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Monday with the Editor: When parents take their children's lives

Today, Singapore was shaken by the news of the deaths of a family of four in Tampines Street 44. A 40-year-old Chinese man was found dead at the bottom of a block of HDB flats this morning. Police later found the bodies of a 39-year-old Chinese woman, a 12-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl in a flat on one of the upper floors of the block.
It is not known yet what exactly happened to the family, but a neighbour who was interviewed on television today pointed out that the dead man was a happy-go-lucky sort of chap. Another neighbour said she saw the man screaming as he fell off the window. The television news programme also reported that several handwritten notes, in English, were found in the flat. These hinted at financial problems faced by the family. 
It could be that the father took the lives of his family members before committing suicide. If that is the case, then we have every reason to rebuke the dead man for his selfishness.
Every few years in Singapore, the lives of innocent young children are sacrificed by their parent or parents in the name of protecting these children who would have otherwise grown up in the absence of these parents. Is it a noble act in the part of such parents, causing their young children to die without the chance to grow up, get married, have children, and then grow old?
These children never had a chance to decide for themselves their fate. They died by the hands of their parent or parents. It is sad when children suffer such fates through no fault of theirs. These parents, having sown the seeds for such a situation that demanded they take their own lives, had no justification to sacrifice the God-given rights of their children to a full life the moment they decided to have these children.
It is a joy to be able to wake up to a brand new day each morning. Alas, the two children will no longer be able to join thousands of young Singaporeans in going to school tomorrow.
It's already so difficult to have children in Singapore. Those of us still mulling over the idea of having children will find no consolation in hearing today's grim news. But, let us not allow the selfish acts of a few to mar our efforts at baby-making.
It is times like these that we bystanders get a chance to reflect and say to ourselves: Aren't we lucky our parents are not like that?
Yes, we are certainly luckier than the two children who died today. But will Singaporeans ever learn the lesson taught by this tragedy? Unfortunately, today's tragedy may not be the last of its kind here. In the next few years, there may be a repeat of what happened today, just as what happened today bears similarity to other incidents which have taken place here in the past.
Society also has to take responsibility when tragedies like this happen. In Singapore, face-saving is so important that when people face financial problems, they rather take their own lives than live with the shame the money problems bring them. It takes courage to be able to live through financial problems. It takes courage to accept bankruptcy in a conservative society such as ours. In the heat of the moment, it may seem easier to seek a way out through death. But, must we play God with our children? 


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7 March 2005