Same blocks, different wards in Kaki Bukit

Same blocks, different wards in Kaki Bukit
PHOTO: The New Paper

Elections are not just about political parties.

They are also about people and residents like Fatty Teo.

His name is real, he said, as is his little headache.

You see, in the 30 years that Mr Teo, 70, has lived at Block 547, Bedok North Street 3, he has found himself a resident of four different constituencies.

It was Eunos GRC in 1988. Then, it became East Coast GRC in 1997, before the block was carved into the Marine Parade GRC in 2006.

And before General Election 2011, Mr Teo learnt he was under the Aljunied GRC.

"When elections come this time around, I don't know which constituency I will come under," he said.

While he knows who his Member of Parliament (MP) is, he said he has never built a strong relationship with any of his MPs.

"They changed them around so much it is hard to get to know any of them," Mr Teo said.

And he is not the only one feeling this way. I spoke to 19 other residents living in Blocks 501 to 554 at Bedok North Avenue 3 and they said they feel the same.

Why?

They also want to know why it keeps happening.

In the last five General Elections, this area in Kaki Bukit, bounded by the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), Bedok North Road and Bedok North Avenue 3, has been part of four constituencies.

The electoral boundaries are decided by the Elections Department, which comes under the Prime Minister's Office.

On Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) had been formed two months ago.

This usually means that an is election is coming.

Mr Lee had asked the committee to consider the population shifts and housing developments since the last exercise when drawing the boundaries.

The boundaries need not be redrawn before every election.

Although Mr Teo's ward for the forthcoming election has not been defined yet, civil society organisation Maruah feels it is necessary for the EBRC to better explain its process. It was Maruah who first highlighted last October that the area where Mr Teo lives has come under four different GRCs in the last 27 years.

Its president Braema Mathi said the shifts of people and homes had taken place with little notice or information.

She said this breeds cynicism about the political process and weakens the relationship between citizens and their elected representatives.

Political watcher Eugene Tan said the feeling of bewilderment and bemusement is likely to be a result of this constant change.

He said that although there is the lack of a sense of belonging as residents find themselves moving from one constituency to another, they had probably developed some measure of adaptability and have become somewhat immune to the electoral boundary changes.

Again?

So are residents taking it as a fait accompli that they may end up under a different ward again?

Neither Mr Teo nor his neighbours are interested in accusations of electioneering or gerrymandering - just which ward they come under and how they are best served with the changes.

But they did observe a subtle change since the opposition took over their ward. Aljunied GRC is now under the Worker's Party.

"The government seemed kinder," was the resounding tone among many who had been living there for between 20 and 30 years.

Dr Tan said the drawing of boundaries is more an art than a science.

Previous EBRC reports had never shed light on the specifics of places like Kaki Bukit, he said.

It may be that the PIE is used as a useful delimitation feature, much as rivers or mountains in other countries have geographical features as boundaries.

It might be a good thing for EBRC to explain simply and clearly and go beyond stating general principles like how boundary changes are due to population changes.

Mr Teo raised his seven children in his unit, made long-term friends and is growing old with them.

He said that although he is not sure which ward he will come under, he is clear who he will vote for.

But unlike his name, he said he won't be explaining his choice.


This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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