In Pioneer SMC, the residents, most of whom live in HDB flats, are most concerned about municipal issues like noise and littering. This is the eighth of a 12-part series on single-member constituencies (SMCs)
NO MRT station, no coffee shops and few provision shops.
When Pioneer resident Tan Kim Bock moved into the ward some 10 years ago, he wondered if he had made a bad decision.
The 73-year-old retiree had moved from a matured estate in Eunos and was used to having amenities around him.
"Few wanted to buy here (in Pioneer) then; it was terrible. Now it's much better," he said.
His place is now a five-minute walk to Pioneer MRT station, there’s a coffee shop nearby and the bustling Jurong Point Shopping Centre is just a train stop away.
Mr Tan had bought his five-room flat at Jurong West Street 63 for about $170,000. Today, the median resale price for a similar flat there is about $440,000, according to statistics from HDB's website.
He lives there with his retired wife, 74, youngest son and daughter-in-law who are in their 30s.
While he is happier that the estate has more amenities now, Mr Tan is irked by foreign workers causing a nuisance.
The area has several foreign worker dormitories.
"I see a lot of foreign workers loitering around the HDB void decks almost every night. They drink and litter," Mr Tan said in Hokkien. His concerns were shared by other residents in the newly created SMC, which is carved out of West Coast GRC.
The issue has been bugging residents for a few years, and this was reflected in a poll of 100 Pioneer residents.
The majority – about 70 per cent – were concerned with municipal issues, with cleanliness as the top concern. (See poll below).
The 30 per cent who raised national issues were mostly concerned with the cost of living.
Pioneer was created as a ward in 2001 in West Coast GRC, which saw walkovers in the past two elections.
For the past 10 years, Mr Cedric Foo of the People's Action Party (PAP) has been the Member of Parliament for the ward. When he took up the reins in 2001, the urgent task was to build the town's infrastructure from scratch, including a community centre and kindergarten facilities, reported The Straits Times last December.
Mr Foo said Pioneer is largely made up of HDB four-room, five-room and executive flats. While there are no three-room flats, there is a small number of two-room flats converted from executive flats.
The ward also has a handful of condominiums.
But it is the foreign worker dormitories in the area that has riled some residents. Some of them had complained that the workers congregate in the HDB areas during their happy-hour sessions, which start at about 8pm and can go on till 2am during weekends, reported The Straits Times in 2007. Some on them litter, get drunk and even urinate around the common areas.
It was estimated that there were about 35,000 foreign workers living in the Soon Lee estate at the fringe of Pioneer, reported The Straits Times two years ago.
Soon Lee estate is not in Pioneer SMC.
Mr Foo said: "The issue of foreign worker loitering has not disappeared totally. But from our observations, it has improved considerably after it came to my notice years ago."
The measures his team has taken to tackle the issue include:
- Engaging the dormitories and employers to educate them on the Do's and Don'ts.
- Assisting the Singapore Contractors Association Limited to set up a recreation centre to provide an alternative venue for foreign workers to unwind and relax.
- Setting up more than 100 CCTVs in the estate as a deterrent measure.
"These CCTVs have provided residents with peace of mind and feedback has been excellent," Mr Foo said.
Army regular Ho Soon Lye, 56, who lives in a five-room flat at Jurong West Central 3, complained about residents feeding the pigeons in the area.
He said: "Now the pigeons come in every morning to be fed. It's very unhygienic for the other residents. Some pet owners are also inconsiderate. They walk their dogs but don't bother to clean up their waste."
He's also concerned about littering in the lifts and the cost of living. He said: "We have to watch our spending carefully. We look out for promotions in newspapers for the best deals on groceries.
"We cook more than we eat out these days because it is more economical. Even when we eat out occasionally, we eat only at hawker centres because it is cheaper. Even food sold at food courts are expensive these days."
Mr Foo said in the Town Council Management Report by the Ministry of National Development in 2009, the West Coast Town Council (WCTC) attained a band 2 (the best performing town councils would be in "Level 1" and the worst in "Level 5").
In the most recent report last year, the cleanliness factor improved to level 1.
A dirty drain at Pioneer SMC. TNP PHOTO: DESMOND NG
Clean and well-maintained
He said that, by and large, the estate is new, clean and well-maintained. And many residents are estate-proud and take good care of the common areas.
He added: "However, I had observed that certain high-traffic locations like the areas around the Boon Lay MRT station and a particular site behind Jurong Point 1 needs more attention on cleanliness.
"I have asked the WCTC to look at installing more bins, the NEA to step up enforcement against litterbugs and also the grassroots organisations to continue to push the 'No Littering' message."
There is also the possibility of installing CCTVs at these sites so there is constant surveillance.
On cost of living concerns, Mr Foo said that because of Singapore’s strong revenues, Growth Dividends and the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme have been rolled out to residents. Middle-income families will enjoy tax breaks as well, thanks to the recent budget.
He added: "Notwithstanding the largely middle-income profile at Pioneer, I do see some hardship cases at my Meet the People sessions. I set up a dedicated help desk to assist these needy residents."
Pioneer may see a three-corner fight with Mr Foo, Mr Steve Chia of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Reform Party (RP) keen to contest here.
NSP and RP have put up competing pages on popular social media site Facebook for the ward.
Mr Foo said a contest is good for residents and an opportunity for his team for further bonding.
He said: "My residents will get to hear the alternative voices. They get to make an informed choice at the ballot box to elect their next MP."
When contacted, Mr Chia, a former Non-Constituency MP (NCMP), said he is familiar with the ground and has been making his rounds there in the last few weeks.
He agreed that the main concerns in the ward are the cost of living and cleanliness of the estate.
He said: "Some blocks near Pioneer MRT station are near the industrial areas and dormitories. And at night, some of these foreign workers congregate at the void decks, have their dinner there and litter the area."
Mr Chia said he would try to avoid a three-cornered fight there if possible.
"I want to give residents a clear choice without too many parties involved," he added.
On his past history, Mr Chia said there's no reason for it to affect his current bid. He got into trouble for running a red light in 2005, which led to a $900 fine; and for taking "sexy photos" of his maid, that had his wife threatening to divorce him in 2003.
Said Mr Chia: "Why should it? If it would affect the votes, it would have done so in 2006."
In that election, Mr Chia, who was then with the Singapore Democratic Alliance, got 39.6 per cent of the votes against PAP's Gan Kim Yong in Chua Chu Kang SMC, above the national average of 33 per cent.
Mr Chia then became an NCMP because the scheme allows the best-scoring opposition candidates to get non-constituency seats in Parliament.
To check your electoral division, go to www.elections.gov.sg/online.html
We asked 100 Pioneer SMC residents: What is the most important issue you would raise with the candidates when they visit you?
MUNICIPAL ISSUES: 70%
Cleanliness of estate: 30%
Lift upgrading programmes and maintenance: 12%
More amenities such as overhead bridge, sheltered walkways and carpark lots: 8%
Traffic light junction slippery (for pedestrians): 2%
Issues with neighbours: 1%
NATIONAL ISSUES: 30%
Cost of living and financial assistance: 28%
Expensive school fees: 2%