Colonial bungalow controversy: A window to the disparity between past and present leaders

Colonial bungalow controversy: A window to the disparity between past and present leaders

by Augustine Low

Many questions are being asked on how exactly the process was carried out and how the two ministers came to occupy the colonial bungalows on Ridout Road.

Let’s pause for a moment to ask why there is a need for ministers to reside in colonial bungalows with palatial grounds and extravagant land size.

There is a story told of how Dr Goh Keng Swee, one of Singapore’s founding fathers, was upset with his allocated room at London’s Hyde Park Hotel during a foreign trip.

He found the room too big, too opulent.

Dr Goh asked to be moved to more modest accommodation. He was persuaded to stay put only when told that the British security service preferred that he remain in his allocated room.

To Dr Goh, extravagance was repulsive. Even the sheer size and luxury of a hotel room was abhorrent to him.

We only have to contrast that with the ministers today who deem it befitting for them to reside in ostentatious colonial bungalows once home to the colonial masters.

It illustrates the disparity between leaders of past and present, sacrifice and selflessness giving way to privilege and elitist mindset.

How do we expect leaders today who live in ivory towers to connect with the people?

How would they comprehend that there are people who have to grapple with the cost – for some, even the down-payment – for a HDB flat?

How would they know the struggles of those who have to agonise over how long they have to work to pay off their mortgage?

With a wave of the hand, they say it’s affordable.

With a raise of the hand, they say “we are with you, we are for you, we will always have your back”.

Another story has been told of how Dr Goh, as he was being driven past a school, suddenly became lost in thought. He said he was wondering whether jobs would be available for those completing their education.

A man of the people first, then a politician, who felt in his bones what the people felt, who tried his best but knew he did not have all the answers.

Today, we have politicians who theatrically tell us there are 80,000, even 100,000 jobs and training opportunities, that anyone who wants a job can get a job, that every Singaporean worker will be looked after.

But we look around and we retrenchments going up, we see former executives who, after losing their jobs, are unable to find employment and now drive or make deliveries for a living, we see frail and hunchbacked elderly collecting cardboards and cleaning tables to feed themselves.

When our leaders get cocooned in their ivory towers, they ascend to heights that make it hard – maybe impossible – to bring themselves down to feel the pain, fears, worries and aspirations of the people.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments