Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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.


Glass Castle said...

Hiya - nice blog you have here. It's good to see someone fighting the good fight.

Wonder if you'd be interested in this:

It's a feminist webzine a group of us have set up recently to address women's welfare and gender relations in Singapore.

- Jolene

Ned Stark said...

Well... at least ur self interest has gotten u to blog!

I have heard that Mr Low and Mr Chiam try to keep abreast of their constiteunts. Which is remarkable and for that they have my respect...whatever their effect on politics at the national level.

Sam Ho said...

thanks jolene. i don't see myself as fighting, but more like expressing an opinion that is shared by others.

SinQSA will have a lot in common with glass castle, as we address, among other issues, gender identity oriented discrimination.

ned stark, i just happen to kpkb a lot haha. and the more education one has, the more the kpkb-ing

Lilian is ... said...

HI Jolene,

The WPYW will be having our Forum 4 on 16th Aug 2008. Topic: Evolving roles of women in Singapore'

Do look out for it!

And Sam, may i re-publish your this particular blog entry onto my blog

Sam Ho said...

hi lilian, i'm not sure if you want to feature a whiney complainy entry on your blog haha, especially when i bitched about the town council.

you may feature it on your blog if you like. have a nice day!

khirsah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khirsah said...

Wow... you get a welcome note and a wedding congrats note?!?!

I wonder other constituents, especially those that always got walk-over during GE receives such heartwarming notes.

To be fair to my previous MP, each household were given a box of mandarin oranges to celebrate the CNY festive occasion which happens to occur not too long after the GE.

BTW, when dealing with public/civil servants, I get the feeling that sometimes, it is better to just do it, THEN ask them "can I like tat huh?" and look VERY innocent... as long as there's no life/death/politics involved, they'll let it go and settle the admin problem by themselves eventually.

Lilian is ... said...

Hi Sam,

No prob about the complaining part as long as u are ok to let me feature it.

Thanks for allowing me to do so!

Enjoy your stay in Hougang and btw the MPS is held every Wednesday at Blk 310 Hougang Ave 5 (the void deck).

Per said...

For crying out loud, both of you are graduates and cannot understand your own responsibilities under the issue. For starter, dont listen to your contractor. Second, accept that various organisations can and may have different guidelines regarding the same matter. The HDB is not the Town Council. Finally, you need to have legally purchased the recess area before anybody will take your request seriously. Even when you had purchased it, it is as clear as daylight that it is your responsibility to relocate the light, subject to the approval of the relevant authorities. Just because you could not understand, maybe because you are a Communications and New Media grad and not from the School of Design and Environment, does not necessarily mean that the other organisations are ineffective.

On a separate note, regardless of whichever "coloured" side of Town you are in, accept that fact that you are living in close proximity with fellow Singaporeans from differing backgrounds, especially those from the lower stratum of society. So expect piss and litter within the estate because not all of us are born equal. The easiest way is to blame the Town Council but unless you are willing to pay for a cleaner to be stationed outside your unit everyday, accepting something that is less perfect is a virtue.

Parting questions - why is it so important that MPs must take not of your wedding, birthday and relocation? Dont these MPs have better things to do? Why must we burden them with such personal things?

Sam Ho said...

hi per, ouch. that really hurt a bit. i'm glad you left my wife out.

i have this problem with instructions sometimes but have been more than diligent this time, but funny things happen once in a while.

before i can legally purchase the recess area, hdb requires me to confirm the relocation of the recess area light. if i don't relocate the light, nothing is going to happen and i can't buy the area first.

but any way, i'm quite relieved things are getting smoother now. it's quite an experience. there had been lots of phone calls, face-to-face and email interactions. and we have been led here and there and bounced back and forth.

and i don't think it has ever been that important MPs take note of such stuff like weddings. i just want to say how genuinely touched we were when we got congratulated and welcomed in both cases. even if it came from some random stranger, we'd be touched (and puzzled, but still touched).

living a life and being in an environment where little credit, congratulations and gratitude are given while antagonism and cynicism are rampant, these little gestures have made our day.

it may not be important in most cases, but it's at least meaningful to a couple of persons.

Sam Ho said...

thanks lilian,

we really look forward to staying in our new home and neighbourhood.