Saturday, 2 August 2008

From a new Hougang Resident

I would like to thank Sam for allowing me to re-publish this on my blog. case you don't understand the title, it means he was previously from the side of Hougang that is under Aljunied GRC and now he had shifted to the 'red side' of Hougang, the one under Hougang SMC. Below is Sam's experience:

From the white to the red side of Hougang

Greetings, another plug for the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance’s Indignation event at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road, August 2, 3pm. Bring your friends along for the interactive forum where we will be addressing the verbal manifestations of discomforts towards queer people (a.k.a. homophobic outbursts or verbal abuse). Ok, end of plug.

I am at the NUS computer lab right now, writing this entry.

It is such a wonderful feeling going back to school and being in a familiar place.
There have been many of my peers and contemporaries (are they the same thing?) who harbour the goal of never wanting to work in an office and be in the drudgery of the proverbial nine-to-five working hours (it is nine to six or more these days). I have never expressed interest in working, because “work” is what society wants me to do. I have an interest, an interest to learn and to know, but most unfortunately such an interest is accompanied by the requirement to study and to teach. We seldom have the opportunity to learn in the way we want to learn any way.

I have been very anxious and frustrated in the past couple of weeks regarding the renovation of my new flat. It is not the contractor, who is a wonderful person, but the various bodies I have to liaise with.

I’m buying the recess area of my flat. The rules state that the owner has to deal with HDB and Town Council to settle the administration. After a few rounds of enquiries, my wife and I felt even more confused.

The guy from HDB branch office briefed us on the process, saying we have to propose the relocation of the recess area light and the cable television unit, and send it to all three bodies (to expedite the approval processes).

The guy from the Town Council came down and verbally told my wife, contractor and I that the Town Council will be settling the relocation of the light.

After calling up the Town Council following almost a week of non-response, the same guy from the Town Council told us to follow the HDB directive, saying the Town Council is not settling the relocation of the light.

My contractor, in the mean time, told me he found out I had to purchase the recess area first, before settling the proposal.

I called up the HDB branch office and was told to make the proposal first, before paying.

Today, I called the HDB branch office again to clarify and I’m told I have to settle the relocation of the recess area light with the Town Council before proceeding with the renovation proposals of the recess area with HDB.

Now, I am waiting for the Town Council to get back to me on the relocation of the recess area light.

So, who will propose the location of the light? Who will physically relocate the light? The Town Council or the owner?

Initially, my wife, contractor and I were under the impression, following our face-to-face communication with a Town Council officer, that the Town Council will be settling the recess area light, but he had indicated that he would have to confirm this with his superior. However, there was no follow-up and I was not updated on the news. Upon calling the same person, he told me to settle it myself and follow the HDB directive in the mean time (i.e. make the proposal first).

So we followed the directive and made the proposal. My contractor feedback that HDB required the light to be relocated first.

I have been screaming a lot of expletives.

Now, let us just wait for the Town Council officer to contact me and we will settle this once and for all.

All these could have been settled a long time ago if HDB could have just gave us a simple plan (not the rock band) telling us, in chronological order, what to do, when to do, step-by-step.

For example:
Step 1: Liaise with the Town Council. Figure out who is going to do what. (also liaise with relevant bodies such as Starhub or PUB)
Step 2: Once the light is relocated, contact HDB and make the proposal and payment when they demand it.
Step 3: Propose the renovation plan for the recess area if applicable.
Step 4: Say bye bye to administrative rubbish by living happily ever after in HDB flat and start producing children.

Very simple! My wife and I are graduates for crying out loud, and we have had trouble understanding what is the simplest process to settling our flat administration. Are we stupid? Do we have Asperger’s Syndrome or something? Why can’t things be simpler? Just send out a simple letter with step-by-step instructions.

My wife has just remarked that we would probably get on our knees and kiss the recess area should we finally complete the administrative process of acquiring and renovating it.

Simply vexing.

I live in the red side of Hougang by the way.

Which brings me to the next topic.

I will be moving from the white side of Hougang to the red side of Hougang.

In the white side of Hougang, it occasionally smells like piss, with the daily random decoration of an eclectic mix of litter (rice, bread, sanitary pads, furniture and so on). This proto-wasteland ecosystem is once in a while disrupted whenever an important person (e.g. MP) arrives; it is cleaned up. Of course, we have to look at the top of the food chain – the irresponsible, ungracious and inconsiderate minority who shower the neighbourhood with more than just their love. They are just one of those minority minorities whom you’d think twice when it comes to fighting for their rights. At the same time, there is little effort done at the grassroots level to ensure that residents have that community spirit and bonding, which can translate to a decrease in the incidence of littering.

Although the red side of Hougang seems old and crippled (transport amenities for one) by some mysterious force (perhaps the hand of the government), it is relatively cleaner and does not smell like piss.

Having voted in Aljunied, I look forward to exercising my precious democratic right/obligation to vote in Hougang. Perhaps it is time MPs ‘go back’ to their constituencies. What we should understand and appreciate is the fact that PAP constituencies with their PAP MPs have the support of their fellow PAP counterparts in the government machinery. No matter how hard the opposition works to get the same upgrading for their constituencies as their PAP counterparts, they will meet a lot of difficulty.

You see, the political opposition does not exist to carry the metaphorical testicles of the ruling party, but that does not give the ruling party the right to cripple them or cast them in bad or disrespectable light in the media.
The vote is feedback, criticism and response all rolled into one. You cannot threaten to beat feedback out of one person, nor can you bribe feedback, because the feedback itself will become less sincere. The vote is an opinion and everyone is entitled to one.

In all honesty, I do not care much about the larger politics of our country. I care most about having a decent place to live in, start a family and aiming towards a debt-free life. If people or groups of people have to make decisions or actions that will affect these plans, I will be obliged to react. This is not apathy, but the romantic pursuit of self-interest (we have many of those by the way). And by “decent place to live in”, I refer to one that is clean and filled more with love than ‘assholism’. There are still people who rattle my esteem by discriminating me as poor speaker of Mandarin despite my Chinese ethnicity, dismissing me as “THAT gay guy” just because I write about sexual minority rights, or who try to think I’m a smart aleck or a prickhead just because I like to sit alone and in front of class. I can do with more love and less ‘assholism’.

Goh Chok Tong talks about winning Hougang. Well, my message to Goh is simple: Just win the hearts of people first, because Hougang is just peripheral. A government can be loved, just like leaders can be loved. But why are there people who hate the government so much? Of course, Hougang may not be “peripheral” if the ruling party has plans to gerrymander, so voters for the opposition will find themselves in the minority whichever new political boundary they find themselves in. One possible solution is to relocate all the other constituencies and group representation constituencies under Tanjong Pagar GRC. It will remove any election anxieties of the ruling party. I would do that if I were in power and am motivated to do anything to stay in power.

I wonder what will happen if PAP won Hougang but lost Aljunied (assuming there isn’t any more gerrymandering till the next elections)? Will Hougang get its mliiions of dollars of upgrading? Will bus services become mysterious infrequent or cancelled in Aljunied? In essence, we should be “Singaporeans first”, not “Aljunied or Hougang residents first”.

I have yet to meet Low Thia Kiang, but he has already sent a welcome letter. So sweet. Of course my white side of Hougang PAP MP also sent me a congratulatory letter on my registration of marriage, but then again, it just shows the nature of information flows within the ruling party and the government. I wonder if Low has that information, so he can wish well other newly-weds in the neighbourhood if he wanted.

I am out of here now. Let us hope that the recess area issue will reach a conclusion by today. I truly despise admin.

The transition into the next chapter of our lives always involves the laborious turning of the page.

Speaking of life, I learnt something interesting from my exchange with Miak Siew. Life is a winding road with many turns and junctions, but when you look back, it is a straight road. This is because of the decisions and commitments you have made and you would not be able to see other routes. So simple, yet so enlightening. Thanks.

1 comment:

Per said...

Being a graduate does not necessarily mean you can understand everything under the sky. Also, accept the fact that anything that involves a few organisations will be complicated. The least you should do is to introduce another complication into the arena - your contractor.

The matter is simply one of administrative and operations. You are not the first one to purchase a recess area. Many have treaded this path before, and most of them are not graduates. No need to spice the matter up with politics.

Whichever side of Town you are living in, accept the fact that there are others less fortunate than you in their academic achievements. Piss and litter is all part of HDB living. Tolerance and patience are virtues.

Thank you for visiting