Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan has criticised Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai’s reluctance to build more sheltered walkways in the single-member constituency.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (23 September), Dr Chee said that it is “disappointing” that Mr Murali “continues to offer excuses and distractions rather than valid reasons”, despite “earnest and reasonable” requests from residents for a pavement from Block 187 to the bus-stop “for safety reasons”.
In a Facebook post on 17 September, Mr Murali said that building a linkway will require Bukit Batok residents to absorb 10 per cent of the construction costs and the entirety of maintenance costs.
He added that constructing a sheltered linkway “when one already exists may simply not be the best way to weigh competing needs”.
“One of the projects I have seen completed was the sheltered walkway network serving blocks 187 to 192 and the bus-stop at Ave 1. Over the years, we have extended it as the population grew and with the completion of Skyline 1,” said Mr Murali, referencing his experience volunteering in the constituency from two decades ago.
“A sheltered linkway serving blocks 187 to 194B is available. One further sheltered linkway at Blk 185 is under construction,” he said.
Questioning Mr Murali’s claims, Dr Chee in his response post yesterday questioned: “If this is the case, then shouldn’t authorities genuinely consult residents what should and should not be built, what structures are useful and necessary, and what are not?”
One of the unnecessary structures, as highlighted by Dr Chee in a Facebook post last week, is what the SDP chief branded a “dilapidated, unused, in the middle-of-nowhere” amphitheatre “with seats facing a patch of overgrown grass built in the middle of nowhere that no one asked for and nobody uses”.
“These are expensive structures that serve no apparent purpose,” he said, adding that such construction reflects “the kind of top-down approach to town planning where residents are not consulted that result in an enormous waste of resources”.
Dr Chee also highlighted that while residents “are calling for a pavement to be built along a route with high human traffic”, a shelter is being considered “along an existing footpath beside a playground with no vehicular traffic” under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme.
“If Mr Murali insists that sheltered walkways are expensive to build and maintain, why is one being considered in a location that is not essential whereas the one that residents want – and need – is refused?
“Residents shouldn’t be made to choose. But if they have to, shouldn’t priority be given to the building of a pavement which ensures the safety of pedestrians?
“If ever there was a case of the authorities ignoring the residents’ wishes, this is it. JRTC and Mr Murali should really start listening to the residents,” said Dr Chee.
Commenters highlighted the absurdity of Bukit Batok residents having to foot the full cost of maintenance and to partially fund the construction of such essential sheltered walkways.
One commenter pointed out that in other constituencies, it “is common in HDB estates to have covered walkways between blocks & from bus stops to blocks or Malls”.
Another commenter praised Dr Chee’s concern and dedication towards ensuring the safety of residents by repeatedly calling for the construction of a sheltered walkway in the area, particularly in anticipation of the rainy season.
Some commenters highlighted that the “amphitheatre” used to serve children and other young residents who play football and engage in other games and activities, up to a point when the Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC) installed “spikes” on walls at the venue.
“Nowadays kids don’t even play outside,” they said.
The phenomenon of “underutilised or unused” amphitheatres, said one of the commenters, is not limited to Bukit Batok, as they have observed one going through an “overhaul” in Clementi.
Another commenter said that an underused fitness corner in an estate in Tampines was similarly replaced by a new one.
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan urged Jurong-Clementi Town Council to build proper footpath for pedestrians near several housing blocks in Bukit Batok in August
Previously in a Facebook post last month, Dr Chee urged JCTC to construct a pathway for pedestrians in an area surrounding several housing blocks in Bukit Batok.
Dr Chee said that his action was spurred by some of the residents who brought the matter to his attention.
Attaching several photographs of the area “surrounding Blks 190, 192, 187 and beyond”, he pointed out that the lack of pavements has forced residents “to walk on the road or on the grass patch”.
“This is not only inconvenient but is also dangerous as pedestrians have to share the road with vehicular traffic. A cement path leading from a nearby bus-stop ends abruptly at the road.
“I have used the route several times myself and I agree that the area needs a proper pathway, even a sheltered one,” said Dr Chee.
He also encouraged Bukit Batok residents, particularly those who use the route, to contact him via WhatsApp at 8413 0302 or to email him on the matter.
Dr Chee has actively questioned delays in projects under the responsibility of Mr Pillai — as the Member of Parliament of Bukit Batok — and the Jurong-Clementi Town Council.
On 27 June, he posted on Facebook a series of photos of signboards carrying notices and announcements about projects such as the “Neighbourhood Renewal Programme” and “Revitalisation of Shops”.
He compared timelines and deadlines of the said projects with their actual stages of completion, two of which he said were delayed by three years.
He also talked about uncompleted construction works that are unsafe and hazardous.
“They are left unfenced and uncovered; not only are these safety lapses an eyesore, (but) more importantly, it also poses a safety hazard (and) should be quickly rectified,” said Dr Chee.
Four days after Dr Chee’s post, however, the areas in question were properly cordoned off with “a proper barricade” when he went back “to ensure no one can enter the spot and the ground is properly cleaned with no dangerous materials laying around”.
“The site is not in some obscure corner in the estate. It’s the most crowded spot in BB (Blk 154) with a wet market and huge centre,” he stressed.
“The people elect you to run the estate, you collect the $16k/month salary, (but) out-source the work to a managing agent and then make the people pay for it. Someone please explain the logic to me,” Dr Chee remarked.
“This is what I mean when I say that MPs must go full-time. It’s impossible to give your 100% if you spend all your time on your day job”, he added.