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Matter could have been handled better, says MP Lee Bee Wah.

MP wasn’t aware of herb garden removal

This is a copy of an email which was sent by Mr Rafiz, the person who brought the removal of the herb garden in Yishun, to TOC’s attention. In it, Mr Rafiz gives an account of the meeting he had with the MP for the area, Ms Lee Bee Wah, on Thursday, Oct 30.

Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi / Yishun resident

I attended the meeting with Ms Lee Bee Wah, about 5 reps from the TC and a couple more from the RC (not sure who is who as we weren’t formally introduced). The meeting was apparently called off as the senior residents have declined a replacement garden but the cancellation was not notified. Nevertheless, Ms Lee had accomodated a short discussion in the midst of her Meet the People Session.

At the meeting, Ms Lee did mentioned to her staff that the situation could have been better handled. She clarified that the TC had taken action without notifying the RC (who are volunteers) and herself. No objections to the statements were made by others who were present.

I was offered to look at the press statement (in English) that was already issued to the channel 8, the chinese newspaper that covered the story and TOC. I read the press release and in response had categorically explained that the issue was simply about removal of the garden, an alternative garden or the replacement of the garden.

I explained that to suggest the senior citizens to utilise the Community in Bloom Garden at block 830 is a reflection of ignorance of the people’s history. The micro community in question are senior citizens of Blk 817, 819, 820 & 821. These blocks along with blk 816 are somewhat isolated from the main cluster of NSS Zone D (due to the Stadium and several plots of empty land). As I showed the TOC team, the removal were not limited to the garden patch surrounding 819. Other patches at block 821 has also been removed.

I had spoken with the senior residents prior to the meeting and they are in consensus to discontinue their gardening activity. The main reasons cited were:

1) They are now old and even if a new garden is started, it will not be the same.
2) They would have continued before it was ‘thrown away’ but now that it has been ‘thrown away’ they do not see the point as they may not survive to see the results.

However, in the meeting, I stressed the point that the reactions of residents interviewed by both Mediacorp and TOC as well as the evening chinese newspaper indicated that the Town Council’s notice were not well comprehended and they were generally upset by the episode. In the meeting, I disclosed that in my professional area, I function at the policy level in a Self Help Group and that I am very aware of the processes towards policy fomulation. I stressed that there are higher order policies such as the Active Ageing message that is on going that cannot be ignored in attempting to solve micro issues. The episode of removal of the garden as well as the reply doesn’t reflect any consideration of such message.

My wife, who is a social worker by profession was there to explain on the concept of acitve ageing as well as testify to the activities of the Senior Citizens prior to the garden’s removal.

I explained that in a society where 1 in 12 are seniors (approaching 1 in 10), creating senior citizens’ corner for afternoon get together and chess games does not facilitate active ageing. My wife explianed that self initiated garden contributes to the empowerment of the senior citizens which is closer to the Active Ageing message.

Ms Lee stressed again to her staff that the process could have been better handled and had thanked me for raising the issue up otherwise she wouldn’t have been informed of the Town Council’s actions.

I have requested that a visit to the senior residents there is most appropriate and she has indicated that the visit has already been scheduled for the 9th Nov 2008.

I accept that Ms Lee and the RC was not in the know of the issue. I am glad that a visit to meet the senior residents where they are has been scheduled. However, I wish to stress that such hindsight recovery actions would not have been necessary had a more humane centric prior considerations been made.

As indicated in my earlier email reply to you (Andrew Loh for an earlier correspondence), a resident has passed away two days back and the wake is on going at my block. The senior residents here have decided to step away from the limelight and get back to the quiet and tranquil community life we have had prior to this incident.

As much as I am prepared to disect the TC’s General Manager’s response point by point, I feel that it would exacerbate the pain of the senior residents here. As indicated in my first few posts, my objective is to see the senior citizens here happy again. I’ll continue to bring my children to play with them and will see if after Ms Lee and the RC’s visit on 9th Nov can bring about an understanding for closure.

TOC’s support to this issue has been outstanding. It had definitely contributed to the development of civic participation. I wish to thank TOC’s contributors for the emphaty showered. I sincerely applaud my neighbours who have unreservedly spoken up to share the sentiments of many.

For my town councillors, and community leaders, I wish to request that a social impact assessment be included as part of the process flow. Hopefully, we can build a nation that goes beyong performativity and efficiency but a Nation that is high is Civic Awareness and profound in its Civility, a Nation in the true sense of the word.

Thank You and With Best Regards,
Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi
Resident Blk 819,
Yishun St 81