The SDP notes with concern the discrepancy between the accounts of Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng and Benjamin Lim’s family regarding the telephone call between the school and Benjamin’s mother.
The Straits Times reported Mr Ng telling Parliament that a school counselor had called Benjamin’s mother and that both school and parent had agreed that her son should not attend the school camp:
“Regarding the school camp, Mr Ng said a school counsellor had called Benjamin’s mother later in the day to check on the student’s well-being.
The counsellor also discussed with Benjamin’s mother if it would be better for Benjamin to remain with his family during this difficult period, said Mr Ng.
‘His mother agreed and hence it was decided that Benjamin would stay at home,’ he said. ‘Throughout the conversation, the school’s motivation was to care for Benjamin’s well-being.’
However, Benjamin’s father has now refuted Mr Ng’s account saying, according to Today’s report:
“When the school’s counsellor called Benjamin’s mother at 4.13pm, he merely informed her that the school had a meeting, and Benjamin will be excluded from the camp. Before the mother can ask any further questions, (he hung up),” Mr Lim said. “(In) the entire conversation…there were no questions asked about (Benjamin) at all…zero questions about (his) well-being.”
This is a serious matter. Did the Minister, in his review of the incident, contact, or directed his Ministry’s officials to contact, the Lim family to find out what transpired in the telephone conversation between the school and Benjamin’s mother?
If he did, what were his findings?
If he did not, why didn’t he? Is it not Mr Ng’s responsibility as a Minister to do everything he can to get to the bottom of a very tragic incident involving a student and one of his schools? If the Minister did not get the side of the family’s story, why did he not say in Parliament that the school’s account had yet to be corroborated by the Lim family?
It is regrettable that Mr Ng presented only the school’s side of the story. Benjamin’s father’s refutation of his Parliament statement must be addressed. It must be emphasised that the ultimate intent of this episode is to ensure that such an incident does not recur.