Mountbatten’s silent majority speak up
This month saw a group of 500 Mountbatten residents counter-petitioning for the authorities to stick...
This month saw a group of 500 Mountbatten residents counter-petitioning for the authorities to stick to plans for a void-deck rehabilitation centre.
(Mountbatten Road. Image by Terence Ong courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
The residents, most of them elderly, were petitioning in response to a protest by a smaller group of residents against having the Housing Board (HDB) facility in their block.
These 500 residents are what Members of Parliament and grassroots residents call the silent majority, who neither mind nor support having the rehab centre in their void deck.
To get these people breaking the silence, MPs and grassroots leaders are knocking on doors to conduct polls and speak with them as new facilities get introduced to the estate.
For instance, in February, Woodlands Street 83 residents protested against an eldercare centre being built in their void decks, but the designated MP suspected that the majority were less concerned. To prove this, Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee told The Straits Times that she met with many supportive residents during house visits. “It's actually quite prevalent that the silent majority [is] supportive of the new facilities, but they're not the type to make known their consensus,” she said, adding that some even visited the resident’s committee offices to voice their support.
Lee noted, “It's a matter of making sure the information is filtered down to everybody affected. If they know that the facilities mean well, they may come out to support. By providing them with more information, we can give them a better idea of what is at stake.
Back in September 2011, residents of Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak had also protested against charity organisation Ren Ci’s plans to relocate its Jalan Tan Tock Seng nursing home to their neighbourhood. MP Low Yen Ling, who met with residents at her Meet-the-People sessions and at coffee shops, noted to The Straits Times, “I think the majority of Bukit Gombak residents understand the need for more nursing homes and eldercare facilities as Singapore's population matures.”
Low added that the activism among residents is a sign of a strong “kampung spirit” in the neighbourhood. “Some residents from the blocks in the vicinity are now part of the committee that looks into the developments of the nursing home, with the view of how it can be smoothly implemented and integrated into the Bukit Gombak community,” she said.
More recently, about 40 residents of Bishan Street 13 petitioned last month against plans to build a nursing home on an area facing three blocks of flats. The area is currently home to a football field. Vice-chairman of the Bishan East Citizens Consultative Committee Roland Ang told The Straits Times that a dialogue session was held last month, where residents on both sides aired their views. “We definitely see more residents voicing their opinions,” he observed.
“Silence doesn't mean consent,” said Jurong GRC MP David Ong to The Straits Times.
“So it's very good that the elderly people are making their voices heard in the Mountbatten petition but I think it would be better if younger ones can also get involved,” he urged.
Singapore is no stranger to issues related to an ageing population. However, as the elderly population in Singapore jumped from 7.2% in 2000 to 9.0% in 2010, there is a growing and unprecedented need to provide sufficient facilities to meet the unique housing and healthcare needs of this demographic. Last year, the figure stood at 9.3%.
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