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The New Paper
Sep 26, 2016
Through no fault of his, he lost the use of his left eye and his livelihood of 20 years.
On Aug 19, 2014, private bus driver Chen Ming was waiting at a school to pick up some students for a sports event when a man knocked on the window of his chartered vehicle.
When he alighted from his bus, the man struck his left eye with a pair of pliers.
The blow completely ruptured Mr Chen's left eyeball and doctors had to remove it. The loss of vision in his left eye caused him to lose his job as a bus driver.
Last Wednesday (Sept 21), the attacker, Tan Poh Huat, 61, a coffee shop owner, was jailed 33 months for the attack.
For Mr Chen, now 53, the pain may have subsided, but the unprovoked attack left him jobless, with an uncertain future, including a marriage on the rocks.
"Forgive him? Definitely not. If I had hit him (with my bus), I would have been okay to pay him back," he told The New Paper in Mandarin at his lawyer's office last Thursday (Sept 22).
"But I didn't do anything to him and he did this to me. I'll never forgive him."
Mr Chen, a Singapore permanent resident who came here from Fujian, China, about 30 years ago, said he had been driving to Bukit Merah Secondary School that day when he spotted Tan repairing his coffee shop signboard on a grass patch next to a kerb near the school.
He remembered slowing down and taking extra care when driving into the school compound, where he parked his bus to wait for the students.
While he was on his mobile phone, an irate Tan suddenly appeared beside his vehicle and knocked on his window with a pair of pliers.
"He said I had almost driven into him and knocked into him. I know I hadn't, so I ignored him.
"But he continued banging on the window and I was afraid he would smash it. So I got out," Mr Chen said.
Tan again accused Mr Chen of reckless driving.
Mr Chen calmly denied it a second time, but Tan turned violent and hit Mr Chen's left eye with the pliers before leaving the scene.
"I immediately couldn't see with my left eye. There wasn't any pain at first. I tried to go after him, but I couldn't keep up.
"It was only a while later that it started hurting and I realised I was bleeding badly. The blood flowed non-stop," he said.
Mr Chen staggered to the school's general office and a teacher called the police.
"All I remember was the pain. I was in so much pain I couldn't even talk to the police officers when they asked me what happened," he said.
An ambulance arrived, but Mr Chen said he passed out from the pain on the way to the hospital.
By the time he regained consciousness, doctors had already operated on his eye.
Then came the bad news.
"Doctors said the surgery couldn't save my eye and they had to remove it. It was too badly ruptured.
"I was in grief. I was the sole breadwinner and I relied on my sight to work to feed my family," he said.
On Sept 18, 2014, he underwent a second operation to remove his left eyeball and he was later fitted with a prosthetic eye, which costs between $2,000 and $2,500 and has to be replaced every two to three years.
"I remember being in hospital for more than a month in total. I didn't cry myself to sleep, but lying alone on the hospital bed, thinking about my future, made me sad," Mr Chen said.
He was sacked from the bus company, which he said in his victim impact statement had paid him about $4,500 a month, due to the loss of vision in his left eye.
A spokesman for the company confirmed this with TNP, but added that it had "no choice as (Mr Chen) was unfit to drive".
Mr Chen said he does not bear a grudge against his former employer, although he has been unable to nail down a new job.
"I tried a job collecting bowls at a coffee shop, but was told to go home after breaking too many bowls as I have trouble gauging distances and balancing," he said.
His wife, who is in her 40s, had to work as a dishwasher, earning between $800 and $870 a month.
"She's been nagging and scolding me every day about our situation. She's also said she's terrified of my prosthetic eye," he said.
They live in a three-room flat in Eunos with their 13-year-old daughter, who will be taking her PSLEthis year.
"Thankfully, my daughter has been very understanding," he said.
He said he now spends his days at home as he is too afraid to go out.
In his victim impact statement, he said his family had been relying on his savings over the past two years and had already depleted almost $40,000 of his savings.
He told TNP: "I'm scared I will get into another accident. I have trouble even walking in a straight line. I'm even more afraid to spend money."
Mr Chen said he respected the court's decision in sentencing Tan, but added that he plans to take civil action to get back what he lost.
His lawyer, Mr Raphael Louis of Ray Louis Law, said they would be seeking damages of about $800,000 for Mr Chen's loss of current and future earnings, past and future medical expenses, and for the pain and injuries he suffered.
Said Mr Chen: "I lost half my world. I just hope to be able to get back some form of justice."
ABOUT THE CASE
Tan Poh Huat, 61, a coffee shop owner, was jailed for 33 months last Wednesday for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to bus driver Chen Ming, 53.
Police arrested Tan after reviewing security footage in the area. Tan claimed he assaulted the victim out of anger over his alleged reckless driving.
After the attack, Tan returned to his coffee shop, then drove home.
He also made a police report about Mr Chen's alleged reckless driving, but the traffic police found insufficient evidence and no legal action was taken.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Dora Tay said: "Apart from the physical pain, suffering and inconvenience experienced by the victim, the incident has also caused the victim and his family to suffer a tremendous impact, financially and emotionally."
Tan's lawyer Kertar Singh said his client, who is divorced, is suffering from a heart condition and other medical ailments.
He said Tan was mentally affected after his coffee shop caught fire in 2014.
Tan, he added, was not prone to violence and has to deal with the civil proceedings initiated by the victim.
Tan could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for causing grievous hurt.