By TR Emeritius
Over the past few days, TR Emeritus has received several emails from residents living at The [email protected] Payoh. It is a DBSS development with 5 blocks of flats.
DBSS was introduced by HDB in 2005 to meet the housing aspirations of higher income flat buyers for better design and finishes. Under DBSS, private developers tender for HDB land and the flats will be developed by the winning bidder instead of by HDB.
The dispute between the Residents’ Committee (RC) at Toa Payoh and residents at The [email protected] Payoh began last year when the RC wanted to build an RC centre at the void deck. Most of the residents objected to this.
A concerned resident who wrote to TRE said that the saga is “definitely making the residents more tired and irritated day by day”.
To begin with, the RC had already converted the key-collection area into an RC centre. It now wanted to build another RC centre with a bigger area at the void deck of block 139B.
The resident asked, “Seriously, RC, do you need such a big space to hold your meetings and karaoke sessions?”
Another resident told TRE, “We are being bullied by our RC and PA (i.e. People’s Association)!”
“There is already an existing RC at our block and they want a 2nd RC. Seriously the residents don’t need 2 RCs within 5 blocks!” she explained.
She asked TRE to help spread the news of their plight. “We are really desperate and need your help to make this public as they are going to construct the RC soon. We have written several emails to the authorities but they are not addressing the issue,” she said. “This means a lot to the residents. We sincerely thank you loads.”
Yet another resident said, “RC members pushed to build the centre refusing to address the core issues which the residents raised. They were selective in the questions they wanted to answer. And the reason provided by some RC members was that they were rushing to build as they did not want to lose the grants given by HDB to RC as it would expire soon.”
Reasons against building the RC centre in void deck
According to the residents who have emailed TRE, the majority of the residents do not want to have another RC centre at the void deck of Block 139B for the following reasons:
- Residents feel strongly that the DBSS image of premium housing would be affected by the building of an RC centre at the void deck.
- It reduces the already very limited void deck space to just a narrow path for walking.
- The reason provided for having 2 centres was that RC needed a separate space to run playgroups and enrichment classes for the estate. Residents challenged this as the space will only cater to a very small group of residents’ children. What is needed is a proper childcare centre.
- Residents highlighted that it is dangerous to have playgroups in an RC centre at the void deck because the entrance faces a narrow road and there are several blind spots on the narrow stretch of road. Children might just run out onto the road excitedly. Most parents won’t consider risking their kids’ safety by attending playgroup sessions there.
- RC centre at the void deck will hinder the residents’ escape in case of fire.
- The loading and unloading bay will be blocked and residents with family members who are wheelchair-bound won’t be able to get to the lift easily. RC has suggested relocating the loading and unloading bay to a new area but the residents said the location is a blind spot for vehicles. An accident has already occurred previously at the narrow stretch, residents pointed out.
- To build the RC centre, the bicycle parking area will have to be removed and many are unhappy about it, as there is already a shortage of bicycle lots which means the residents of Block 139B may have to park their bicycles at other blocks, depriving other residents of their lots.
Majority voted against having RC centre but RC proceeded with construction nonetheless
Some residents then approached MP Hri Kumar on the issue and were advised to start a petition and get the residents to vote on the matter.
The final results showed that the majority did not want to have the proposed RC centre at the void deck.
But the RC went ahead with its plans to build the RC centre at the void deck anyway, disregarding the residents’ feedback. This was announced on its Facebook page on 7 March 2015 [Link]:
Residents were then formally told that construction work would start on 30 March 2015 and go on for 4 months:
Naturally, residents were furious:
An irate resident told TRE, “This issue of RC construction has left loads of residents disgruntled and the RC has definitely lost the respect of the residents, as there wasn’t any respect given to the votes/decision of the residents.”
Another resident remarked, “We thought that the RC has heard us and decided to stop the construction. However, the votes, the comments and concerns were not heard.”
Other residents wrote on the RC’s Facebook page:
1. “RC itself caused the divide and RC is putting the blame on residents? RC is not here to serve the majority, only their small interest groups.”
2. “With regards to voting, it is confirmed by Nadia olisa that a voting was conducted with RC whether to proceed with the construction of the RC centre @139b. How is it that 20 plus votes can outwin the majority of the whole estate who indicated that residents do not want an RC centre below our void deck? What part of the law or statutes provides for the RC power to over rule majority of the residents? Many times, RC said they act for us residents and building the RC centre at the void deck is definitely not the wish of the majority of the residents @ the peak.”
3. “Kind reminder that that service road, around that area had a traffic accident before which led to an old lady dying en route to the hospital. This is why I am hoping road safety isn’t being compromised for both drivers and pedestrians.”
4. “Why cant RC just stop all these nonsense? We have been living well without a centre for more than 2 years. We don’t need extra noise and human traffic at our (already very limited space) void deck, given so much pollution from the constructions opposite us.”
5. “We had already voice up the last time WE DONT WANT ANY RC CENTRE AT OUR VOID DECK!! What have the 20 RC member being doing!! Either they don’t study English or understand English! You guys are Not solving any problem for us resident! Just like to increase more problem for us! Can’t you all 20 RC Member relax one corner!! We don’t need you guys to serves us!! You guys just make things worst!!”
6. “To us, RC of not much use! With or without doesn’t matter. But to build RC centre at void deck of our blk we fully disagree! If more than half of 1203 units ie 602 units vote against I don’t see why RC proposal can proceed!”
7. “Not need convince meeting, just accept majority decision. What advantage do RC get to proceed despite majority disapproved? Why so persistent?”
8. “What is the point to serve and don’t listen? All because of personal agenda?? It a shame to be part of the RC which half of the total household are not supporting. It mean every 2 residents you meet, 1 is not accepting you!”
9. “Seriously. If you want to represent the residents’ voice, stand with the residents. We have strongly expressed that we DO NOT want RC Centre at any of our already very limited space void decks. Forcing to build RC centre at void deck where residents strongly object will only increase the relationship gap (not bridging at all) between RC members and residents.
Keep this in mind, each time 139B residents walk pass the RC centre through the suffocating dark corridor into the lift lobby, it will keep on reminding them how the “greater good” RC members hijack the limited space for “greater cause”.
Please take note again, we are totally okay with having a team of RC (whether or not they genuinely serve with their heart, we dont care) but we are not okay with the RC Centre’s location at our limited space void deck. Now you are making us wondering, if RC Team is necessary. It is causing residents to be divided and if there is no RC Team , we do not have the problem of RC Centre location.”
Asking PA to disband RC at The [email protected] Payoh
Apparently, some residents are so angry with their RC that they have written to PA, asking it to disband their current RC. This is because the present practice in Singapore is that RC members are not elected by residents even though they are supposed to represent the residents and promote their interests. They are in fact appointed by PA, typically with the approval of the MP, who is the grassroots adviser.
A resident wrote to PA:
Dear Mr Ang,
The residents of The Peak @ Toa Payoh want to disband The Peak RC. The RC didn’t fulfil its purpose namely:
1. It did not promote neighborliness, harmony and cohesiveness among residents.
2. It did not liaise with government authorities on the needs and aspirations of residents.
3. It did not promote good citizenship amongst residents.
Instead, the formation of RC has diminished the strong community bond and kampong spirit which the residents ourselves have built. RC has caused residents to pitch against residents. We do not need RC to create havoc in our community.
In fact, some of the residents have formed a different committee themselves, called ‘The Peak Committee’, to organize activities for the residents, bypassing their “official” RC altogether.
A resident told TRE, “Our Peak Committee has been organizing activities even before the formation of the RC. It consists of volunteers who truly serve the residents and to keep the kampong spirit alive. For your information, they do not have perks like free season parking, priority admission to schools, etc.”
“This committee is there to truly serve the residents and to speak up for the residents. This can be seen from the multiple emails to the various government organizations on the issue of the construction of the RC centre and of course, the happy bonding activities like durian feast, etc all organised by them,” he added.
Another resident told TRE, “We have written to the authorities to disband the RC as they do not respect the decision made by the residents. To keep the kampong spirit alive and kicking, the residents here organize events without any help from RC.”
Yet another resident asked TRE to tell the rest of Singapore of their plight – how they are being bullied by RC members. He said:
RC members do not engage with us. Instead they talk down to us. Always said they are making hard decision for the greater good of our community. We are very surprised and upset to see RC members given so much power by PA to decide for our community.
Please we need help to get our voices heard that RC members are bullying us.
What is the use of an RC when they do not listen to the residents, especially when the residents’ preference has already been clearly indicated by a vote?
Also, why cannot the residents elect their own RC members?
What do you think?
TOC has written to Mr Hri Kumar and People’s Association for their response on this matter.