Tanjung MCA Youth chief Lim Swee Bok, who lost his mother, wife and two young children in a fire in Penang yesterday has declined all offers to pay for his family’s funeral expenses.
Saying it was his obligation to take care of the funeral expenses, the 36-year-old factory supervisor expressed regret that he did not give a direct answer when the Penang government and the MCA offered to foot the bill earlier.
Swee Bok nevertheless said he appreciated the kind gestures by the state government and the MCA, FMT reported.
“Due to religious and cultural practices, please kindly allow me to take full responsibility and pay for the funeral expenses of my family.
“I am sorry and I hope to seek the understanding of everyone that I am committed to do whatever is necessary for the family I lost,” Swee Bok was quoted as saying.
He also thanked everyone for their concern and condolences.
“I have lost everything and I am in deep sorrow.
“I am thankful to all, including MCA comrades and leaders, who have contributed and helped out,” he said.
Yesterday, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng visited Swee Bok, offering him a condolence contribution of RM3,500 while DAP assemblyman Lau Keng Ee donated RM2,000.
Guan Eng also said the Penang government would take care of the funeral expenses, adding that he was very shocked and saddened by the incident.
“This is something so tragic, can you imagine losing your entire family just like that? I cannot describe how sad I am for him.
“Swee Bok’s father had died two weeks ago. Now, the only other person left in his family is his brother. We are so saddened by his loss,” Guan Eng told reporters.
Later in the day, MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon said the party would bear the costs of the funeral.
Swee Bok claimed the remains of his two children mother from the Penang Hospital mortuary at 4.38pm yesterday.
The remains of his wife, a Chinese national, were claimed at 6.50pm following a delay in her documentation procedure.
Swee Bok was seen holding back tears as the bodies were carried out of the mortuary.
The mourning ceremony will be held at Block 42A, Sri Saujana, Gat Lebuh Macallum, for five days.
This morning, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai and his deputy Wee Ka Siong paid their last respects at the wake for Swee Bok’s family.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also expressed his condolences to Swee Bok.
“No words can truly describe the tragic loss of Lim Swee Bok’s family. Heartfelt condolences and my thoughts are with him in this difficult time,” Najib tweeted.
In the pre-dawn tragedy yesterday, a fire broke out at Swee Bok’s house in Pintasan Cecil 5 off Cecil St Ghaut, killing his mother Lau Sai Poh, 62, wife Chen Yen, 35, son Lim Yin Chun, 9, and daughter Lim Jia Yiin, 8.
The neighbourhood is one of the oldest Chinese settlements in Penang, whose residents are mostly from the middle-income bracket of blue-collar workers, hawkers and market traders.
Swee Bok was working the midnight shift at a factory near the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, when he was informed of the tragedy.
His father passed away from cancer on Nov 5.
Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Saadon Mokhtar believed that the victims of the fire only realised they were in danger when flames had already engulfed the entire house, the New Straits Times reported.
According to Saadon, there were signs that the victims had tried to make their escape, only to realise they were trapped.
“This is what we believe happened. Even the neighbours told our officers that they did not hear any calls for help coming from the house during the incident,” he was quoted as saying.
Saadon disputed speculation that the victims were unable to escape because there was only one entry/exit point.
“There are specific requirements needed to have more than one exit point. For this house, (just having one door) fulfils specifications, as the house’s (ground floor) is 20 by 20 square feet,” he was quoted as saying.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
In a separate report, neighbours told the daily that they could only watch helplessly as the house burned.
Lye Chooi Ngoh, 51, said she was awakened at 6am by the shouts of people outside her house calling for her to come out because of the fire next door, which they feared would spread.
“People were honking their cars – that’s (what woke me up). And the only thing I saw was the huge blazing fire.
“(Once outside, I tried to help) put out the fire while waiting for the firemen, but the fire was too large for us.
“We could only wait until the firemen arrived and put out the fire,” she was quoted as saying.
Earlier report: Nov 15, Penang MCA Leader’s Family Wiped Out in Fire