to needy Singaporeans for fixed terms. The offence arose when he applied for an extension in March last year but did not disclose as required that he had withdrawn $147,538 from his Central Provident Fund (CPF) account on turning 55 in October 2015.

This failure to disclose made him ineligible for an extension and set off a chain of events that led to the July 27, 2016, meeting with Ms Aw, at which he was expected to show documentary proof of how he exhausted all his CPF funds within five months.

But at the meeting Chan was uncooperative, kept challenging the two officers and insulted Ms Aw. A CCTV record of the meeting was tendered in evidence.

Chan's defence consisted of a bare denial. The judge also found Ms Aw and Mr Kumaran to be credible witnesses, while Chan was evasive.

His lawyer Foo Cheow Ming called for a modest fine, pointing out that the case involved verbal abuse without any gesture from him.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Lim Yu Hui called for a "high fine", urging the court to signal that such conduct cannot be tolerated.

District Judge Lim agreed. Chan should have realised his folly in exhausting his CPF monies and acknowledged perhaps "there were other more deserving cases for assistance under the ComCare scheme than him", said the judge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'Man fined for insulting public officer'. Print Edition | Subscribe