Man fined for insulting remarks to public service officer

Chan Kong Thoe called victim Elizabeth Aw being "a low class officer".
Chan Kong Thoe called victim Elizabeth Aw being "a low class officer". ST GRAPHIC

SINGAPORE - Pressed for details by a public officer on how he had 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 victim Elizabeth Aw being "a low class officer".

He was charged for using insulting words towards Ms Aw, a public service officer with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, under the Protection from Harassment Act during the July 27, 2016, meeting 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 Thursday (June 1) said " there was simply no excuse for (Chan) to behave in the way he did". The judge added 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 The offence arose when he applied for an extension in March 2016 but did not disclose as required that he had withdrawn $147,538 from his CPF account on turning 55 in October 2015.

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

But Chan was instead uncooperative, challenging the two officers, in the course of which he 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 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.