Couple make emotional apology for behaviour in hawker centre

Tay Puay Leng (left) told reporters that she wished she could apologise in person to Mr Ng Ai Hua, while her partner Chow Chuin Yee said he had felt "disgusted" with himself after watching the video.
Tay Puay Leng (left) told reporters that she wished she could apologise in person to Mr Ng Ai Hua, while her partner Chow Chuin Yee said he had felt "disgusted" with himself after watching the video. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The couple caught in a viral video berating an elderly man in a hawker centre in Toa Payoh made an emotional apology yesterday after they were fined for the altercation.

A tearful Tay Puay Leng told reporters outside the courts that she "snapped" on the day of the incident and wished she could apologise in person to Mr Ng Ai Hua.

"I was hoping that I could say sorry to uncle in person. But because the investigations were going on, the police did not allow me to do that," she said.

She added that she had been going through a difficult time being a sole caregiver to her 89-year-old grandmother, who is bedridden.

Her partner Chow Chuin Yee, in turn, said that he hopes everybody can give them a chance, while stressing that there was "no excuse" for his behaviour.

"After watching the video, I feel disgusted with myself," he said.

Tay, 38, a tutor, and Chow, 45, a director at Novel Learning Centre, were fined a total of $2,700 yesterday for their role in the incident that took place on April 21 at the hawker centre in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh.

The case was noteworthy for the prominent role social media played. The incident had been filmed by a patron and posted online - where it circulated widely. A netizen who saw the video made a police report.

Tay was fined $1,200 for using abusive words on the retiree, causing alarm, while Chow was fined $1,500 for using criminal force.

The Malaysian admitted to bumping the 76-year-old Mr Ng forcefully in the back that evening.

One count of behaving in a disorderly manner about five minutes later when he shoved some bowls and plates off a table onto the floor was taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said the couple did not know Mr Ng.

He apparently was carrying a tray of food and had asked to sit at the table that Tay was trying to reserve.

A dispute arose when she refused to let him occupy one of the five seats.

While they argued, she verbally abused him with vulgar language and her harsh words alarmed the retiree, DPP Kumaresan told District Judge Kan Shuk Weng.

He said: "(Tay) also called (Chow) on her mobile phone for assistance, stating, 'Can you come here, one old man tried to take our seats'."

Mr Ng did not notice when Chow, approaching him from the back, barged into him, causing him to fall forward and hold on to the table for support. Mr Ng eventually went to another table.

In mitigation, the couple's lawyer, Mr S. Balamurugan, said Tay had acted "completely out of character" when she verbally abused Mr Ng, and that Chow "very much regrets the embarrassment that he had caused his family, friends and himself".

Before handing out the sentence, Judge Kan told Tay: "The uncle just wanted to sit down and have a peaceful meal. Your ac- tions were unthoughtful and not acceptable."

Mr Ng could not be reached for comment yesterday. His daughter Caroline Ng had said on Facebook that she was outraged by the incident: "No matter who is in the right or wrong, nobody should be treated in this manner, let alone an old folk."


A tearful Tay says ''I'm really sorry to uncle''.


Couple fined over hawker centre incident

The woman who in April was caught on video scolding an elderly man at a hawker centre for trying to sit at a table she was trying to reserve broke down in tears after being fined $1,200 in court yesterday. Expressing her regret for her actions, tutor Tay Puay Leng, 38, said she wanted to say "sorry to uncle in person". Her partner, tuition centre director Chow Chuin Yee, 45, was fined $1,500 for barging into 76-year-old Ng Ai Hua. He admitted that "there was no excuse for my behaviour".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Couple make emotional apology for behaviour in hawker centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe