Agencies reacting to Toa Payoh residents’ grievances after months of complaints

Reporters and government agencies flocked to the Block 55, Toa Payoh Lorong 5 after a series of photos depicting a rundown HDB flat with its exterior seemingly corroded by acid, went viral on social media.

According to reports by mainstream media, Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council was quoted on Sunday (7 Jan) to say that various agencies such as include the Housing and Development Board, resident committees, voluntary welfare organisation Care Corner and the neighbourhood police centre, are aware of the irregular behaviour of the resident at the block and are working together to help resolve the matter.

The reports further quote the town council saying that the grassroots leaders had visited the flat previously, and found that the resident, who lives in a unit with her husband, was using salt, vinegar and baking powder to scrub the wall and floor to supposedly “get rid of spirits”, throwing cold ash over the parapet.

The town council said the “most important goal of ongoing concerted efforts” has been to “assist the couple, especially (in obtaining) professional help for the wife”.

“However, she has adamantly refused offers of help in this regard, despite repeated attempts,” it said. “The police are monitoring if there are adequate grounds to compel her to seek professional help, but their current assessment is that she poses no danger to herself or residents.”

The town council Repair works had previously been conducted, but despite being issued warnings, the resident persisted in her actions, the town council said.

It noted that the couple have lived in the block for about 10 years and that relocation “would not solve the primary problem”. “It would be unfair to the husband to simply transfer the problem to another precinct and (doing so) may exacerbate the wife’s condition,” and added,  “Nevertheless, alternate housing arrangements are being planned if the resident’s behaviour cannot be improved despite treatment.”

The town council assured residents that the authorities have taken their safety into account in dealing with this issue. It also expressed hope that the various parties working on the matter “can bring this problem to a satisfactory outcome”.

However, what is not reported is that the complaints by the residents have been on-going for months and the recent actions by the relevant agencies were only spurred by the photos posted by Jose Raymond on his Facebook fanpage on 6 Jan.

Mr Raymond wrote, “Residents in the block have been traumatised by a resident who has been throwing burning objects down the flat, and who is possibly also using some kind of acid outside the flat. Residents also complain of stinging eyes when they walk past the apartment.”

He further asks, “If this has been happening for months and residents have been terrified, why have the relevant agencies not acted? What are they waiting for before something is done to protect the residents of the block?”

After the post by Mr Raymond went up and went viral, immediately reporters and government agencies went down to the unit to take a look at the matter. And photos from Mr Raymond show that the town council cleaned up the area outside of the unit in question within a day.

Mr Raymond shared his views on his Facebook page on the town council’s reaction, “What’s disappointing is that it appears that there was a reaction from the agencies only when there was a sudden and intense media and social media scrutiny. Why did the Town Council and the HDB not react earlier, especially when it’s been quite clear that the issues have been festering for some months?”

He notes that residents are still not convinced that they are safe especially since the resident concerned has been seen flinging burning items over the parapet.

Just yesterday, a photo of the Members of Parliament for the GRC can be seen being pasted in the lift.

Many commenters on the matter state that it is now a known fact of life in Singapore that agencies would only respond to complaints if they are surfaced in social media and turn viral.