When Sin Ming resident filmmaker Mr Jun Chong couldn’t secure a location in the neighbourhood to screen the short film he made about the fowl culling two years ago, he decided to take a proactive approach and go door-to-door to spread the word of his movie.
The 28-year-old told Straits Times (ST) that he is handing out postcards containing details of how people can watch the movie which he is streaming online. He’s passing them out to the 1,2000 households in Sin Ming Court.
Mr Chong, who grew up and lives in Sin Ming estate, was inspired to make the film following the culling of free-range fowls in the neighbourhood back in 2017. He said he wrote the script immediately after the culling.
“Back in 2017, I was very angry that the authorities decided to cull the chickens after receiving only 20 complaints from an estate with nearly 1,200 households.”
“I had an image of an auntie running around the estate, capturing the chickens to save them. So I immediately wrote the script,” he added.
The film stars veteran stage actress Goh Kuat Kim, who plays the woman who provides refuge to the chickens in her estate after she sees enforcement officers rounding up the fowls to keep their numbers down.
Back in January 2017, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) received 20 complaints about noise and concerns of bird flu due to the 24 free-roaming chickens in the Sin Ming estate. Those complains called for the birds to be culled but the authorities, which they did.
The move sparked an outcry across Singapore, with people questioning the need for such drastic measures against relatively harmless animals and whether those birds were in fact the endangered red jungle fowls instead of domestic chickens.
Once his movie was completed last October, Mr Chong requested the Thomson Sin Ming Court residents’ committee and Bishan North Community Centre (CC) for permission to premiere it at the open-air amphitheatre in the estate. Unfortunately, the request was rejected.
“They said the film puts the enforcement agencies in a bad light and that they needed to maintain a good working relationship with the authorities. They even asked me to adjust the film to be more neutral,” he said.
In a Facebook post where he shares the entire film, Mr Chong said he was confused by the reply he received.
“I called the CC and explained my point of view – that the film was simply to show how these free-roaming chickens add a ‘kampung’ flavour in a typical residential estate and the significance that they play in the hearts of our residents (including myself),” he explained.
But CC did not budge.
Mr Chong then sought assistance from the Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo who is an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.
Ms Teo responded two months later to suggest he screen the film at Bishan North CC. However, she added that the amphitheatre would not be conducive for a film screening.
Mr Chong told ST that it also did not make sense to screen the film at Bishan North because no one from Sin Ming would go all the way there to watch it, based on what some residents told him.
“So I decided to release New Resident online, and I’ve printed postcards to distribute door to door to the residents, so they will know they can watch it online,” he explained.
Mr Chong recounted how several residents came up to him and his crew while filming in July to ensure that they do not capture or harm the free-roaming fowls.
“I spent more time convincing them we were not catching the chickens than on writing the script,” he added.
“This film was made in conjunction with Sin Ming residents, so I want them to be able to see it too,” he said.
Mr Chong told ST he hoped that the film would ignite a conversation about the fowls, between people who want them to be relocated and those who would prefer them to be left alone.
You can watch the 16-minute film on here or on Facebook:
During a parliamentary session on 2 February 2017 after the Sin Ming incident, Nee Soon MP Louis Ng Kok Kwang asked the Minister of State for National Development Dr Koh Poh Koon about the authorities’ methods in dealing with these creatures, specifically questioning Dr Koh’s description of the birds as ‘chickens’.
Dr Koh said, “Some have suggested that the chickens could be relocated to the wild, for example, in places like in Pulau Ubin or other forested areas. But the chickens in Sin Ming and in most of our urban settings are highly unlikely to be of native stock and are therefore different from our indigenous breed of Red Junglefowl, which is an endangered species known to occur only in Pulau Ubin and the Western Catchment area. ”
However, Mr Ng pointed out: “I have seen the photographs of the chickens or some of them at Sin Ming Avenue. They are indeed a Red Junglefowl. There are two birds there: the domestic chickens and the Red Junglefowl. Just to clarify because AVA had mentioned earlier that the free-ranging chickens seen on mainland Singapore are not the Red Junglefowl. That statement is inaccurate.”
In response, Dr Koh suggested that experts could be asked to conduct genetic studies to determine the exact species of the chickens in question.
It appears nothing came out of that suggestion though, as AVA performed another round of culling in April, this time at Sungei Api Api in Pasir Ris. A flock of 10 birds or more were culled down to just two or three.
Residents were furious that AVA did the culling without even informing or consulting the residents. Again, residents noted that those were the endangered native variety.
In June last year, more complaints of noise by the fowls were made. But this time, residents decided to vote on the issue. A poll was conducted by the Thomson Sin Ming Court residents’ committee (RC) following complaints. The options were either to let the authorities relocate the free-roaming fowls or leave them alone, though no information was given on where the wild birds would be relocated to.
Over 90% out of more than 1,000 residents voted to leave them alone. Submitting their responses to the RC in a voluntary poll, residents decided to keep their feathery friends around.