By Esther Tan , Jermyn Chow
IN A vicious attack, a man said to be mentally unstable poured thinner down the back of Yio Chu Kang MP Seng Han Thong and set him alight at a grassroots event on Sunday morning.
Mr Seng, 59, ran onto the stage at the Yio Chu Kang Community Club, where he was attending a community event, trying desperately to beat out the flames on his back and head.
The chairman of the constitutency's Chu Sheng Temple, Mr Aw Chui Seng, 69, rushed to his rescue but was also burned.
Others then shoved Mr Seng to the ground and took off their shirts to try to put the flames out.
Both men, now in Singapore General Hospital's Burns Unit, have burns to about 10 to 15 per cent of their bodies. It is understood they may need skin grafting
Police have arrested a 70-year-old man, identified as Ong Kah Chua, for the attack. He is said to have been in and out of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) over the last few months and was described by neighbours as an 'eccentric character' who sometimes ran up and down the corridor outside his flat for no apparent reason.
Cabinet Ministers including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, and a number of MPs visited Mr Seng and Mr Aw in hospital on Sunday afternoon.
PM Lee said he told Mr Seng, who has a daughter in her 20s, to concentrate on getting well. Mr Lee said MPs from the Ang Mo Kio GRC will work it out among themselves to look after Mr Seng's ward.
Speaking to the media after visiting Mr Seng, Mr Lee said while MPs should take precautions when they attend public events, they must remain accessible to their residents and be approachable.
'Because this is an isolated case, the person is an IMH case, we will deal with it but life has to go on and our work has to go on,' said PM Lee.
This is the second time in 2 1/2 years that Mr Seng has been attacked at a community event. In July 2006, at a meet-the-people session in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, he was punched by a 74-year-old Koo cabby who was upset with Mr Seng as he believed the MP was not helping him to get his revoked taxi licence reinstated.
Mr Koo was initially charged in court but the matter was settled after Mr Seng accepted his public apology.
Sunday's attack happened at about 11.40am as Mr Seng was handing out bursaries and 'hongbaos' from the nearby Chu Sheng Temple to 200 needy people.
Temple employee Ang Lian Ee, 65, said the incident happened after the handouts were distributed and everyone had settled down to lunch in the club's hall.
The man apparently came from behind, poured a bottle of thinner onto Mr Seng and set him on fire with a lighter.
Eyewitnesses said Ong fled to a neighbouring block but was caught by grassroots leaders and taken back to the community club.
A vegetable stall owner from a nearby temporary market, Mr Ngau Fook Thin, 54, said Mr Seng had a 'burnt bald patch on his head. Vice-chairman of the People's Action Party's Yio Chu Kang branch, Mr George Tan, said Ong had gone to see Mr Seng at several meet-the-people sessions to complain about 'evil spirits in his house'.
[Second time this MP has been attacked. The other time it was also a man in his 70's. He seems to piss off old men. Or Old men just don't seem to like him. Or old men getting more vicious.]