Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Imagining Potong Pasir

About 14 years ago I gave tuition. It was to this boy staying in Potong Pasir. I took a bus into Potong Pasir. Number 142 from Toa Payoh Interchange. The only public bus that goes into Potong Pasir at that time. It goes past St Andrews than makes a left turn into Potong Pasir proper. What a sight. The flats looked old and in need of a fresh coat of paint. I entered the lift and it was an old lift. I walked along the dimly lit corridor. Fluorescent lamps dotted with remnants of desiccated insects. Knocked on the door and entered the flat of my tuition kid. There I received an education. A political education for almost a year while I was giving tuition there.

For my foreign readers, understand this. Potong Pasir is a residential area, a constituency, that voted a non PAP politician to represent them in the Singapore Parliament. Since the 80s. The area has resisted harsh measures imposed by the dominant political party and continued to vote the same Representative faithfully.

I first remembered Potong Pasir via a newspaper article. The article mentioned that if a situation arose whereby the lifts/elevators of a residential block were to break down simultaneously in Toa Payoh (an adjacent residential area represented by the ruling political party) and Potong Pasir, the former would get priority in servicing and repair. During the inception of the HDB Upgrading Programme in the early 90s, in which the ruling political party offered to upgrade the older residential areas and spruce them up, again priority was given to areas which had the dominant party's representatives. When the idea of the subway was mooted in that North east region of Singapore, initially, Potong Pasir was to be bypassed again.

What a constituency.

What a group of Singaporeans.

Their voice are never heard in the mainstream media except every four years during General Elections. Even then, the focus during this period is never their voice. Why have they voted this way for years and years. What drives them? Where is the fear? That so ubiquitous Fear that permeates among so many Singaporeans, especially the younger ones. why do they reject the carrots and accept the stick waved at them time after time, one Election after another?

The mainstream media, as responsible custodians of Singapore's public opinion, will never take up this story. It is too sensitive. They have to be responsible.

And so we are left to imagine Potong Pasir. That place in Singapore which we always hear about, almost like a mythical land within Singapore. I imagine Singaporeans who are proud of themselves and of their status as nay-sayers against the dominance of the PAP. I imagine Singaporeans who feel a sense of community and solidarity which is channeled politically via their Representative. I imagine a group of Singaporeans who look at the policy disadvantages directed against them and shake their heads; not only in defiance but also probably a tinge of sadness that the Government, who after all represents them at a national level, insults their sense of honor to re-place that tick for an upgraded flat. I imagine Singaporeans who feel that sense of community spirit or semanggat at a local level, comradeship, to work around the policy disadvantages and help themselves.

Perhaps ironically, that elusive national identity, that Singapore Heartbeat, is located in a non-ruling party constituency. That Singaporean, that independent, entrepreneurial, creative spirit which we try to distill from our education system, perhaps ironically it is in Potong Pasir. Is it not?

I have heard the Potong Pasir voice so many years ago. That real voice. As they talk about national politics in Singapore, as they talk about local politics in Potong Pasir. How they can be more active citizens in their community.

Can you imagine Potong Pasir? Especially those readers, Singaporeans or not, who are not from Singapore. Who are not in Singapore now, who are in Singapore but have never been into Potong Pasir? It is not a mythical land. It is a real place with real people living in it. There are a group of Singaporeans, our fellow citizens, residing there. It is a chimera which requires Un-thinking.

Can you imagine Potong Pasir? There is a feeling one gets when you step into Potong Pasir. Its a little thrill that you are somewhere different while in Singapore. Its a slight jump in the heart. A feel of freedom? I do not know. Words fail me. But for this feeling, I thank all these Singaporeans who reside in Potong Pasir.
Humbly.

[Endnote : Potong Pasir and Hougang is inter-changeable in this entry. For readers from the two constituencies who wish to speak, leave comments and I will post them as entries]

Quotes of the Day --

"The Haitian Revolution did challenge the ontological and political assumptions of the most radical writers of the Enlightenment. The events that shook up Saint Domingue" from 1791 to 1804 constituted a sequence for which not even the extreme political left in France or England had a conceptual frame of reference. They were "unthinkable" facts in the framework of Western thought ... The unthinkable is that which one cannot conceive within the range of possible alternatives, that which perverts all answers because it defies the terms under which the questions were phrased. In that sense, the Haitian Revolution was unthinkable ..." -- Michel-Rolph Trouillot

"Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try." -- John Lennon

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Viva le residents of Potong Pasir & Hougang! You all have my utmost respects for going your way & not be intimidated by them. I hope you all will retain your parliament seats this coming election.

I won't be able to vote but will be cheering on the opposition parties. The writing's on the wall - a little chip at a time and we the common peasants will prevail.

I'm so saddened and outraged at the unfairness and double standards. The residents of PP & HG are also tax paying citizens and this is just so morally wrong.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potong Pasir - Masada

10:48 PM  
Blogger - said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potong Pasir and Hougang -- Hormat!

2:42 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

hi mr classics, and where have you been?

6:01 AM  
Blogger feeblechicken said...

I live in the Potong Pasir ward in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 but am now in the US. I was kind of tempted to go to Washington DC to vote because I was worried that the opposition is not going to get enough votes (since last time was borderline). I was hesitant because it is an 11 hours train ride to DC. Later, I found that I've missed the overseas registration. Hopefully the residents would vote for Mr Chiam again.

4:00 PM  
Blogger gayle said...

yeah, there is a very special feeling one gets when one enters potong pasir, i think i blogged about it once. it's so strange -- as though it's an anachronism in our day, with its faded buildings and cheesy walkway of lights, the huge sign that says 'Welcome to Potong Pasir', at least, that's how i remember it from the last time i was there.. yet that stubborn old hero of an estate seems to nurture in it the seed of hope that gestures at our political future. ironic.

8:02 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

hi FC -- I wish to quote parts of your entry on your first experience voting in PP, but I do wish to seek your permission first.

Gayle -- Yes, there is def a feeling. It is something really special. I dun feel it as anachronism, really cannot articulate it except its nice.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

potong pasir is actually well managed without the help of the government..i was there last night for a rally by mr chiam and i think he has done a wonderful job!i hope this election other singaporeans will follow the people of potong pasir and hougang in electing more alternative member of parliament(i think alternative party sound better than opposition party)

11:37 AM  
Blogger zyn said...

you're right when you say that potong pasir has a different vibe to it - it's a lot quieter and less lively than many other wards. but i think potong pasir residents feel they have been "punished" long enough for being an opposition constituency. when mah bow tan lost to chiam see tong back in 1984, he removed several conveniences from the estate, including a bus interchange. 22 years is a long time to hold a grudge against the ruling party for that and to keep CST in power because of it; perhaps this election will see a change in the wind.

what i'm trying to say is, if PP residents vote against CST in the end, please don't hold it against them. maybe some other ward should take a turn at being left by the wayside while the rest of singapore is unceasingly upgraded.

(should qualify: am not myself a PP resident)

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not about holding grudges against the ruling party, its about the belief of having someone voicing out our concerns, providing alternative views before policies are made. To be honest, i believe the majority of residents in potong pasir are not bothered about upgrading, lifts, and whatnot, we are voting for someone who can give constructive opinions in parliament.

living in potongpasir since age 1 , ive seen how CST performed his duties as a mp in PP and in the parliament despite being suppressed , now 22,im gonna be a first time voter next sat..i hope the mature voters of PP are here to stay, and not be enticed and see the bigger picture. we shall see the outcome on 6 May..

1:58 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

hi zyn,

No one will hold grudges against PP residents. They are free to vote. Even if it returns to the PAP, no one will brand them "traitors". In this entry, I just wrote about my feeling and attachment for PP, what it represented to me and no matter what, I will remember this PP.

Yes they have been "punished" but I believe really that they have been admirable and will still be admirable whatever the results on May 6.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Potong Pasir MSM said...

Potong Pasir residents: If you get to vote on May 6 (i.e. you are a Singapore citizen above the age of 21) and you would like your voice to be heard in MSM, email me at potongpasir@gmail.com by Tuesday(May 2).

Apologies to xenoboysg for using your blog as ad space. :)

10:40 AM  
Blogger jianhui said...

I studied in Saint Andrew's Secondary School during 1997 till 2000.

During the first day of school in Secondary School, CST was the VIP for the crossing over of the junior school students to the senior school students. At that time, I was still young and I didn't understand a lot of things. But as the years grew by, he became a prominent figure that I got to respect.

His care for the PP community, constantly adding new services to the PP areas. There are all the basics in PP that are available. Numerous coffee shops, 7-11s, a fast food centre, shops selling anything that I required for projects. Community centre, exotic fish seller.

SA boys living in PP will definitely have memories of Mr. CST as being a kind and charismatic man. Hope everything turns out well for this "mythical land".

6:31 AM  
Anonymous uran said...

oh no...we are so commercialised in Singapore that 7-11s are now part of 'basics'?

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Toa Payoh for almost 30 years.

3 Weeks ago, I signed an option to purchase my dream freehold full-facilities at ONE LEICESTER next to the St Andrew Village. Potong Pasir MRT just 3 minutes walk and under the CST territory. Looking forward to drinking Kopi with CST come Jan 2009.

People in PP, pls make my dream come true !

Kam Sia Kam Sia from bottom of my heart.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Melmevalin said...

Thanks for all the comments. As a Potong Pasir resident for the past 20 years, and now as a 28 year old, I believe CST and his motto for this election says it all for us "Your Town, Your Pride, Your Voice". Geographically speaking, it is ironic that opposition politics thrive right at the heart of Singapore.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is evident that Mr. Chiam See Tong is a sincere and passionate MP who really cares about Singaporeans and the residents of Potong Pasir. I salute his courage to serve despite of the limitations, handicaps and inequitable fundings (he cannot use the $80M funding unlike the other candidate). For decades, he has proven to be trustworthy and has served Singapore and Potong Pasir. He is still active and healthy to serve for few more years. He has the heart to serve and is asking for our support. What is our response as fellow Singaporeans in supporting credible oppositions and upholding democracy? Do we really want to give the ruling party a blank cheque?

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he did it. people, he did it.
oh my god. i nearly cried.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kam Sia Kam Sia, folks in PP. You now make my dream of drinking Kopi with Mr Cheam (my new MP come Jan 2009 when I move to One Leicester).

Mr Cheam, your mighty twenty minute speech on 5th May rally swung everything in your favour.

Folks in Hougang and Potong Pasir, well done well done I salute you all.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello to the one who said Kam Sia.
Could u share with us what Chiam mentioned in the 20 min speech on 5May that sealed his victory?

I am overjoyed that Chiam has won despite of the LIMITATIONS and inequittable resources!! And PAP threw in many weapons like $80M carrot and presenting selected town council budget to discredit our noble Chiam. He is indeed multiple times better than any other MPs (except for Low TK who is also superb) in terms of Walk the Talk in democracy and fighting for people's empowerment and self-actualisation! It was tough for Chiam & Low but they perservered, fought hard and won deservingly!

Most of all, I respect the voters of PP and Hougang. You did not yield to the carrot out of selfishness in gaining attractive estate upgrades. Most importantly, you have stood on moral grounds and demonstrated a precious value that all Singaporeans should possess -- Care for others, care for the future of Singaporeans! Kill Kiasuism!

6:27 AM  
Blogger feeblechicken said...

Sorry, I didn't notice your comment..:P was just starting out blogging and didn't set new comments to email notification. This is probably abit late but yeah u can quote me.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potong Pasir isnt that ulu lah. I live there when there's 147, 142 runnning & a 'mini bus interchange'. Then the 147 is strike off from the bus stop number. and the mini bus interchange was removed. damn. i am very unhappy about this. why is it so unfair? why is there only one 142 bus running in SG?

for me, i am proud to ve Mr Chiam as our elected MP for Potong Pasir. I am proud that residents at PP is more willing to hang out their national flags so readily during August.

There is also notice on the notice board, informing residents to hang out their flags. and that its illegal not to hang it out. boohooo on the latter note.

NOw i've moved to a private estate. During the august season, no one bother or rarely anyone bother to hang out the national flag. Happened to by pass several HDB flats along the roads and the residents are not hanging out the flags. Furthermore, it seem that the town council or some dept is hanging out the BIG national FLAGSSSS for the residents. I dont feel the pride of the residents living in those estates.

For potong Pasir, even though residents voted for opposition, but they seem to be more patriotic.

I also like the slogan set by Mr Chiam if not wrong. Potong Pasir, My Kind of Town. I really love the way Mr Chiam slowly changes the environment of Potong Pasir. Running tracks, chairs placed near the area. Potong Pasir is just so peaceful and quiet. The Town Council isnt done that fanciful. The more i believe he really take good care of the Residents $$$. There is no need for a nice grand building, spending so much of the people money.

I hope that the govt shld control their expenditure when they build govt buildings.

and I am very unhappy over the govt policy. Why only PAP estates get to have upgrading done first? this is soooooo unfair. Unless Potong Pasir/Hougang residents give lower income tax, else there is no such thing as join behind the back of the queue.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's a saying about "the measure of a man is in how he treats his enemies" or something like that. according to this, the measure of the PAP is not very big, not very high, is it...?

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello to all and Xeno, I do not know if my comment would be of any good but I want to voice out what I feel as a resident of Potong Pasir. Potong Pasir is my life, starting down when I was in Saint Andrews Junior School, I was often bullied, pushed around, called names and many others. As I was being bullied, people have came to accompany me back and drive those bullies away, my neighbours. When I was down and had problems with family or any social related stuff, I could turn to my neighbours as they were an extremely good source of friendship.

Being a resident who has resided in Potong Pasir for nearly 2 decades now, there has been lots of commotions from the Peoples' Action Party(PAP). Yes, there has been comments when PAP threatened the Singapore Democratic Alliance(SDA). Tough as the elections kept waging on and off, but Potong Pasir residents still hold each and one another close.

Do you all know the thing when Americans run to Mexico as their paradise?
Potong Pasir is like our Mexico.

Peaceful is our place, like an outskirt for the busy lives and stresses that many have. Our hideaway, where time slows down and we get to take a step cautiously one by one.

7:39 AM  

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