This is a follow-up to TOC’s earlier publication of an email from Mr Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi about the destruction of a herb garden in Yishun.
All that remains of a 21-year old herb garden is a patch of carelessly levelled soil and several haphazardly arranged potted plants. The herb garden located at Block 819, Yishun, was a haven for senior citizens and other residents alike. It was razed to the ground a few days earlier by the town council on the pretext of it being the source of rodents in Zone D, which the area is in.
Mr Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi, aged 33, who resides in the area, lodged a complaint with the town council about the removal of the garden. His letter to the Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang Town Council questions the relevance of such action in the face of active ageing campaigns, particularly the recommendation to “encourage seniors to lead active lifestyles” made by the Committee of Ageing Issues. Mr Rafiz asserts that “the town council is sending out a contradicting message”. “They would have had something to do if the herb garden was not destroyed” he said, referring to a couple of senior citizens who could be seen sitting around listlessly. “The herb garden served as a gathering area for neighbourhood activities such as barbeques and brought joy to the community.”
Mr Rafiz affirms that the plot of land had been in use for 21 years and is almost as old as the block of flats. “There was an implicit agreement to the existence of the herb garden,” he said. Residents attended to the garden voluntarily, and the elderly in particular looked after the herbs to keep themselves occupied. “There were no designated caretakers but if we would like to take some herbs from the garden we would ask permission from the 6 or 7 senior citizens who regularly water the plants,” Mr Rafiz explained.
According to him, the town council did not consult the residents before they cleared the garden. The plants were dug up within a few hours one morning while he was away at work. Unsuspecting residents returned to a scene of wreckage littered with uprooted herbs. Plants that could be salvaged are now stored in an array of pots near the void deck, but these bore no resemblance to the healthy garden that was once resplendent with life and joy..
The manager of the Residents’ Committee stated that the garden was removed in response to complaints of rodents breeding in Zone D. Mr Rafiz informed TOC that the sightings of rodents are at the coffee shop which is a 5-minutes walk away. What was termed as a “blanket policy”, in the words of Mr Rafiz, may have been an “over-simplistic approach” to solving the pest problem. He also maintains that there were no signs of damage by rodents on the herbs.
Mr Koh, aged 42, whose mother-in-law lives in block 819, has been visiting the area for more than 10 years. He expressed regret over the loss of the herbs, many of which had medicinal properties. “I don’t see any reason behind the destruction of the garden,” he said.
Mr Rafiz and Residents’ Committee members were to discuss “the unhappiness cause by the destruction of the herb garden”. Residents’ Committee members, however, did not show up for the meeting on Sunday, 26 October.
Mr Rafiz also told TOC that the Member of Parliament for the area, Ms Lee Bee Wah, has also not contacted him or the elderly residents who had cared for the garden.
Video of interview with Mr Rafiz:
News report on the incident (in Chinese):