U-turn on chess ban at void deck, linkway

PHOTO: The Straits Times

After putting up posters stating that the playing of chess is banned in common areas, a town council has made a U-turn by removing them and apologising.

This was after a picture of the posters was put online on Sunday, sparking criticism from those who felt that the move was too harsh.

Marine Parade Town Council said yesterday that the three posters, which went up at the void deck and covered walkway of Block 11, Haig Road, in early January, were "a mistake".

A spokesman said it would "like to apologise for the wrong context of our poster".

"We admit that it's a mistake by our side. We do not actually ban chess in common areas. We just wanted to deter people from gathering and blocking the way," she said, referring to the covered walkway between blocks 11 and 12.

The posters were removed yesterday morning and replaced by new ones with the heading, "Please be considerate". The new signs also urged residents not to block the linkway and to keep their volume down after 10pm.

The town council said some residents had complained that "chess" players - who were actually playing draughts (or checkers) - were causing a nuisance and blocking the pathway.

The players, many of whom do not live in the estate, would set up chairs and tables and sometimes play until the wee hours, it added.

We refer to the circulating Facebook posts about our poster, “No Playing of Chess at Common Areas”. We would like to...

Posted by Marine Parade Town Council on Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dr Fatimah Lateef, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said she and some agencies have tried various ways to solve the issue, including working with the police, town council, Housing Board and grassroots patrol. But the players "remain recalcitrant and downright antagonistic", she said on Facebook.

She added that she has personally invited them to use nearby facilities such as a community club and senior citizens' corner instead, "but all have fallen on deaf ears".

"Some of them have even scolded me and used vulgar words," she said. She doubts that the new posters will work. "Who is going to enforce it? It's not easy. But we will keep looking for new ways and new ideas to deal with this."

Draughts players at the block said they do not feel they are doing anything wrong, though some admitted to talking loudly at times.

The group of mostly elderly men, which sometimes grows to more than 10 people, would gather daily for their games. They said they used to play at the Block 11 void deck, but stopped doing so after residents complained of noise.

One of the players, retired police investigator Mohd Salleh, 75, said: "We just want to have fun.We behave ourselves. We don't commit crime. I'm angry that they treat us as though we are hooligans."

The Aljunied resident and his friends said the police and town council staff have confiscated their stools and chairs several times. The town council said items such as sofas were confiscated as they "obstructed the way" or were "fire hazards".

Geylang Serai Residents' Committee chairman Steven Oh, 53, a liaison officer, said the players inconvenience him and his father, who uses a wheelchair.

"I have to purposely push my father onto the uneven grass patch beside the linkway to get around them. Sometimes it's raining and we get wet."

But Block 11 resident Stanley Chong, 43, a logistics officer, is not bothered. "We should let the elderly have their activities, not ban them. If not, what will they do?"


This article was first published on March 15, 2016.
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