It appears that residents of Blocks 115 and 119 at Marsiling Rise will have their prayers answered very soon as the authorities say the blocks will receive lift upgrades.
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said on his Facebook page today (16 January): “Woke up to the great news that the good people at Blks 115 and 119, Marsiling Drive will be getting their lifts upgraded after a fight of more than 10-years. Congratulations, your hard work paid off!”
He thanked those who signed the online petition the party started demanding for the lifts in those blocks to be upgraded.
“Thanks also to all of you who signed our online petition even though you were not a resident there. That’s how it should be: Singaporeans supporting each other even though issues may not directly affect us. That’s what a community is all about,” he enthused.
Mr Chee added, “When we unite to press the PAP, many things can be done very quickly!”
The lift issue
Over the years, multiple questions from residents and members of parliament were raised over why these blocks, among others, have yet to benefit from the Housing Development Board’s (HDB’s) Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) which was launched in 2001.
The programme aimed to make the 5,300 affected HDB blocks 100% lift accessible, but by after a few years, about 150 blocks remained with no apparent viable solution.
In 2018, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said that HDB has yet to find solutions to overcome existing constraints in those 150 blocks. He added that about 70 per cent of those blocks are no eligible for lift upgrading due to cost considerations.
Then in 2019, Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong said LUP is still not feasible for the remaining 150 blocks due to high cost or existing technical and site constraints.
Mr Wong also said that the suggestion of sky bridges put forth by MP Gam Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) would need to be studied carefully, adding that it would require extensive structural work which is likely to be very expensive.
SDP leads the charge
Just two days ago (14 January), SDP shared a petition it started calling for HDB to install lifts in Block 115 and 119 Marsiling Rise that serves every floor.
Following that, Member of Parliament of the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Ong Teng Koon was quoted by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, saying that the lifts for Block 115 and 119 in Marsiling have not been upgraded because the cost would be too high, repeating the same remarks by the Mr Wong last year.
Mr Ong also explained that the LUP has spending limitations on lift renewals, and the budget that would be required for upgrading the infrastructure of Blocks 115 and 119 is beyond the limit.
However, he also said that he believes the lifts in those blocks will be upgraded, it’s just a matter of time. He noted that MPs have been communicating with the authorities on this issue for many years now, emphasising that those in charge are actively researching options.
Responding to Mr Ong’s comments, SDP countered: “But why must everything be calculated in dollars and cents? What about the safety of the residents especially the elderly, disabled and those with babies?”
On their Facebook post on Wednesday evening (15 January), SDP said residents have told them that they would rather have the lifts than parks or other fancy structures which residents consider as “white elephants”.
“They told us that they have never asked for these so-called amenities and would rather that the money be spent on lift upgrading.” wrote SDP.
SDP also questioned why Mr Ong says that it is only a matter of time before the lifts are upgraded after raising concerns the cost, technical, terrain and construction considerations?
“Have they all suddenly become resolvable now that elections are near?” asked SDP.
Now that Blocks 115 and 119 are getting their lift upgrades, it seems that years of writing to the authorities by MPs went nowhere until SDP pushed for change. A petition by SDP on behalf of the residents achieved, within days, what could not be done for years, as PAP MP Ong had pointed out.