By Ariffin Sha
Unlike meeting residents in HDB Flats and Landed Property where a candidate can go knock on doors without prior permission, explicit permission is required to visit homes in condominiums.
Many, if not all, opposition parties face difficulties in meeting their constituents who live in condominiums.
Approval to visit must be obtained from the condo’s management under the Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) – the managing body of a condo.
Rejection letters from MCSTs are commonplace as many managing bodies prefer not to have any form of political activities in their private estates.
In the case of Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) candidate for Mountbatten SMC, she had mailed out 23 requests to various condominiums in her constituency to ask for permission to visit voters residing there.
Letters of rejection
To date, she has only received 4 letters of rejection and has yet to hear from the rest.
Some letters of rejection are more fair, like this one from a Condo in Mountbatten, which promised not to have any form of political activity – from any party, including the People’s Action Party (PAP) – on its premises.
Others, however, have been a little less fair in their decisions.
Take, for example, this other condo which rejected Jeannette’s request a mere couple of days after allowing the incumbent MP to have a chit-chat session in the condominium.
What is of interest to me is not the letters of rejection and the unfairness but how the opposition candidates responded. Instead of the usual lamenting that many half-expected, they took it in their stride, rolled up their sleeves and got resourceful.
2 cases in point, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss from the SPP and the Workers Party’s Yee Jenn Jong.
Picnics and BBQs
The letters of rejection did nothing to deter Ms Chong-Aruldoss.
Last Saturday evening, she organised a picnic at Wilkinson Intermin Park. The Park’s location was a strategic one as it was just a stone’s throw away from many private estates. Through the picnic, she had the opportunity to meet many residents of private estates and along with the conversations, there was good food to go around too.
One resident of Mountbatten SMC remarked that it “felt like a block party!”
Jeannette also took full advantage of the fact that she resides in Mandarin Gardens, a condominium in Marine Parade GRC.
As her condominium falls under the Joo Chiat precinct, she organised a BBQ and hosted WP’s Yee Jenn Jong.
Mr Yee had contested in Joo Chiat SMC in the 2011 elections and lost by a hair’s breath – 355 votes – to the PAP’s candidate.
It was an opportunity for him to meet residents of Marine Parade GRC – from both inside and outside of Mandarin Gardens – over some juicy satay.
It was very clear that there was a real sense of mutual respect and camaraderie between Ms Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Yee, or JJ as he is also called.
“Here’s a personal story about why I respect JJ so much,” Ms Ms Chong-Aruldoss said. “At GE2011, my elderly father was frail and not well but he insisted on casting his vote. So my brother had to devise a way to take him in his wheelchair to vote. My dad was greatly satisfied to have cast his vote (thanks to my brother), and I will always be proud of my dad for his determination. I respect JJ for inspiring my dad’s determination. JJ lost by 388 votes – but it would have been 389 if not for my dad’s vote. After the election, JJ visited the residents to thank them for their support. My dad was very touched by his sincerity. Proud to introduce this sincere, personable and caring man to my neighbours. Joo Chiat is also Mountbatten’s neighbour.”
Mr Yee is expected to contest in Marine Parade GRC in the upcoming elections, after Joo Chiat SMC was erased from the electoral map by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee in its report released last month.
Overall, it was two events where the opposition candidates managed to weave a way through to meet their constituents despite the roadblocks set by the various MCSTs.
Such events go to show that when there is a will, there is truly a way and these candidates are more than willing to go the extra mile for their constituents. Obstacles do not turn these candidates away. In fact, it strengthens their resolve and forces them to be more resourceful in thinking of creative ways to overcome the rejections.
*The writer is a volunteer with Ms Chong-Aruldoss’ election campaign.