Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who has announced his intention to run for President, was the guest of honour at a ground-breaking ceremony for a rejuvenation project in Geylang Serai on Saturday (10 June) along with his colleagues from People’s Action Party (PAP).
The rejuvenated area will have new public spaces, improved infrastructure, and enhanced programmes to facilitate “community bonding”.
The work on the Geylang Serai Market and Joo Chiat Complex, as well as the construction of an arch anchored at the corner of Geylang Serai Market and Tristar Inn, are expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2024.
During the ceremony, Tharman volunteered to sing a P Ramlee Song, “Getaran Jiwa”, and talked about bringing back the golden age of Geylang Serai. State-sponsored news media outlet Straits Times and Mothership, wrote positively about how Tharman serenaded the crowd.
Straits Times said, “A rendition of the P. Ramlee song Getaran Jiwa – loosely translated as Stirring Of The Soul – by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was met with cheers and applause by an audience of residents, merchants and other stakeholders in Geylang Serai.”
“As Tharman sang the first line, the crowd in attendance clapped and cheered for him,” reported Mothership. “When he finished singing, he joked that he needed to continue his speech.”
Tharman not around when Geylang Serai Bazaar stallholders complain
Tharman’s appearance in the Saturday’s event seems to show his sudden interest in the welfare of Geylang Serai despite the fact that he is not a Member of Parliament of the constituency. Tharman is an MP of Jurong GRC.
But three months ago, when the Geylang Serai Bazaar controversy erupted, he was nowhere to be found. At the time, stallholders were complaining about the high rental costs at the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar.
Some vendors reportedly were paying rents ranging from S$16,000 to S$19,000 for one unit. Furthermore, all food and beverage stallholders were subjected to incidental costs of between S$30 and S$3,100, including utilities, water supply, fans, coolers, tables, and chairs.
Even Kf Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, quipped that the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar is “easily the world’s most expensive pasar malam stall”.
Despite complaints from various vendors and criticism from netizens regarding the high rentals, the PA contracted organizer defends itself by saying that its stalls are “within market rental rates.”
The organiser said that they had incurred additional costs to “enhance visitors’ experience by curating concept zones”. The main organiser of the bazaar is actually the People’s Association (PA), and it tendered out the organisation of the bazaar to the consortium via a GeBiz tender at an award value of S$2.26 million.
Many stallholders actually regretted participating. A kebab seller said, “We’re all losing money. (We) cannot cover costs, cannot even cover rent.”
Another kebab seller estimated that 85 per cent of his earnings went towards paying rent. He was paying about S$30,000 – three times what he would pay at other night markets.
A fried snacks stallholder said, “Maybe we can pay for supplies, workers and rent, but (my family) may not draw a salary.”
It appears that when the people at Geylang Serai really needed Tharman to meditate on their behalf to fix their problems, he wasn’t around. Instead, he prefers to come and sing to them three months later.