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MP handles many different needs

March 31, 2011 - 5:48pm

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In Mountbatten SMC, residents can be from very different backgrounds and feel strongly about very different things. This is the seventh in our 12-part series on single-member constituencies (SMCs)

MOUNTBATTEN SMC is a constituency of contrasts.

It's where the old and the new meet, where HDB dwellers are just a stone's throw from their private estate counterparts, and where different issues and opinions abound.

Unlike most parts of Singapore, where, on average, 80 per cent of homes are HDB flats, in Mountbatten, 40 per cent of residents livein public housing while the rest live in private homes.

North of the Geylang River are the HDB blocks, mostly around Old Airport Road and Dakota Crescent. These are accessible via the Circle Line MRT stations of Dakota and Mountbatten.

Condominiums and terrace houses are found south of the river, along the waterfront.

The wide spectrum of people from different socio-economic strata means that the issues that concern them are varied.

And this difference shows in a poll conducted on 100 Mountbatten residents.

The issues concerning residents are evenly split between national and municipal issues, with the cost of living receiving the most mention overall.

Said retiree Lim Tong Li, 74, who lives in a three-room flat at Old Airport Road: "I'm worried about rising health-care costs... even at the polyclinics.

"I have to go there once a month to collect medicine for my high blood pressure."

For Mr Jason Ong, 40, a senior consultant who lives in an HDB flat at Old Airport Road, it is the lack of parking space that he has an issue with.

He said: "Parking is an issue because almost everyone here has a car."

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, who has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Mountbatten (part of Marine Parade GRC) since 2006, agrees that the estate is split in its needs.

He told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "The needs of residents in the private estates are different from those in the HDB estates.

"Residents in private estates usually look for improvements to their living environment, whereas those in HDB estates have different requirements ranging from requests for financial aid... to appeals for waiver of summons."

So how does he reach out to such a varied group of residents?

He said: "I rely very much on the Resident's Committees and the Neighbourhood Committees for help.

"We organise events at the private estate condominiums to meet with the residents. Ialso receive e-mail requests directly."

Given the varying needs of the residents, it's not always easy to satisfy everyone.

Said the MP: "Sometimes, even where Iam unable to assist them, the residents appreciate the fact that I lend them a listening ear.

"For the MPS (Meet the People session) cases that I deal with, because I have the luxury of time with the residents, I can spend more time with them to see how I can best help make their cases exceptions to the rules.

"However, there's a limit to what I can do when the resident...infringes upon the law. Even then, I would assist to write the appeal letter after explaining to the resident the constraints that they may face."

If Mr Lim, a one-term MP, is fielded in his current ward for the general election, it will be his first solo contest.

Last month's changes to the electoral boundary saw Mountbatten SMC carved out of Marine Parade GRC.

The GRC was last contested in a by-election in 1992. The People’s Action Party (PAP) won 73 per cent of the votes. It has been uncontested in the past three elections.

Mr Lim said: "It feels strange having to plan for the election by myself.

"Suddenly, all the plans for the (Marine Parade) GRC no longer involve Mountbatten.

"Nevertheless, it is exciting for all of us at Mountbatten to be involved in the election, knowing that we would definitely have a contest on our hands."

Two opposition parties, the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Socialist Front (SF), have expressed interest in contesting in Mountbatten SMC.

NSP secretary-general Goh Meng Seng told TNP that the two parties are still in talks to avoid a three-corner fight in Mountbatten.

He added that the tentative NSP candidate for Mountbatten SMC would be lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, who was part of a group of 20 who left the Reform Party last month.

SF did not respond to our queries by press time.

Competition

MP Lim said: "Whoever the candidates may be, I take them all seriously.

"I will continue to work hard to ensure that the constituents are convinced that the PAP...would be in a better position to look after their needs."

But what do residents think of Mr Lim's contributions over the past five years?

Again, residents had differing opinions.

Mr Ong felt that Mr Lim is doing quite a good job.

Others, such as Mr Leslie Tan, 39, a director who lives in a private apartment near Tanjong Katong Road, want to see Mr Lim walk around the estate more.

Mr Quek GC, 54, a taxi driver living in Pine Close, wants an MP "who can help voice the concerns of ordinary people".

Retiree Lee Khim Joo, 64, has lived in Mountbatten for over 50 years. Behind him is the provision shop at Dakota Crescent, run by the Lim family, for over 50 years as well. He is close friends with the Lims and would go there almost every day to sit and chat. TNP PHOTO: LEDIATI TAN

Maybe someone like ex-Mountbatten MP Eugene Yap, who took care of the ward between 1979 and 2001, suggested retiree Lee Khim Joo.

Mr Lee, 64, has lived at Dakota Crescent for more than 50 years and has seen the area passed from one MP to the next. But it is MrYap that Mr Lee remembers best.

Said Mr Lee: "Once a week or twice a month, he would walk around to check on this area. He didn’t like to see the place dirty."

Would Mr Lim not having contested an election before be an issue for voters?

No, said political observer Eugene Tan, an assistant law professor at the Singapore Management University.

Prof Tan said: "I don’t see the incumbent MP suffering any significant disadvantage."

He said that voters would judge Mr Lim on his performance in the last few years and on whether they think he will be a "suitable representative and political leader for them in the next four years".

He added: "Given that Mountbatten has not been contested since 1991, Mr Lim's opponents will suffer from a lack of familiarity with the issues facing Mountbatten voters.

"Mr Lim's own background will enable him to move seamlessly among voters in public housing and private housing."

Mr Lim lived in a three-room rental flat for the first 14 years of his life before he moved to a four-room flat for the next 14 years. His parents were hawkers who sold fruits.

POLL

We asked 100 Mountbatten residents: What is the most important issue you would raise with the candidates when they visit you?

MUNICIPAL ISSUES: 49%

Cleanliness: 13%

Upgrading of roads, overhead bridge and estate: 13%

Transport: 6%

Parking: 4%

Noise: 4%

Security: 3%

Market: 3%

Others: 3%

NATIONAL ISSUES: 51%

Cost of living: 23%

Elderly issues: 11%

Influx of foreigners: 8%

Not enough opposition voice: 3%

Overcrowding: 2%

Widening income gap: 2%

Jobs: 2%

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