Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Aftermath Of Disgust

By Low Ching Ling and Celine Lim
The New Paper, July 14, 2005

The vile words were splashed in bold red on the white walls of the building.

In what was a bold public display of disgust against the National Kidney Foundation and CEO T T Durai, someone - or some people - sprayed paint on the outer walls of its Kim Keat Road headquarters early this morning.

The New Paper rushed down at about 6am after a reader noticed the vandalism and called our hotline. A wall of red graffiti greeted us. On one part of the outer front wall were the words 'NKF=liar' written in English, and 'big liar' in Chinese - all spray-painted in bold. The word 'liar' was also written in bold on every alternate pillar. The culprits also vandalised the side of the building with the words 'Save Singapore' and 'Liar'.

A motorcyclist who was delivering newspapers was overheard uttering: 'Now the whole world knows.'

Said police spokesman Debbie See: 'At 5.20am, the police received a call about graffiti on the walls of the (NKF) building. 'We're still investigating.'

The graffiti invited curious stares from morning joggers and passers-by. An SBS Transit bus driver even stopped his bus for about a minute to look. A jogger who declined to be named said: 'The people who did this are very daring. The building is along the main road and they might have been seen.'

Cabby C W Heng, 50, who lives nearby, felt it was a juvenile act.
'They destroyed the property and the NKF will have to use public funds to fix it. If they want to express their unhappiness, they can write to the newspaper forum or call the radio station. It's a barbaric act.'

NKF spokesman Michelle Ang said security guards were informed about the vandalism some time after 5am by police officers. She had left the building some time after midnight and did not see any
graffiti then. The graffiti has since been removed, but Ms Ang was not able to say when and by whom.

She said: 'It's very unfortunate this has happened. Whatever the public read about the court proceedings is only one side of the story. 'We really hope they won't forget what the NKF has achieved in the provision of dialysis and in helping kidney patients over the years.' Ms Ang confirmed that some donors are planning to cancel their contributions to NKF. The staff have also received abusive calls from angry donors.

Cries of anger and threats to cancel donations to NKF rang out in one Shenton Way office yesterday when the news broke of Mr Durai being paid $25,000 a month. Mrs D Sim, 50, an administrator, said: 'Everybody in my office wanted to stop their monthly Giro payments to NKF as we were so angry.'

We spoke to nine people and the general feeling was that the public's trust in NKF has been badly shaken. At least five were upset with Mr Durai's salary and how NKF spends its money. Property agent Ray Lee, 40, said: 'NKF is always educating the public that every single cent counts. But I didn't know how the money I donated was used. Now it has come to light.'

Despite feeling disgruntled over Mr Durai's 10-to-12-month bonus, Mr Lim M O, 50, a businessman, will continue his yearly donations of $50 as his late mother had kidney problems.

Mr Saravanan M Govindasamy, 35, a prisons officer, will wait for NKF's explanation before deciding his next move. He said: 'We can't penalise the needy, sick people out there who need our donations.'

On Day Three 3,800 members of the public withdrew their donations from the NKF, and an online petition demanding the resignation of TT Durai drew 30,000 signatures on the first day.

On Day Four, the beleaguered NKF CEO and his entire board resigned. Durai, true to his characteristic liberty with facts, told reporters he was stepping down after 30 years for new blood to take over. The surprise element was that Patron Mrs Goh Chok Tong also decided to step down, adding fodder to the rumour mill.