The divide of a nation

By David Ong

Mr. Shanmugam, this is a true story you must read, for hopefully when you are given the opportunity to become the next PM, you will not allow this to happen again, for it is divisive and not cohesive for our society.

For a long time, I have refrained from posting unless necessary. Pondered long and hard about this before deciding to post this. I hope friends will help to share this reflection as there is a pertinent issue which the future young leaders of Singapore need to understand this fundamental value system and review the workings of the people under them. Only then will we see a better Singapore that we can truly belong to. These are facts with no added imagination.

A good friend’s father passed away suddenly on the late night of 26 Aug 2016, Friday.

Those who have experienced the unfortunate demise of a loved one would know that it is a race against time to secure a location and inform the undertaker for the wake to proceed smoothly and immediately once the dawn breaks.

Her family stays in Serangoon Avenue 4, under Aljunied GRC management. But due to current home improvement works, showflats occupied their block’s and vicinity blocks’ void decks. Her dad’s wake cannot take place at their house void deck or immediate adjacent blocks as a result. They have no choice but to apply for the multipurpose hall opposite their flat, across a main road which is managed by Marine Parade GRC.

They called Marine Parade Town Council of that area and was told that the venue for the 4 days which her family needs (27th, 28th, 29th, 30th Aug) IS AVAILABLE, but the booking is still subject to the approval of the senior officer who can only revert the following day by 730am (27th Aug– first day of the wake), leaving the family with very little time to confirm with the undertaker where to setup.

The next morning (27th Aug), lo and behold, she was told that her request is not approved because they are “not resident of that area”! (Quite frankly, if it were me, I would have sworn with the most beautiful language in that the exasperated and ridiculous situation).

Their family has no time but to scramble to look for a further venue within Aljunied GRC.

And the most mind-boggling call event took place on the third day of the wake when she received a call from the same officer who rejected her booking as he wanted to update her about the fact that the request is not approved. Upon clarification, it turns out that what he meant by “not a resident of the area” was that her HDB estate does not belong to the Marine Parade GRC because her estate is from the Aljunied GRC.

What is the point of “updating” her on the third day into the wake when people are mourning? In the family’s moment of need and bereavement, no help or compassion was offered from MP GRC. In fact, the rejection of the booking led to a lot of stress and a mad rush.

Dear friends….I try to be as objective as possible in this. But there is obviously politics in play here. Or are we reading too much in this?

The reason for not approving it is simply unacceptable especially given that the venue is available. Just because their residence belongs to the Aljunied GRC (run by Worker’s Party), they are not allowed to use PAP run facilities? Am I assuming too much political play in this?

I do not think so. Are we back to the whole game of “ïf you vote for me, then you will enjoy privileges?” tactics which the old regime is so fond of using?

Why is there the biased assumption that just because their residence is in Aljunied GRC, they voted for the Workers’ Party? We are all Singaporeans. Sure, Politics is a dirty game. But there are OB markers as to where games cannot be played. A bereaving moment qualifies!

Utterly disappointed, I hope the relevant party reflect on its discriminatory practices and have some compassion.

Connect, not divide.

This was originally a Facebook post dated 6 Sept which was posted on the Facebook fan page of Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam.

The Online Citizen (TOC) has written in to Marina Parade Town Council for clarification on 20 September and has not received any reply from the town council as of time of publication.

On 22 September, MPTC posted on its Facebook page, responding on the story.

It wrote, “Residents are able to book the facility of their block for funerals or other functions (such as wedding or birthday party). When the void deck of the block is unavailable because it is occupied by shops/social centres, used for upgrading or improvement projects, booked for other functions, residents may choose to use the facilities of the nearby blocks within their vicinity.

The Town Council is mindful that frequent use of the void deck space or multi-purpose hall for funerals will cause inconvenience to other residents living in the block. Hence, the Town Council restricts the use of the void deck space or multi-purpose hall to residents within the block or who are living near the block. If there are no such restrictions, residents living in the nearby blocks would have to face additional traffic and noise on a regular basis.

Essential Maintenance Service Unit (EMSU), a 24-hour service hotline provider for both Marine Parade Town Council and Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, first received a call on 27 August 2016 (Saturday) at about 1:00am enquiring on the booking of the multi-purpose hall at Blk 256A Serangoon Central Drive. The call operator noted that the void decks within the caller’s vicinity were occupied. Thus, as this was a special request made by the caller to use Blk 256A Serangoon Central Drive, the operator had to seek permission from the respective Town Council officer.

As a general guideline, such special request has to be considered carefully even within the Town Council’s estate. If the request falls outside the precinct boundary even within the same town, the request may also be rejected. There is no political consideration and decisions are made based on residents’ interest to ensure that the use of the space is properly managed.

The consideration of rejection is based on the interest of our residents staying nearby. The EMSU operator assisted the caller in securing an alternative funeral site within her Town on 27 August 2016 (Saturday) morning. A follow-up call to the applicant was made by our Town Council staff on 29 August 2016 (Monday) morning.

Mr Sanson Ng did not have the full facts nor did he contact our Town Council office to seek an explanation. Had he done so, we would have explained the situation to him that the Town Council does not reject applications due to political reasons. Whilst we wish to assist every family which is undergoing bereavement, the Town Council also has to consider the interest of residents living in the area.”

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