June 25, 2017

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A new Central Greenway will provide a direct and seamless connection from Pasir Ris Town Centre to Pasir Ris Park Source: HDB

by Daniel Yap

THE plans for remaking the heartlands of Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris have just been announced. Based on the feedback of some 400 residents and stakeholders from the towns, the plans are an indication of the aspirations of the community, and pose a question to the rest of the nation: how do we engage with each other within our built environment?

In the end, it is not just features and infrastructure, but how people – residents – interact that defines the soul of a city. What do the latest changes say about the way we want to engage in community?

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We’re going local

A little more heartlands, a little less Orchard Road. Neighbourhood centres in Pasir Ris, for example, will be enhanced with the aim of having amenities closer to home. This means less time spent travelling and more time spent in the immediate neighbourhood, and providing opportunities for local interaction.

The enhancement of comprehensive amenities at each town centre is also expected to boost local engagement and make each town self-sufficient. There is thus no need to travel across the country unless you’re looking for something specific.

A new Town Plaza in Woodlands Central will serve as a vibrant public space for residents.
Source: HDB

The character and heritage of each revamped town have also been deliberately preserved or commemorated in each plan. Toa Payoh will stay wedded to it’s iconic Ring Road, and its pedestrian walkways lined with HDB shops will not be giving way to malls – Toa Payoh has always eschewed big malls in favour of more local retail flavour. Both Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris will have heritage sites beside the town centre that tell of the town’s history. Woodlands will get a “discovery playground” that also showcases its development.

It is an opportunity to take pride in each town and its unique institutions – icons, people or features that have been around for decades. It gives character and distinction to each town and shifts the focus away from thinking of Singapore as a single physical place.

We embrace diversity

A place you can call home needs to offer something for everyone. There is a deliberate attempt to inject diversity into each town. Multi-generational facilities, “silver zones”, and a range of amenities can appeal to different interests, but one big part of the plan is to introduce more new housing units to older towns, which are likely to be bought up by younger families.

When a whole new town springs up, like Punggol, it gets filled mostly by younger families applying for their first build-to-order flats. In 20 or 30 years, these families grow as a generation and in order to inject diversity, different demographics have to be added in.

Think of mature towns like Toa Payoh, or “young family” towns like Punggol. This will cut down on the pressures of extreme local undersupply of childcare places, or very high demand in one area for elder-care facilities. It makes amenities easier to plan for, and nobody will feel left out.

Walk, cycle, or scoot

You can be sure that exercise has become fashionable when people clamour for cycling paths more than they beg for additional bus stops. That, and the burgeoning flocks of spandex-clad cyclists we see on the roads these days. The emphasis of the latest town plans has been to enhance walking and cycling facilities as a means of intra-town travel, especially with each town becoming more self-sufficient. There is less of a focus on longer-distance travel, which will be centred around MRT stations and regional centres.

Town centres will be planned with more pedestrianisation in mind. Woodlands will get a “social corridor”, interspersed with community spaces, stretching across the town from east to west, which branches out into a comprehensive network of cycling paths.

Even Toa Payoh’s ring road will be upgraded for pedestrians and runners, and the old town will be retrofitted with biking infrastructure and “silver zones” that will help the elderly get around more safely.

The growth of bike sharing companies also sets the stage for increased use of cycling as a transport option, and the bike connectivity between individual blocks and MRT stations will be a major aim of any upgrade.

We want to be green

Greening the towns has been a major theme across latest developments. Take some time to appreciate nature, get active outdoors, and please stop polluting the environment.

A seamless central greenway (with cycling paths, of course) will connect the Pasir Ris town centre with Pasir Ris Park and 8.2 km of “Nature Ways” spotted with small parks will be added along major thoroughfares. Toa Payoh will have seven “pocket parks” added along its 4km ring road.

The pocket park in front of Block 157 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh will feature landscaped spaces with plants and furniture inspired by popular motifs in the town.
Source: HDB

Woodlands too will get a green upgrade: the 1.9-kilometre WoodsVista Gallery with dedicated cycling and pedestrian paths that link Woodlands MRT to the coast.

We want to spend time with people

Who says Singaporeans are a private lot who shy away from interactions with neighbours? If it were so, people would have asked HDB to install traffic lights in the floor, and free wi-fi throughout the entire length of Pasir Ris Drive 1 so that they can get around in full “phombie” mode, ignoring everyone and everything around them.

Instead, requests by residents for the development of local community spaces like parks and town plazas are calls for more opportunities for interacting with family, friends or neighbours. A new concept of community nodes has created earmarked spaces for art installations, community gardens, reading corners, or community cafés. Sound good?

But they are only going to be as good as how we use them. The heart of any town is its people, and if residents don’t want to engage with one another, then the “kampung spirit”, will not grow. Take ownership of your neighbourhood, or leave it as it is – the outcome is up to you.

 

Want to have a say in how your town develops? The Remaking Our Heartland proposals for Woodlands (beside Woodlands MRT until April 30), Toa Payoh (HDB Hub Atrium until May 7) and Pasir Ris (beside Pasir Ris MRT until May 14) will be on display for residents to give feedback on. You can also see the proposals and give feedback online at HDB InfoWEB (http://www.hdb.gov.sg/ROH). 

This article is done in partnership with the Housing & Development Board.

 

Featured image courtesy of HDB.

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skillsfuture_300x250

 

TMG Logo Visual Image, TMG logo, The Middle Ground

POKÉMON GO brought a community together at Block 401, Hougang Ave 10. At around 1am on Sunday (August 7), Facebook user Mr Lim Tong Choo shared a picture of the “midnight party”, happening at the playground on the Pokémon GO SG Hougang-ers group. The playground was a Pokéstop that had a “lure” placed on it, attracting Pokémons and hence encouraging large crowds. The post has since been shared over 2,000 times.

 

Mr Noor Azmi stumbled across a gruesome find while he was out hunting Pokémons yesterday morning (August 7). He found a dead body lying face down in the water at Woodlands Waterfront Park, and shared the images of the body and the scene on his Facebook page. Mr Azmi has since taken down the photos of the dead body after some called it “disturbing” and “disrespectful”. The post has been shared over 7,000 times and received close to 200 comments.

 

Ministers and G officials are getting in on the Pokémon action too. Minister of State for Manpower, Teo Ser Luck shared a screenshot of himself playing the game on Saturday morning (August 6). Mr Teo was queuing for bak chor mee when he spotted the Charmander Pokémon. The post has been liked over 2,200 times and has 72 comments so far.

 

Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport, Assoc. Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, was also quick to get in on the action. He shared a photo of himself eating at a foodcourt with a Scyther Pokémon on his shoulder yesterday (August 7). The post has since received over 800 likes and 41 comments.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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A small boy's survival technique

by Bertha Henson

AH SING was cornered. The bigger boy loomed over him, blowing cigarette smoke into his face. Ah Sing knew Indra wanted him to hand over his pocket money – willingly. Ah Sing waved the smoke from his face. He was asthmatic and had left his inhaler in the classroom. He made a mental note not to be so careless next time.

Indra bellowed: “So little boy, want to give me your money or not!’’ deliberately, he exhaled through his mouth. Ah Sing quietly cursed the wind direction. Why wouldn’t it just rain, he thought.

The expected shoving came. Ah Sing stood upright. Two years of training in the kids’ gym had made him slightly more muscled, even if still small-sized. He blamed his genes; his whole family was smallish. Ah Sing, as is in his nature, kept silent. He had learnt the art of walking softly while carrying a big stick, although he didn’t have a stick with him. Or was it a carrot or stick? But he had no carrots either.

Indra rifled through the small boy’s pockets and pulled out a $2 note. He couldn’t believe that the geeky kid in glasses who lived in a three-story bungalow had only $2 on him. “Where’s the rest?’’.

No response from Ah Sing, who pulled the note back.

Inwardly, Ah Sing cheered. What a brainwave to lock the other $8 in a secret compartment in his school bag. Indra would need the form teacher to open the lock. But it seemed that Indra had found his precious football cards.

Ah Sing shouted: “Give them back!’’

Indra replied coolly: “But you stole this from me. So it’s actually mine.’’

Ah Sing contemplated making a fuss but decided not to. Let him have them if it would buy a few days of trouble-free recess, he thought.

Indra wasn’t satisfied. He needed to cajole or shame Ah Sing.

So, at first, he said that Ah Sing should be more generous and be a better friend to a friend in need. After all, Ah Sing owned expensive designer track shoes.

Then, he made fun of Ah Sing’s small family, which only had Pa, Ma, Ah Girl, Ah Ma, Mary the maid and Timmy the dog.

Finally, he pointed out that he had siblings and cousins by the dozen who could drown him simply be peeing on him.

Ah Sing had heard this many times before. He had looked up the word “envy’’ on Wikipedia. He wished his father wouldn’t drive him to school in his Merc but Pa didn’t believe in going car-lite. Then Ma wouldn’t let him take the MRT because it might make him late for school. He suggested cycling to school, but Ah Ma got into a fit talking about how dangerous pedestrians on pavements could be.

Ah Sing sighed. He was the top boy in the class but it didn’t make him popular. He was especially good in mathematics and spent plenty of time in front of the computer without parental guidance, so that he could learn everything he could about the world. He realised what a dangerous place the world is, especially to the small-sized.

This was why he tried to make a lot of friends; you don’t know when you might need their help. This was why he liked rules. Rules are meant to be obeyed and to protect both big and small. But there was no teacher around to watch him being shaken down by Indra – or to catch Indra smoking.

Indra was getting tired of haranguing Ah Sing, whom he had described to his relatives as a smug, sneaky and self-righteous piece of s***. He disliked the small boy who always seemed to be one up on him. Those designer track shoes should have been his, Indra thought. Somehow Ah Sing had managed to get them by some sort of bomoh magic, he thought.

He was thinking of letting Ah Sing go when the other boys came up.

Indra sighed. He knew the lecture that was coming, about how as the biggest boy in the class, he was expected to be nice to everyone, especially little ones.

He saw Ah Sing looking hopefully at Amal. He knew that Ah Sing and Amal had decided to pool their pocket money to buy a really fancy toy train set. Doubtless, Ah Sing was expecting Amal’s support. But, Indra knew that Amal had his own troubles and was in danger of getting kicked out of his own home because of money problems.

Ah Sing knew this too. No help from that quarter, he thought.

He caught sight of Camby, standing outside the circle with arms akimbo. Camby can’t be relied on, Ah Sing thought. Camby only does what that even bigger boy in the upper class wants. That big fellow wasn’t afraid of anyone, not even the school principal.

The circle of boys, all 10 of them, usually played together at recess time. But increasingly, those times were getting more and more infrequent. Ah Sing wanted them all to be part of a community, even if it was impossible to be best friends forever. It was what he had learnt from Pa and the family. When you are rich, but small, you need to be part of something bigger or at least have friends who are also rich but big.

He thought of his family and how his Pa had rigged up a new security system for the house. Pa was even rearing carrier pigeons for emergency use in case the Internet broke down. That had led to a law suit from the neighbour who said his pigeons were a nuisance and an environmental hazard.

Ah Sing looked around him. He knew that it was best to depend on no one but himself.

He farted.

All the boys looked at him and laughed.

Tragedy averted for the day.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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skillsfuture_300x250

by Daniel Yap 

IT IS always a pleasant thing to hear someone like Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Ms Grace Fu say that we need to strengthen our Singapore identity through the arts and sports. It is good to realize that these are critical components of our cohesiveness as a nation – we need them to survive as a society and a culture.

Yet it seems strange to me to think of the arts and sports primarily as ways to overcome our fault lines. Some days, it seems that great sports brands create as many fault lines as they smooth over.

Arsenal and Tottenham are both great sports teams: brands that, had they been Singaporean, we would be proud of. Within the fan base of each there is great camaraderie, but put the two groups together and you get the definition of a fault line – rioting, fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Put players from both teams in the England squad (debates aside about how many English players are actually on those teams), however, and you will have fans of both Arsenal and Tottenham rooting for a repeat of ’66.

Not that I advocate hooliganism – far from it, but are we so afraid of fault lines that we leave no room for passion to grow to a point where it brings us together?

That’s the truth of it – the same passion that fractures our society is the passion that binds it. But we do not have enough space in between our fault lines for such passions to flourish. To our nearsighted natures, it is “imbalance and tension”. Negative. We want that fervent passion at the national level, but cannot abide it at the grassroots. At the grassroots, passion can be fractious – something we will not risk on our quest for national unity.

Can we have one without the other?

If we had our own Madonna, would we be proud of her? An artist who brazenly and openly captures the attention of the world by sticking it to a particular religious group? Who dares to bare it and get raunchy even as conservatives shriek and shudder? Would we applaud her for her musical talent, her showmanship, her ability to draw a following? Or would she be seen first as a threat to national unity, a case skirting on sedition, a dissenter?

We say that artists the likes of Madonna are a luxury that our fragile, tiny nation cannot afford. We would disown her, disavow her. The OB markers are drawn close for our own protection. Do not support such a woman.

Yet at the same time we want to have our own famous feel-good bands, our universally palatable acts, our Government–endorsed filmography. We want it without realizing that the system that births offensive Madonna is the same one that churns out the art that binds. To cut out the womb that fosters “revisionist” narratives like Charlie Chan would also kill the Norman Rockwells. To try to engineer it would rob our art of its soul.

So how then can we have our cake and eat it? The role of the G, I humbly plead, is not to be the arbiter of art and sport, but the voice of reason that reminds us that passionate diversity is the foundation of passionate unity, and which supports us through the wilderness of viewpoints to the promised land of National Identity.

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana 

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by Rohini Samtani

A SINGAPOREAN woman has alleged that she was shouted at with anti-Islam comments at Tanah Merah MRT station last night on Twitter. The tweet has since gone viral, prompting a wave of support online from other Singaporeans for her.

Ms Syazwani Jaffari posted the following tweet at 8.50pm last night. Since then, the tweet has been retweeted 880 times and got 171 likes.

A follow-up tweet on her Twitter page said that no one came forward to defend the 21-year-old, who could not be reached for comment today.

This apparent act of aggression comes at a time where hostility against Muslims has increased following the Islamic State-led attacks in Paris last week. CBS News reported that Muslims in the US are facing backlash in the form of vandalism to mosques and Islamic centres, hate-filled phone and online messages, and threats of violence. In Canada, a Muslim woman was attacked on Monday and a mosque in Toronto was torched on Saturday night. The two separate anti-Muslim events were labeled as hate crimes by authorities.

This is the first reported act of anti-Muslim comments in Singapore. The tweet has since received an outpouring of support from Singaporeans, virtually all in support for Ms Jaffari.

Popular local blogger mrbrown also showed his support.

Many advised the victim to use CCTV footage from the MRT and report the case to the police.

Others chose to highlight the identity of the alleged culprit.

 

Featured image Train leaving Tanah Merah MRT Station by Flickr user Dickson PhuaCC BY-ND 2.0.

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Sculptures of early Chinese labourers in Singapore. Image sourced from Flickr user: Jnzl's Public Domain Photos.

by Gillian Lim

NEXT week, two books will be launched – and both are on the Chinese community in Singapore. Launching three days apart, both books discuss and narrate the history of the Chinese community, especially after Singapore’s independence in 1965.

The book being launched on Monday, is on the general history of the Chinese community in Singapore, and it is the first to ever be written in Chinese. Titled A General History Of The Chinese In Singapore (or 新加坡华人通史, if you’re looking to buy the book), it is a compilation of nearly 50 essays – by 37 local and overseas writers – and is edited by Singapore history researcher Kua Bak Lim.

The 823-page book charts the history of the Chinese before and after Singapore’s independence in 1965. With eight chapters and over 800,000 Chinese characters, it aims to fill in the blanks left after Song Ong Siang’s One Hundred Years’ History Of The Chinese In Singapore published in 1923, said Mr Kua.

“That was written in English and traces the history of the Chinese between 1891 and 1919 only,” said Mr Kua last year. “Besides updating the history to the present day, our book is able to dig further into the past as recent archaeological finds have shown that a Chinese community existed here as early as the 14th century.”

The book is also said to cover all aspects of the Chinese community: from the clan associations and schools that the Chinese set up since the 19th century, to the secret societies and political activities they were involved in over the years.

Other topics include Chinese businesses, arts and culture, the evolution of the language, and their religious practices. The book even covers the Peranakan Chinese and Baba community, the influences of Confucianism on the Chinese society and Chinese literature.

Commissioned by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association (SFCCA), it is to be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next Monday at Resorts World Sentosa, in celebration of both the federation’s 30th and Singapore’s 50th birthday. The first print run of the book is sold out – if you want to get a copy of its second print run, it will be out early next year. You can contact the SFCCA to pre-order the book.

The other book being launched on Thursday, is an English book titled 50 Years Of The Chinese Community In Singapore. Its 16 chapters – written by 21 writers – were put together a year ago by former journalist and diplomat Pang Cheng Lian, and chronicles the contributions of the Chinese community to the growth of Singapore.

The book is split into four major sections:

1. Major Chinese organisations and their contributions in the past 50 years;

2. Popular contested topics in the Chinese community in the past 50 years – some of which include the evolution of the Chinese language, the influence of Chinese religions and how new immigrants from China are being integrated into society;

3. How the Chinese art form has changed in the past 50 years;

4. The relationships between the Singaporean Chinese community and China, and also with other regional Chinese communities.

Published by World Scientific as part of its 50 Years of Nation-Building Series, the book is to be sold after its launch on Thursday by former Cabinet minister Ong Pang Boon, at Ee Hoe Hean Club in Bukit Pasoh. You can get it at major bookstores, such as Times and Kinokuniya, at $72.76 for its hardcover edition and $34.25 for its paperback edition.

It looks like we’re building a record of the Chinese community.

A similar academic book was published in 2004, detailing the changes that took place in Singapore before independence, and its impact on the Chinese society.

Titled Singapore Chinese Society in Transition: Business, Politics, and Socio-Economic Change, written by Hong Liu and Sin Kiong Wong, it breaks down the socio-economic and political changes that happened before independence, and tracks the various ways in which these changes affect, and cause the Chinese society to change and adapt. 

The authors also argue that postwar Singapore was complex – and this made the Chinese society not only full of life, but also politically active – and that the combination of such vitality and the changing socio-political landscape of Singapore shaped the nature of today’s Chinese community.

However, If you’re more into pictures, here are some books that might interest you more: Who’s Who In The Chinese Community of Singapore is a book that records 1175 outstanding figures of the Singapore Chinese community from 1819 to 1990, and 华人传统, a Chinese book that documents pictures of Singapore Chinese cultural and social activities in the past. The former was written by Ms Mulin Ke, and published in 1990, while the latter was compiled by SFCCA and published in 1990 as well.

Time to hit the bookstores, it seems.

 

Featured image Samsui woman in Virtues and Vices diorama, Haw Par Villa by Flickr user Jnzl’s Public Domain PhotosPublic Domain.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/chocogato/11182002785/

by Gwee Li Sui

Sometimes hor, I think that this country needs foresight. For decades, our Gahmen has whacked Singlish. Whack ah whack. All the kay angmos – some of whom England pumchek also can critisai Singlish – join in too. Wah piang eh! Does anyone care that we live in a multicultural society?

Multicultural means what? Means that, if you buang Singlish, everyone will be left with his or her own thing. The angmos and Eurasians and jiak kentangs will talk in England. The Melayu will converse in Malay. The Indians will speak Tamil and Malayalam and Punjabi. Ah Bengs and Ah Lians at town centres will speak Hokkien and Cantonese. Ah Tiongs will speak PRC Chinese.

Hello, is that what you want? Think lah, dey, think! Singlish is our bridge language. It joins Singaporeans across different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds and different generations. But you may argue: isn’t that what England is for? Isn’t England – as our Gahmen always tells us – our bridge language?

You very good hor. Then I dun understand one thing lor. Since England is our official bond and is so kilat and all our schools, media, workplaces, and hampalang Singapore system support it, why are some people still so kan cheong and can accuse Singlish of pecahing England? Singlish got any institutional muscle to chiong with meh? Please lah. Can talk more than one way doesn’t mean one pecah the other OK. Liddat can also say that my mother tongue pecah my England, right?

So I always point out: Singlish isn’t bad England. Bad England isn’t good Singlish. If you speak less Singlish, your England won’t become good one. If you speak good England, you can also still speak good Singlish one. That kopitiam auntie selling bak chor mee? She is speaking Singlish. Why some kaypohs go and confuse her and tell her that she is speaking bad England? Auntie just wants to sell bak chor mee! Why these people liddat?

And, since Singlish still somehow manages to survive all this time despite these atas kay angmos anyhowly hum-tum, surely we should think of treating it with greater care. You know, we dowan to sabo the growth of something meaningful in Singapore again, right? Besides, every great people in history has its own language one. If we want Singapore to be great, then hor please start believing in the potential of our own speech form.

So our Singlish at this point in time may not be perfect or stable yet, but it’s still a cake baked by Ah Seng, Siti, Muthu, and Elizabeth. You tell me: when these friends sit together and eat this cake, will their friendship deepen more or less than when they sit and eat some “freshly prepared” cake that you can buy in shops everywhere? You tell me lah!

Sure, when you work and do business with the world, go and speak good England. But, when you want to build bridges with your neighbours who may not talk like you or as well as you with your Air-level, then learn to give and take lah. Because language is about life! It’s about living with people. Our Gahmen may not admit it, but Singlish plays a tok kong part in Total Defence. There’s a part for everyone to speak it and keep the peace we want!

In fact, next time when I become a bored Ah Pek in my singlet sitting in my kopitiam, I want this to be a reality I can feel shiok about. I dowan to just buy food in Singlish OK. I want to be able to converse with the future generation sitting at other tables and know that, despite our differences, we still share a special connection. I want to be able to share a layer of humour implicit to our kueh lapis language with them – and with the makciks and pakciks and whoever’s around on a lazy afternoon.

I want to be able to howlian about knowing where this word came from and that word came from and how last time my father and my mother talked like this and that. I want to be able to be humble and ask schoolchewren what nowadays they mean when they say this and that and why. I want to be able to explain to a New Citizen that “goondu” may mean fatso in Tamil, but, over here, it means idiot because this is Singlish. I want to be able to tell the Malaysian that he or she may say hentam, but we say hum-tum because it’s not Malay anymore.

I want to be able to share all these nuggets of facts that reveal who we are and how we became who we are. Fifty years old liao, Singapore. Stop acting like a si geena who must always have his or her way or else hate this, hate that. Dun jiak liao bee yourself. Be more accepting of others and learn to listen, compromise, and find a way to be friends. Life isn’t about speaking in a manner that can get you that big car and that big house – and language is about life. Where your heart is, there will your language be also.

 

This post is the second of a four-part series for Singapore’s golden Jubilee. You can read the other articles here:

Jubilee wish: The Singapore I want to work in

My Jubilee wish for my children’s Singapore

My Jubilee wish for Singapore’s next 25 years while I’m still alive

 

Featured image Singlish by Flickr user chocogato. CC BY-NC 2.0.

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