Two sides to Uncle Luke’s story and that old story about the Tiong Bahru cardboard collector

 TL;DR – Be discerning. Always question the intent of people when they stoke your emotions.

Today, where nearly everyone has a smartphone and social media account, any one can have a voice online. Citizen journalism has never been this “happening”. Online vigilantism, or more crudely, ratting on organisations and people online, has never been this exciting.

While technology has advanced to enable us to have a voice online, we still have a lot to catching up to do in terms of mental maturity and responsibility. It’s easy to create contents, especially sensationalised ones, and so easy to share and forward such contents, Because sensational. Because juicy. Because we want to be the first to tell everyone about it.

But along the way, we often forget or neglect to check source of info, to verify authenticity of info. We have not yet learnt to be more discerning.

If we’re not careful, spreading fake news and unverified information can hurt people and can destroy trust.

There are two sides to every story.

I will give you one example of how I’ve noticed a particular man persistently publishing videos to discredit the government’s work, particularly that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

This man would go around “interviewing” homeless or underprivileged Singaporeans, coincidentally(?) mostly elderly folks. Invariably, he would ask them what they’re living on, what help they receive from the government, and basically asking questions to hint at how the state does not care and does not help the underprivileged.

And he posts these videos on Facebook, sometimes under different accounts and names. But it’s the same person. The male voice in the videos is the same, the line of questioning is the same, the narrative is also the same.

Here’s one from two years ago

This man had gone to “interview” an elderly female cardboard collector in Tiong Bahru and through the questions, had painted a picture of how a heartless system in Singapore had left the elderly woman high and dry.

It didn’t take long for the MSF to put up a clarification post on Facebook.

According to MSF, this elderly woman is no stranger to their SSO staff and community partners. MSF was also able to share that as at April 2018, she was receiving the following support:

  • Payout under Silver Support Scheme
  • Monthly pension
  • Food rations, daily meals and befriending support from community partners
  • Free monthly check-up for her health and well-being

MSF also shared that the elderly woman had declined financial assistance on at least two occasions.

What MSF had revealed was a completely different picture of what the man had initially posted.

And guess what? 

The man then quickly removed his Facebook post and even changed his handle name for that Facebook account, before eventually deleting the account altogether. But the damage has already been done, as the original video had gone quite viral. People seem to like sharing sensationalised stories, or emotional videos. Or maybe people just like their online public persona to be one of righteousness and speaking up for the underdogs.

I don’t know, but over time, such things can only be harmful to our social fabric.

This man is still at it, today

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we cannot and should not point out when there are lapses. In fact, we should help to flag or refer cases that require help from MSF or social service agencies.

But it’s quite another thing to deliberately go out and create misleading contents. Everyone will watch and share the angsty and emotional videos. But nobody will watch and share the official clarification posts put up after the videos have gone viral. No one is really interested in the boring details. People only want to forward and share juicy stuff.

One side of the story: Uncle Luke’s story

This man has posted at least two other “street interviews” in April. Here’s one of the two videos and this is one side of the story.

I won’t even call it Uncle Luke’s side of the story, since the tale is coaxed, kneaded and spun by the man who was asking the question, hence building the narrative, leading the angle.

Did you see this video? What was your reaction when you first saw it?

Did you also pause for a moment and ask what was the intention of the person taking this video and posting it online? Was it to help Uncle Luke? Is this the best or most appropriate way to help Uncle Luke?

The other side of the story: Uncle Luke’s story

Here, the actual case facts as put up by MSF on its Facebook page.

Be discerning. Always question the intent of people when they stoke your emotions.

Let’s have a look at what support Uncle Luke has been receiving from MSF and also various community partners:

  • Financial and daily living needs, including food and grocery vouchers
  • Processing of his ComCare application
  • Interim cash assistance vouchers since 9 April while his ComCare application is underway
  • Assistance with the replacement of his NRIC

MSF also updated that Uncle Luke has agreed to have MSF volunteers assist him with the cleaning of his home after the Circuit-Breaker period and to deliver his meals to him.

His MP Denise Phua also updated on this case on her Facebook page.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed that she updated her post with a couple of recent photos. There was one of Uncle Luke on 12 April and another taken on 22 April, and he was collecting his daily meal on both occasions.

Some clarification: Uncle Luke’s story

It’s clear from MSF’s and Denise Phua’s posts that they are familiar with Uncle Luke’s case and they have been helping him since 2012, at least for the periods he remained contactable.

And we’ve learnt that so long as he remains contactable, someone will be helping him with his daily meals so he is not going to go hungry.

One important point that MSF has brought up:

“We would like to clarify that “Uncle Luke” has been receiving help from various agencies and community partners. The person who came across him could have referred him to the social service agencies and charities as well as our SSOs for help, instead of getting “Uncle Luke” to reveal his personal data (I.e. Full name and NRIC) and posting it online.”


We should be looking out and helping the less privileged amongst us. And helping would mean referring them to MSF, or the social service agencies. Helping is NOT doing what this man has done.

I’ve realised that for practically all of these cases, MSF’s clarification would always show up that they are already handling the cases. What this man or some other netizens have depicted in their biased videos often do not tell the full story. When we consume media online, we should be mindful that some people post things online with agenda, although it is also possible that the “interviewees” did not tell the full story since some of such cases involve some complicated family issues.

So please, read everything with a pinch of salt.

One last thing, and it’s about the Solidarity Payment

The Singapore government has launched a total of three packages, Unity Budget, Resilience Budget and the Solidarity Budget, totaling S$60B to help businesses (including SMEs), families and workers through this very difficult period as the world fights the coronavirus. These packages aim to support livelihood and protect Singaporeans.

The one-off $600 Solidarity Payment for all adult Singaporeans is part of the Government’s efforts to support households, with direct cash in hand during the COVID-19 outbreak. About 90% of us should have received this money already on 14 April since our bank account details are already logged into the Government’s database.

For the remaining 10% of adult Singaporeans, they had a choice to input their bank account details to receive the money on 28 April. Otherwise, just wait for the$600 cheque to be sent to their NRIC-registered addresses from 30 April 2020 onwards.

In the meantime, read widely and from diverse perspectives, and yeps, read with tubs of salt. A pinch is sometimes not enough. Question everything you read, including our stuff, LOL!


The story about the family of 6 with less than $200 left is misleading and biased, here’s why:


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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