I was unwell, says commuter in seat spat

A reserved seat on an MRT train. Such seats are meant for commuters who who have a greater need to sit down, such as the elderly, pregnant women, people carrying babies or young children, and people with disabilities.
A reserved seat on an MRT train. Such seats are meant for commuters who who have a greater need to sit down, such as the elderly, pregnant women, people carrying babies or young children, and people with disabilities.TNP FILE PHOTO

On Thursday evening, a commuter publicly slammed another on Facebook for not giving up a reserved seat in an MRT train to a mother and her baby.

But yesterday, accountant Syn Kok Meng, the commuter who had come under attack, claimed that he was unwell at the time.

"I'm shocked at how this issue has been blown out of proportion," said Mr Syn, who is in his 30s. "I'm usually a shy person who will give up his seat to those in need. But I had worked late and was feeling tired and unwell."

He added that he has a heart condition due to a weight issue.

Ms Celine Chia, 32, who is a general manager working in retail, had uploaded a photo of Mr Syn on Thursday evening. She said she had asked him to offer his seat to the mother, who boarded the train at Orchard station, and he had replied: "It's my choice and I am not giving up my seat to her."

SHOCKED AT SHAMING

I'm shocked at how this issue has been blown out of proportion. I'm usually a shy person who will give up his seat to those in need. But I had worked late and was feeling tired and unwell.

ACCOUNTANT SYN KOK MENG, explaining why he did not give up his seat

After his refusal, she told him she was "embarrassed" to be standing in front of him, to which he reportedly replied: "You shouldn't be, because I am not even embarrassed of myself."

In her post, Ms Chia wrote: "Dead silence in the cabin and everyone's disgusted stare was upon him."

She added that she had never slammed anyone in public before, but wanted to let the man know that his fatigue was due to obesity, and not an excuse for refusing to give up his seat.

Her photo of Mr Syn was shared more than 9,000 times before it was taken down yesterday afternoon.

"This is cyber-bullying and I suspect there was some malice involved, but I'm not intending to pursue the matter," Mr Syn said, adding that he had sent a private message to Ms Chia asking her to remove the post.

Mr Syn told The Straits Times that the mother and baby got onto the train at Orchard and secured a seat but gave it to the child's grandmother instead.

Some netizens argued that other commuters in the train could have given up their seats, while others felt that public shaming of this sort was unacceptable.

On her decision to post a picture of Mr Syn, Ms Chia said she had already done her part to convince him to "be gracious and do the right thing".

She told The Straits Times: "Since he can be so blatantly inconsiderate, I thought there's nothing wrong with putting up his picture."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline 'I was unwell, says commuter in seat spat'. Print Edition | Subscribe