Below is a letter from, Mr Koh Ah Koon, the Chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, who wrote to the Straits Times forum. This is in response to the statement made by Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli in parliament about the help rendered to the vendors at the second hand market at Sungei Road in light of the impending closure of the market.
The letter was sent to Straits Times Forum on 6 April 2017 and had not been published.
The letter in full
The Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods is deeply disappointed with the recent response from the Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, in parliament ( Parliament: Five Sungei Road rag-and-bone men likely to move to hawker centres in city area, 3 April 2017 ).
Only less than 10 out of the more than 200 vendors in the Sungei Road Market are receiving assistance for relocation or public assistance.
But more than 80 percent of the vendors are elderly folks in their 60s, 70s and 80s who depend on hawking for income. Many turned to Sungei Road Market out of necessity when they were retrenched from their previous jobs and could not find another. Closing the market will push some back to squatting illegally as hawking is the only way they know how to survive given their advanced age and poverty.
We learn from news reports that the government will extend public assistance and provide employment services for the vendors, but to date, no government official has contacted or approached us. We are also not assured that we will qualify for these schemes. How will the majority of the vendors who are not well educated and speak mainly dialects be eligible for employment services? Also those with adult children may not meet the requirements for public assistance, even if their children are not contributing much financially.
It is disheartening to learn that the government does not deem it fruitful to engage the vendors to resolve our livelihood issues. This is especially so since we have not been able to meet the relevant authorities to raise our difficulties.
We have no wish to stand in the way of redevelopment. What we urge the government to consider is preserving the Sungei Road Market at a different location in the vicinity. Can we look into the possibility of integrating the hawking zone in the redevelopment plan? On our end, we are willing to comply with regulations to reduce the problems of disamenities.
As an 80 year old market, it has witnessed the development of Singapore and provided both a space for those down on their luck to stand on their feet again, as well as affordable shopping.
We urgently urge the government to dialogue with us.